Tear Up Your To-Do List!

My to-do list is massive, and I’ll bet yours is too.

The world never slows down, and new tasks, errands, projects, and obligations are always zooming our way.

Most of the time, it’s easy to choose the most important tasks to complete during my day.

But what are you supposed to do when EVERYTHING on your list is extremely important? Or what if you’re too overwhelmed to think logically about prioritizing?

Here’s my suggestion for you: tear up your to-do list!

No, I’m not kidding! But I also don’t mean you should rip it into shreds and go hide under the covers for the rest of your life.

When you’re really stuck and have a hundred items staring you in the face, write them all down on a piece of paper. It doesn’t matter what order they’re in. The point is to get them all out of your head and in front of you.

Next, rip or cut the paper until you have each task on its own little strip. For me, the act of tearing paper is really satisfying when I’m feeling crazy stressed.

Now that you’ve got all your to-dos on separate strips of paper, it’s time to take control. Here are 3 ways to tame your to-do list.

Narrow Your Focus

Dump all the bits of paper into a bowl and stir them up. Then, pull a single piece of paper out of the bowl. This is your next task. Ignore all the other items in the bowl and simply direct all of your attention into completing this 1 task, no matter what it is.

By narrowing your focus, you’ll feel the “energy of completion” from accomplishing this 1 task so you’ll be motivated to do the next one.

It’s the snowball effect, baby! Finish the task completely before choosing another strip of paper from the bowl.

Categorize Your Tasks

Lay out all the pieces of paper on a flat surface and group them into 3-5 categories such as business, family/friends, health, personal, etc. Limit it to no more than 5 groups so you won’t get overwhelmed.

Next, choose the category that is the most important for you to work on TODAY. Be honest with yourself.

By using categories, you chunk your huge to-do list into just a handful of options. After you pick the category you want to focus on, determine the easiest “win” from the tasks, usually something that will take fewer than 10 minutes to complete (maybe sending an email or making a phone call).

Delegate Your Tasks

Just because something is on your to-do list doesn’t mean that you’re the right person to do it. Put aside any slips of paper that have tasks that someone else could do for you.

Be brave and ask for help! There’s no need to be a martyr and do everything yourself.

Once you have the tasks that you can delegate, hand out those assignments to your kids, spouse, coworkers, or whoever can help you.

Do this before starting your own responsibilities. You’ll feel less stressed and able to move forward when you know other people are taking care of things for you.

This post focuses on Step 4 of the Life Editing Process, Rearrange Everything Into a Perfect Flow. For more about life editing and what it can do for you, click here.

3 Simple Steps to Become a Productivity Superstar

Dump your excuses, transform your habits, and become the most productive person you know.


  1. Cathy Colangelo on April 21, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    I love this idea! I’m a big fan of the “brain dump” to decrease the overwhelm and head spinning thoughts but I love the idea of tearing up the tasks and selecting one at random. It’s a great way to get yourself started when you are ready to just climb back in bed and pull the covers over your head. I’m going to add it my brain dump process and share it with my own coaching clients.

    Thanks Sage! Keep the great Life Editing advice coming. You are awesome!

  2. Therese Kay on April 21, 2016 at 11:46 am

    I started a Google sheet – similar to Excel.
    As I think of things to do, I list them under the proper tab (photography, writing, blog, life, etc.)
    I have a tab at the front with the week’s tasks that I choose each Sunday. I just copy them from the categorized tab.
    Once a task is finished, I move it to my DONE! tab.

    Why a Google Sheet? I can access it from my computer at home or from my phone on the run. If I were really ambitious, I’d create a separate household one to share with the “hubby” and make him use it… but he’d have to buy into that and, well, you know how that sometimes goes.

    When feeling overwhelm if I was too ambitious in planning my week, I’ll go analog and simply list my essential tasks for the day.

    Based on your Narrow the Search idea, I came up with an idea I hope to actually use. I often have 5 minutes here or there and lists of tasks that can ALWAYS be done like dishes, stretching, organizing, keeping in touch with friends, etc. I decided to make a bucket of these 5 minute tasks and pick and do at random – these include fun tasks!
    Samples: organize a drawer, dance to a few songs, wash a window, brush the cat, straighten my shoes and/or jewelry, write a note to a friend, review a recipe magazine…. you get the idea.

    These things are helping since I always have too many ideas, too much overwhelm, and prioritizing can be tough… they all seem to be high priority to me… except like scrubbing the tub or washing the windows… 🙂