How to Make an Effective To-Do List that Makes You Feel Less Anxious

By Jimmy Warden

The problem about to-do lists

All of us have made to-do lists at some point. But let me ask you something.

How did that list make you feel?

Kind of an arbitrary question to ask at first thought, but think about it.

Did it make you feel overwhelmed? Anxious?

If so, you’re approaching it with a typical framework.

I’m here to tell you there’s a 3-part framework to use to minimize the anxiety that comes with making your task list.

The framework

The first two parts of the framework come from holistic health practitioner Paul Chek. The third part is my addition to it. It has worked wonders for both my productivity and emotional well-being, and it’s one I’ve used for the past several weeks.

Part 1: Write your list of tasks

Part 1 is no surprise. It’s what we all do to make to-do lists.

Write down everything you want to accomplish that day. Don’t overthink it; write it all down.

Part 2: Categorize your list

Part 2 is how things get different.

After you make your list, you’ll categorize your tasks into 3 categories.

Must do, should do, and would like to do. These categories prioritize what’s most important for that day.

A screenshot of my tasks for today

Part 3: Organize the tasks into your schedule based on level of priority

Now, it’s time to fit the tasks into your schedule.

Based on this framework, you’ll start with the must-dos because they are highest priority. Then, you’ll work your way down the list throughout the day. Of course, place items based on when you think you’ll be able to get them done.

A screenshot of my schedule for today

How will this decrease anxiety and overwhelm?

People get overwhelmed with to-do lists because they don’t know what to do first. They think everything on their list is a priority just because it’s on the list.

Categorizing them into must-dos, should-dos, and would like to-dos decreases anxiety and overwhelm because attention is focused on the must-dos. The must-dos keep us up at night, thinking about what we should have done with our time.

Putting it into action

I recommend having 3 must-dos on your list each day. Research has shown the brain can only handle 3 goals at a time. Anything more than that and the brain gets overwhelmed.

As for should-dos and would like to-dos, it varies on the day. Weekends give you more wiggle room because you don’t have to go to work (most of the time). So keep that in mind, and most importantly, be realistic with your time.

The last recommendation is about acceptance. Accept and appreciate when you complete your must-dos. Those are the tasks you must do! It’s an amazing accomplishment when you complete them, so be proud of yourself when you do.

Also, accept that it’s okay if you don’t get to your should-dos or would like to-dos. Those are like desserts, and the must-dos are the main course.

So get out a pen and paper or a journal!

Make your list today!

Leave a Reply