List Making When Overwhelmed: Turn Stress Into Productivity

List Making When Overwhelmed: Turn Stress Into Productivity

Sometimes it sucks being driven, doesn’t it? Like on one hand your drive is the main force behind all…

Sometimes it sucks being driven, doesn’t it? Like on one hand your drive is the main force behind all the great things you have in your life. But on the other hand, it’s that desire for bigger and better things that keeps loading up your plate with more responsibilities… and now your plate’s full. I’m going to get into list making in just a second, but I want to riff on this a little bit more first.

Your drive is an amazing thing.

It’s what has led you down the path of success so far and it’s the thing that will keep you going even when you’re frustrated, stuck, or disappointed.

But let’s be honest, drive is a greedy little thing. It’s that voice inside your head saying I want more!

And more is what you give it. Because it’s fun. Achieving things is fun. Creating an amazing life for yourself is fun.

Yet on the flip side, that drive and determination doesn’t always know when to pump the breaks.

You get so caught up in building out that dream life for yourself that when you finally do look up from your work, you don’t realize how much you’ve taken on.

Suddenly, your plate is full and you’re thinking to yourself: Woah! I have way too much to do. 


Your plate is full. Full of metaphorical salads and vegetables sitting on a white table.
Hopefully this doesn’t make you too hungry. Does a good job representing a full plate though, right?


A puzzle

I have a lot of interests. And I have a lot of things I want to do in a lot of areas in my life. It’s a problem.

Well… not really a problem.

It’s… err… umm… a puzzle.

Yes, a puzzle. Not a problem, a puzzle.

Because often what I find is that with so many interests, I am constantly trying, doing, striving for new things. It’s fun and fills me up with excitement and hope for a better tomorrow so I’m always happy to indulge.

The downside though is that I often will load myself up with more responsibilities than time will allow.

For example, looking just at QuickBooost (the site that you’re on right now), I’ll spend time:

I do a lot. Not because I have to. I do it because I love it and I have a lot of interests and experiments I want to run just with QuickBooost alone.



QuickBooost makes up only one part of my life though. One piece of a much larger puzzle.

I have a wife that I love spending time with, a baby on the way, a full-time job that I have in addition to QuickBooost, a new home that needs some work, books to read.

Oh and I’m training for a marathon.

That was real smart of me to do with a newborn on the way (*sarcasm).

Either way, what I’ve found is that while my puzzle keeps growing, while my life keeps expanding and I continue to take on more interests and explore new areas, I need a system to help me manage it all.

A system to keep me organized so that the whole thing doesn’t topple over like Jenga – which is kind of like a puzzle so the analogy still works!

That’s where list making comes in.


Overwhelm is the worst! Turn your stress into productivity through the power of list making and get more done.


List Making When Overwhelmed: Turn Stress Into Productivity

List making is a powerful thing that I use to keep myself organized and focused, especially when overwhelmed. Because overwhelm is a terrible feeling.

Like your brain is being pulled in every direction. Like you’re treading water but are slowly sinking.

It’s not fun.

But, in my experience, I have found list making to be one way that I can gain some control and offset some of that overwhelming chaos.

So what is list making?

In its most basic form, it is writing down everything that you need to do. It’s honestly that simple and for some reason not a lot of people do it.

Instead they let things pile up in their head until they either:

  1. Forget what they need to do
  2. Panic because their mind feels like insanity with all the tasks bouncing around

It really doesn’t need to be that hard. You just need to do a little list making.


The power of list making

My life is busy. Do I still get overwhelmed? Yes 100%. Overwhelm is a good buddy of mine.

Will creating a list magically destroy all those feelings of stress and chaos? Maybe. Maybe not.

It doesn’t for me.

I see it like this – if you’re driven and are working towards an amazing life (which I’m assuming you are), overwhelm is a sensation that you’ll need to get used to.

As far as I can tell, it’s part of the process.

But just because you’re hanging out with overwhelm doesn’t mean you can’t mitigate the visit. Meaning that instead of feeling like you’re completely drowning, there are certainly ways to get a lifeguard on duty or put some floaties on or learn how to swim.

You may still be in the pool treading water, but at least you aren’t sinking.

That’s what list making does for me and what you should expect to get out of it too.

Not some life-altering solution to permanently vanquish overwhelm, but more of a way to reduce some of those negative feelings and to help you feel like you have some control of things once again.

That is the power of making lists.


Backyard pool surrounded by palm trees and cabanas. The sky is partly cloudy but it looks warm out.


The importance of to-do lists

There is a tremendous value to be gained in list making. Like I mentioned, it isn’t the end-all-be-all to eliminating your overwhelm, but it is a useful tool to help manage your life and to stay on top of things.

And while list making as a concept is simple to explain and comprehend, there is a specific formula that I recommend you follow when creating a list for yourself.

Especially when first starting out with list making.

Now, the exact step-by-step process that I recommend is a little too long to explain in full detail for this post, so instead I’ve created a bootcamp around the subject.

The bootcamp is a free, five day email series. Each day I will email you one new lesson that you can use to create a productive plan for your time. It’s like a combination of a planning course and a to-do list course. And it’s free.

You can sign up right here:

Do you need to sign up for the bootcamp to get value out of this post? Nope! Keep scrolling and I’ll continue to give you the info you need. See the bootcamp as a supplemental resource though.

As a way to enhance your knowledge on this topic and to help take you one step further than what this post offers. If you’re interested, sign up above.

Let’s continue.


When list making is right for you

As I’ve touched on, list making is a great tool to have in your toolbelt. It’s a smart strategy to employ when feeling:

  • Overwhelmed
  • Frustrated
  • Or that life is chaotic

By creating a to-do list for yourself you’ll take back some of that control that you feel you’re lacking. You’ll reign in some of that chaos, quiet some of that frustration, reduce some of that overwhelm.

If those are feelings you are experiencing, or those are the results you are looking for, list making is for you.

And now that you have an understanding of who list making can benefit (you) and what to expect, here is how you can get started creating effective lists of your very own.


When feeling overwhelmed, list making is always a great strategy for gaining clarity and control of your tasks.


List making: How to create your to-do list

The process of list making is straightforward. Follow this simple five step formula to create a comprehensive list that you can use throughout your day.


Step 1: Write it down

First, write down everything that you need to do. Everything. Write down every little detail, every little task. Every single item that you can think of.

Getting this all out of your head and onto something that you can see and organize will help calm down some of that noise rattling around your brain.


Step 2: Organize

Next, take your full list and reorganize it by priority. Place your most important tasks at the top and your least important ones at the bottom.

You’re going to always work on your most important tasks first so that you are continuously making progress forward.

If you’re not sure what the priority is, see my post here. It covers how to set goals for yourself. Don’t get too caught up on that though.

The reason that post in particular is helpful is that it walks you through the process of understanding what is and isn’t important in your life. A lesson that you can then come back to and apply to this step of the list making process. You can also enroll in my goal success course for something more in-depth.


Step 3: Time value

From there, look at each task on your list and write down how long you expect it to take. For example:

  • Complete report (45 minutes)
  • Call consulting team (15 minutes)
  • Read book (35 minutes)

That way you can gain a better understanding of how much time is actually required to get everything done.

Don’t panic if you feel like there is too much to do. You will eventually get everything done.


A pair of glasses next to an iPhone next to a mouse next to an Apple Watch next to an Apple Stylus next to a laptop.


Step 4: Factor it

At this point, you have your list and you know how long everything should take. The next step is to factor those tasks into the context of your day.

You have a busy and full life and while it’s great that you have your list of tasks ready to go, you need to be able to fit it into your schedule amongst the other items vying for your attention.

So to help, see my posts on daily planning here and productive planning here.


Step 5: One step

Finally, don’t see your list as this huge expedition that needs to be traveled in a day.


Recognize that you are on a long journey and that each day you just need to take one step forward. That’s it.

If you take one step forward each day, you’ll get to your end goal in no time.

Don’t stress out over the amount of tasks you need to do. Just focus on one at a time. When that one task is done, move onto the next one. And when that’s done, move on from there.

You know the saying about not seeing the forest for the trees? Ya, well ignore it. Zoom in on those trees and take it one at a time. Don’t worry about the end of the forest because you’ll eventually get there.

For now, just take it one tree at a time.

And if you can’t get everything done today, there’s always tomorrow. Don’t stress too much. It will all get done. Be the puzzle master you know you can be.


Bonus step: Extra help

If you want something a little more detailed, I have just the things.

First, if you feel like you could be doing a lot more with your time, like to-do lists are great but you really need a full system for doing more with your time, I recommend my goal success course.

You can learn more about the course here.

Conversely, if you are fine with your system but want a little extra help understanding how to plan out your time and create an effective list, consider signing up for my free, five-day productivity plan bootcamp.

Each day over the span of five days I’ll email you a new lesson that you can use to do more with your time. It’s perfect for someone struggling with overwhelm and too-much-to-do syndrome.

You can sign up right here:


When is a good time for list making?

At this point you may be wondering: so when should I be creating my lists? Is there a specific time or period of the day that I should do my list making?

A great question.

The answer is totally dependent on you and your preferences.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed right now and it’s the middle of the day, now’s the perfect time. If you wake up at three in the morning panicked by how much you have to do, that’s an equally great time to make a list.

Personally, I create my lists for the following day. For example, if today is Monday, at the end of the day I will create my list and plan for Tuesday so that when I wake up I can be ready to tackle the day with focus and organization on my side.

I use list making to be proactive.

But I will also do list making when feeling overloaded or stressed.

The best time for list making is whenever it feels right for you.


The best time and place for list making is personal to you. You can use a notebook or a laptop, it could be morning or night.


The best place for list making

Just like my answer to when to create your list, where to create your list is also entirely up to you. I will say though, do whatever is easiest for you.

If you have a pad of paper nearby, use that. If you have a napkin by your side, use that.

Do your list making in whatever space or on whatever material is easiest for you to get to.

There isn’t any list making app or notebook that is better than another. It’s your preference.

Personally, I use a combination of the Notes app on my iPhone and the Google Docs app. I’ll use the Notes app to log any ideas or tasks that arise throughout the day.

And then later when planning out the next day, I will move those notes onto one of my various Google Docs where I have larger, master lists.


Moving forward with list making

List making is a powerful thing. It’s a simple, yet effective strategy to reduce overwhelm, get organized, and gain some control over your life.

So give it a try!

Go through the steps above and create some to-do lists of your very own. Check back on this post from time to time for a refresher and continue to work on your list making skills until they become habit.

From here, if you’re looking for some more productivity-boosting goodness, I suggest checking out my following posts:

And again, if you feel like you could use a full system upgrade, like your productivity skills are fine but you need a structure for actually achieving things, I recommend my goal success course.

You can learn more about my goal success course here.

Finally, if you want some extra help with your list making efforts, sign up for my free productivity plan bootcamp. It’s five days long and each day I’ll email you one new lesson that you can apply to your life.

See it like a combination of a mini-list-making course and a mini-planning course. Totally free. You can sign up right here: