Task List Navigation for Peace of Mind

Guest Blogger: Kelley Dawkins

Everyone feels overwhelmed at times. I find myself in this position more than I would like to admit and thought I’d share a process that has worked for me.

Kelley Dawkins, Trippy
©2009 Kelley Dawkins, Trippy. Acrylic on canvas, 9 x 12 inches. Photo by Nico Traut at VatiKaki. Used with permission.

Step 1: Make a List

Make a list of everything that needs to get done, including the small steps necessary to complete the larger tasks. Everything!

Step 2: Figure Out What Can Wait

From that list, write everything that can wait until next week onto another piece of paper. Then, put it out of sight.

Seeing everything that needs to be done adds to the sense of overwhelm. Your tasks still need to get done, but not all are urgent. Your separate list will be there when you are ready to deal with it.

Step 3: Prioritize Your Week

Prioritize what remains on your list for this week. Number each task according to when you will perform it.

  • Start with two things that can quickly be finished because crossing something off of the list is the good feeling. It kick starts the motivation, which makes it easier to move on to more complex tasks.
  • Next is what must get done for life or business to continue functioning, like what is urgent due to time constraints or what causes you the most stress. Get it over with to relieve the stress!

From these, identify the longest tasks. This early stage is when you have the most energy and drive to get things done. Might as well use this energy to its fullest.

  • Batch your tasks. For example, if you have to leave the house to do any of the items on your list, consider the location and take care of multiple errands in one trip.
  • The last things on the list should be the least important or the quickest.

Step 4: Get It Done

Work your list using these tips:

  • At the end of each day, write the next day's to-do list. This sets out a plan and ensures that nothing is forgotten.
  • Review the list each morning to double check that it is prioritized correctly.
  • If you can't fall asleep because you keep thinking of all the things that need to be done, place a piece of paper and pencil next to the bed so that you can write them down.
  • Think about future projects and events. Are there things that can be done now to relieve the pressure later?

If the overwhelming feeling comes up again, stop for a cup of tea and remind yourself that you can only do one thing at a time and it’s okay to be human.

Taking a breath in the middle revives the sense and renews your energy to continue navigating the list.

Repeat each week.

How do you organize your tasks?

About Our Guest Blogger
About her art, Kelley Dawkins says she wants people to “feel like they have stepped into an alternate universe where they can play inside of color and feel the mood that the artwork conveys, like a wholesome acid trip.”

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12 thoughts on “Task List Navigation for Peace of Mind”

  1. Without trying to sound cheeky or preachy…My roots are in the philosophy of automatism (Les Automatistes)…Letting things flow when you make your art…So I have allowed that to seep into my life too…I allow my tasks to call me each day…The preachy part is, I think to myself ‘Let the Holy Spirit lead me’…The weather plays a huge part in my deciding too…

    1. Kelley Dawkins

      Hi Sari,
      It sounds like that wokrs for you. Paying attention to your natural rythms and energy patters is very helpful when trying to get things done.

  2. I find using a combination of David Allen’s Getting Things Done and Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits, has worked well for me. There is a master list of every project to be done, but the steps are grouped more by defined roles then by project. Each week, I identify what needs to be done, by role, to keep my life moving forward, but I don’t necessarily worry about which day it will happen unless it is time specific. This way I do get the letter written to Aunt Sharon in the same week that a client has a looming IRS deadline, and I remember that taking time to read for leisure or a walk with my husband is as important as any task I am doing for external obligations.

  3. Kelley Dawkins

    Hi Jeri,
    It sounds like you are incredibly organized. Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits is great, especially for people looking to design their own system of organization. I haven’t read David Allen yet.

  4. I have recently starting thinking a bit differently….not how do I get everything done but how do I simplify my life and still reach my goals. I am in the process of looking at eveything on my list and asking, ‘is this necessary?” If not, I 86 it. I was feeling like I was on the computer more than in my studio with all the social media, blogging, etc that a person can/should (?) do and let my creative part take a back seat. What do the rest of you think?

  5. Kelley Dawkins

    Congratulations on empowering the artist within you, Molly! These days we are often made to feel like we must be plugged in all of the time, but as artists we know there are times when we need to look deep within ourselves, usually on a daily basis. Always make sure you feed your creativity.

  6. I especially like how you approach the psychology of getting through the tasks as well as organizing them. Some things are easy to approach and get done. Others are monumental. Some of that is psychological barriers we erect and have to work thorough and around.
    I also like how you deconstruct your process and I can see such a process working for some of the things I need to do.

  7. I keep a planner on my desk, open to the current week. It’s one of those that shows a whole week at a time, with lots of space to write things down. I write everything down in there. Things to be done, deadlines, reminders, all get written down in the appropriate day. When they’re done, I tick them off. If I’m not going to get them done that week, I cross them off and write them in again for another day. If it’s something that I keep putting off for some reason, I write it on a sticky and just move the sticky along until it’s done. (If you find that the sticky doesn’t want to stick any more, maybe it’s time to either do it, or forget it. LOL).
    Here’s the key: at the end of the week, before I turn the page to the next week, I make sure that everything is either ticked off (done) or crossed off (moved) and there’s nothing left pending. That way, I never have to worry about going back to previous weeks to see if I’ve missed something. Works very well.

  8. Great idea! I like the sticky note idea. It brings attention to something that you may be putting off or that really doesn’t need to get done.

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