Staying organized to reduce stress: Part 1


In this blog post: How to organize your time and reduce your stress when you have a lot to do.

The more we have to do and the bigger those tasks are, the more stressed we are likely to feel. Staring at the enormous list of things you have to do, you might be thinking: “I haven’t got time to make schedules; I have to start this stuff now.” However, as it turns out, the more organized you are, the less stressed you’ll be. In fact, the more you have to do, the more time you should spend planning things out. For example, if all you have is a couple pages of math homework, and a textbook chapter to read for biology, you may not need much of a plan. But, if you’ve got an English essay, a Psychology research paper, a Math exam, and a Chemistry quiz, spending some time planning out your time will not only help you get everything done, it will also ease that stress.

When we are stressed out, it is usually because we feel like we have too much on our plate and not enough time to complete it. But if you can create a schedule that proves to you that you not only have time to complete these tasks, but also the other things you need to do, such as eating, sleeping, and playing sports, you are going to feel a lot less stressed. Furthermore, if you’ve got all your time planned out, you can also take the big things you have to do off your mind and just focus on what you are doing right now. Here, we see the relationship between staying in the moment and lower levels of stress. If our mind is constantly turning to the huge list of things we have to do, we are going to feel very stressed. However, if we’ve got everything planned out, we can give ourselves permission to forget about all those things because we know we are going to get them all done. 

Steps for Organizing Your Time When There Is a Lot on Your Plate

Step 1: Make a list of all the things you have to do and their deadlines. In order to plan out our time, we’ll need to know when each task needs to be completed by. 

Step 2: Break larger tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks. Breaking tasks down into smaller tasks is essential for working on larger projects. It helps us make a plan to complete the task as a whole, and it helps us get started because the task no longer seems so overwhelming and the path forward is no longer unclear. 

Step 3: Estimate how long each smaller task will take. Estimating how long each of these smaller tasks will take is necessary for knowing how to split up our time between the various tasks we need to complete.

Step 4: Create a table or calendar. You’ll need a box for each day, starting from today and ending on the day of your latest deadline. This will help you plan out how to get everything done within this time frame. Make sure to put the deadlines in this calendar too; you can even use a different colour to help them stand out.

Step 5: Add in other activities and appointments that will take place on each day. Here you are adding in all the activities that you know will be taking up time during this period.

Step 6: Add the tasks for each project into your document. Put in what you will do each day, based on how much you think you can accomplish. For each project, look at the tasks you’ve broken it into and how long you expect each to take, then start assigning each task to a particular day. You can even use a different colour for each subject.

Now you have a to-do list for each day. So, instead of having to worry about all the stuff you have to do over this whole time period, all you need to focus on is today. You can trust that everything will get done, because you have planned out each step of your projects. If you find yourself really overwhelmed, you can even cover the other tasks for today so that you only see the task you are currently working on. 

But wait…There’s more! If you are still really overwhelmed, you can create an hour-by-hour schedule of what you are going to do each day for the next few days, or the next week. You can use a table with the days of the week along the top, and the time along the left-hand-side. Start by filling in your weekly activities and appointments, then add time for meals, showers, sleep, etc. With the remaining space on each day, take a look at your broken down tasks and how long each will take and put it in your hour-by-hour schedule. For instance, 8:00 – 8:30 Breakfast, 8:30 – 9:30 Brainstorm for English essay, 9:30 – 10:30 Study Unit 1 for Math exam, 10:30 – 11:30 Do Unit 1 practice questions for Math exam, and so on. Once you’ve done this you can adjust as needed. For instance, if you realize you still have one hour of Math prep to do that you couldn’t fit into the schedule, you might decide to wake up an hour earlier on one of the days. Make sure to colour code your schedule so it is easier to read. Now you can be even more sure that you’ll get everything done, and you can focus not just on today as a whole, but just on this hour.

Having a lot on your plate can definitely be stressful and overwhelming. However, by spending some time organizing and planning, we can relieve a great deal of this stress and set ourselves up to better accomplish the things we have to do.

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