5 Ways to Be Productive When You Have Way Too Much On Your Plate

Count me as one of those people who spreads themselves way too thin when it comes to making commitments. Wanting to "do it all" is truly a blessing and a curse. Without realizing it, I can end up taking on far too much and end up having to make some sacrifices to fit it all in (aka missing out on a good nights sleep).

This past week was a perfect example of this for me. With it being Fresher's Week and having all the societies starting up their various activities and socials, I truly had a packed schedule. On Thursday, I had a personal tutor meeting in the morning, a stint at the societies fair in the early afternoon, a meet and great for a "buddy" program in the evening, a dinner reservation for a newspaper review after that, and a pub crawl late that night. Phew. That makes me tired just writing it out.  

I love being busy, I really do. But what I don't love is feeling overwhelmed to the point where I feel like I can't do anything. Still, I'm not the type of person who likes to say "no" when I know I technically can fit it all in. As much as I think it's important to know your limits, I think it's also important to know how to manage your time effectively.

So here are my tips to really get things done when you're just having one of those crazy-busy "I'd rather stay in bed than tackle my to-do list" days:

Prioritize what's important // This has to be the #1 rule of being productive. I mean what's the use of getting anything done if you're only doing the minor, less-important things? Obviously everyone has different ways of prioritizing, but I like to keep it simple and just put my most time-sensitive tasks at the top of my to-do list. That way, they're front and center and I can't avoid them!

Do one "have to" and then one "want to" // I not only like to include "have-to" type items on my lists, but also productive tasks that are a bit less important, but still need to get done. By switching off between them, I can use one task as a sort of reward for the other. For example, I might have a "have-to" item like sending an email to a professor which I don't really want to do. But instead of leaving it until the end of the day (and risk it not getting done at all), I'll "force" myself to send the email by saying "You can't put up that instagram photo or send out that tweet until you send the email." That way, both the "have-tos" and the "want-tos" get done.

Set a timer and race the clock // When I'm really drowning in my to-do lists, I like to set a timer and get competitive with myself. For example, I'll set a timer for 20 minutes and see just how many items I can check off my list. And then when that's done, I'll set it again to see if I can do even more. Though this might not work for longer tasks, it's a great way of checking off some nagging little things to get them out of your way!

Take a productive break // Whether it's a quick jog around the block or a trip to the grocery store or (if you're like me) taking a crack at a new blog post, you can always find ways to procrastinate productively. This means that you get something important done (though not necessarily something on your to-do list) while actually taking a break from your work. This way, you can clear your head and come back to your work feeling like you haven't just wasted time watching Netflix.

Set goals so that you know when to stop // This is actually one of my favorite essay writing strategies of all time, but it can really apply to anything. Whenever I have a long assignment to complete (say, a 3,000 word essay), I figure out how many days I have to complete it, and then divide the word count by those days (plus, a few days for edits/revision). That way, I set myself a goal of writing 500 words each day, for example, and then once I hit that 500 word mark I can throw in the towel without feeling guilty. If I don't have a set number of words, I could end up writing 200 or 700- but, let's be real it'll probably be the former.


  1. I love this post! I especially love your idea of doing one "need to" and then one "want to". This is definitely a great way to keep us mentally sane as we work through our lengthy to-do lists :) thanks for sharing! xx

    1. I'm so glad you like it! Yes, I think having a distinction between the have-tos and want-tos makes it a lot easier to tackle a long to-do list :) Thanks for stopping by!

      xx Leda


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