Simplifying: When You Have Too Much to Do

Post written by Leo Babauta.

One of the biggest problems people face when it comes to beating procrastination is being overwhelmed by too many things to do.

Picture a man who has a to-do list that goes down to the floor. Where does he even start? And as he’s contemplating that question, 5 emails come in asking him to do more things, and he gets a call asking for something else, and then his boss comes in telling him that a new urgent task needs to be done by 3 p.m.

It’s hard to get priorities straight in an environment like this, much less work on the important things with focus. The important tasks get pushed back for the urgent.

So what’s to be done? One of the techniques that works best for me is simplifying.

Simplifying in this case is paring down the number of things you plan to do, or that you’ve committed to doing. It gives you some breathing room and allows you to take the time to focus on the important things.

Simplifying isn’t always easy — it means saying “no” to people, and to things you want to get done. But if we start with a recognition that we have a limited capacity for work, and that there’s only so much we can do, we know that piling too much on our plate means we’re not really going to get everything done. We’re not being honest with ourselves. Trying to do everything means you won’t get everything done, and the things you do get done will probably be done poorly.

So how do we simplify? Some ideas:

These are just some ideas for simplifying, to give you an idea of how it’s done. In general, keep “simplicity” in mind as you look at your to-do list and any incoming requests.