What To Do When You Don't Have Enough Time | Laura Earnest
What To Do When You Don't Have Enough Time
Time Management

What To Do When You Don’t Have Enough Time

Have you ever been faced with a huge task list, and the sinking feeling that there was no way on earth to get it all done?

(If you haven’t had that feeling, stop reading, and come back next Monday for another article)

Yes, I figured most of you would read on.

This happens to me more often than not. I don’t know if it’s because I think I can get more done than I can actually do, or because I am too busy or because I am just too lazy to get my butt into gear.

But it happens all the time. And here is how I deal with it.

What Not To Do

“All right, first: don’t panic! Second: don’t panic! And third: did I mention not to panic?” (Jiji, Kiki’s Delivery Service)

Fussing about it isn’t going to get it done. And it will probably stop you from getting very far at all. So we are going to methodically prune away your task list.

What To Do

Sit down with a piece of paper with your list on it or your electronic task list. Take a deep breath.

What’s the worst that can happen?

Start at the top of the list. Ask yourself “what’s the worst that will happen if I don’t do this task?” The consequence has to be immediate and probable.

If it’s not life- or health-threatening, does it really need to be done? Delete those that don’t. And I mean delete. Don’t postpone or push them off to another day.

So. Keep the tasks to: feed the dog and kids; take out the trash to keep bugs out and your house from smelling like rotting fish; put toilet paper in the bathroom.

But what about the others? “Dust the living room.” Hell, you haven’t gotten to it in the past month, it won’t matter if you don’t do it now. Delete it from your list. “Send Aunt Millie a thank you note for the Christmas gift.” It’s September. Delete it, and make an apology in your next call or email. “File the TPS report.” TPS reports are pointless. Delete it, but be prepared to explain to your boss that you were busy keeping the server up and running.


Now you should have a much smaller list. Assign a priority to all your tasks. Just dump them into priority buckets: A = critical, B = important, C = needs to be done ASAP.

Delete Again

I’m sure that the list still has tasks on it that are not life- nor health-threatening. If you still have more than 10 tasks on the list, do another round of deletion.

Get to Work

Now take your shortened, prioritized list in hand, put the deleted tasks out of mind, and get to work!


It’s possible to shorten an over-long task list if you purge it, prioritize, and then purge again.


Got too much to do today? Try out the method above.

Image by Hoggheff aka Hank Ashby aka Mr. Freshtags. Licensed under Creative Commons. Text added.

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