How Prioritizing Can Prevent You From Feeling Overwhelmed

Updated: Mar 20

Learn how to overcome the fear of a long to do list, and improve your productivity without burning out.


By: Ava Kesler



When life gets busy, we tend to become stressed and unsure of where to start. Usually there are so many things that need to be done, that we just ignore all of them in an attempt to make our life easier. However, by approaching our tasks head on, we can actually make ourselves feel like we are doing less work, improving our happiness and productivity.


How to Prioritize

Remember that you should never try to finish every single thing in one day, or even one week. Everything has its own time to be taken care of.


What you need to do to manage all these tasks is prioritize.


Start by organizing your racing thoughts. Simply take a moment to make a set of lists that encompass everything that you have to do. This can be related to homework, life, socialization- really anything that keeps you up at night.


Now categorize everything by subject (so that doing the laundry doesn't go on the same list as finishing math homework).


Then get out a calendar and figure out your deadlines. Reorder these tasks by what needs to be done first to last.


There is no reason to work on your project due in two months, when you have an assignment due tomorrow. No matter how insignificant that assignment may seem, it is better to just get it out of the way.


Imagine yourself working on this super important project, when you still have to finish tomorrow's homework. The thought of the homework will distract you from your project, reducing your focus and work quality. Then after working on this project for hours, you have no energy left for the homework you have to do. This leads to an endless cycle of stress as you will be behind on what is really pressing.


The prioritization list easily solves this problem. Follow it closely, especially when you become overwhelmed.


It will be like your north star.


How to Prioritize the Small Tasks

When you have many small tasks, such as routine homework assignments, that are all due on the same day, complete them in order of hardest to easiest.


If you do a bunch of easy assignments, and then suddenly come across the last and hardest subject, not only are you dealing with the difficult concept itself, but you are also wrestling the fatigue you've built up from doing the easier assignments prior.


By finishing the hardest one first, you will be flooded with instant relief, leaving you happy and excited to continue with the rest of your work. Plus, its weight is no longer upon you, so all of your focus can now go on your other tasks.


Now, if the hardest task on the list is so daunting that you can barely look at it, then go ahead and do your favorite subject first. That way you are setting a positive tone for the rest of the study session. This will help you take on the hard subject next.


How to Include the Longterm Tasks

It is very important not to forget about the longterm projects at hand. Whether that be studying for an exam or writing an essay, pacing yourself is a huge part of avoiding stress.


So, the way to go about this is to take some time each day to work on it.


This could be a few minutes or hours. It depends on the importance of the task.


For an exam, it would be best to make a schedule months ahead of time to break the subject matter into chunks each day or week. Setting aside time in which you will only work on that certain subject not only helps hone your focus, but it also gives you a feeling of direction and control.


For a class project or presentation, you can be less formal with the schedule, and just ensure that you are working on it each day, or at least at regular intervals. For example, you could set a reminder on your phone or in your planner to spend 30 or so minutes each day just for the project. Or you could even pick a time to do so, such as 5:00-5:30pm, if you need to be more strict with yourself.



Everyone has different tasks at hand and a different level of work ethic. There is no single right way to manage your tasks, but it essentially all comes down to prioritizing.


By working through the trial and error process, you will reap benefits greater than following any set of steps can bring you.


You got this! Feeling overwhelmed is perfectly normal, so don't worry about worrying! Just start with writing out a list of your thoughts, and you will already be making progress.


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