In the Part One of this blog I discussed the problems that can be posed by attitudes to ‘To Do lists’, especially in the workplace, when people find themselves labouring under the burden of excessive stress. We looked at the possible adverse reactions and counter productive effects that the spectre of increasingly overloaded ‘To Do lists’ can have.

In this second part I wish to offer some thoughts intended to break the cycle of negative thinking surrounding 'To Do' lists, and help to overcome the inertia caused when the effects of stress begin to dominate the working day.

If faced with a list of, say, 30+ items people can become overwhelmed before they even get going. If items on a list cannot be done this morning, or today, reduce the list to things that can so creating a 'Day List'. Its much better to focus on a five or ten point list that is getting done rather than a huge raft of things that are not. This may seem like a small ‘mind game’ but it works. If we concentrate on what we are achieving as opposed to what is yet to be achieved, it can have a significant effect.

Make sure the list is made up of items and not concepts. The items have to be 'do-able' and not open ended. There is no point including 'Return all my calls' if it's never going to happen. To avoid having items lingering on the list from one day to another, break it down by, the case of telephone calls, itemising exactly who is going to be called. If an item is unrealistic or unlikely to get done then it does not go on the list.

Too obvious? ‘To Do lists’ can be so intimidating for some people that an emphasis on being single minded about tackling the items one at a time is essential. Multi-tasking, a buzz phrase of the age, is all well and good, but if we need to break the cycle of negative thoughts that cause inertia, dealing systematically with each task in hand is a great way of breaking the psychological log jam.

Delegation is too large a topic to include in any detail here but in a larger organisation it’s vital to employ this essential management skill.

This is closely linked to successful delegation, so let’s be sure what ‘done right’ means. Does it mean, done the way I like/want it? Would someone else’s way be just as good? We have to be able to work around different work techniques so becoming more flexible and therefore more effective managers. Often someone else’s way may well get the job done – we may have to accept that our way is only a right way, and not necessarily the right way.

Think carefully about what needs to be done in order of precedence. Forget the ‘but I need to do it all’ thing. That’s not been happening so why should today be any different? So prioritise, and push off the day list that which does not need doing immediately.

These suggestions are not meant as a blueprint to fundamentally change working practice but rather to help kick start a different mind-set. Although an alternative perspective is what may be required, it still has to come from within each individual in a way that best suits them if the battle against stress is to be effective over time. One such perspective is to take back control over how we tackle our working day, and if in order to do so we need to get back to basics, then so be it.

Alan Keyse

Author's Bio: 

Business and Life Coach specializing in helping client's to develop Emotional Intelligence skills through coaching and mindfulness techniques