4 Simple Questions You Can Ask When You Know You Won’t Get Everything Done!

I’m very familiar with the feeling of having so much “stuff” to do but not enough time to do it all. I know what it feels like to stand, overwhelmed and paralyzed, in front a daunting mountain of tasks that await to be tackled.

I suspect you are familiar with that feeling as well.

In such situations, one of the most ineffective things you can do is to start tackling tasks willy-nilly, hoping to eventually eat the elephant, only to get at the end of your day feeling nauseous for trying to bite more than you can chew—and still have most of the elephant untouched. Not very productive!

Instead, you’d be better off taking a deep breath and strategizing for a few minutes. I recommend you follow this simple strategy.

First, list all the tasks that compete for your attention: I mean take them out of your head and list them on a page, so you free your mind from having to juggle all of them at once. Second, when everything is on the list, ask yourself these 4 questions.

What Can I DELETE?

Review your list. Chances are you’ll find items that should not even be there: these are tasks that would be nice to do but that are not essential; they don’t really move your life or project forward. For example, you might find that reading that “glamor magazine” would be nice but is really not essential to where you are taking your life. Go through your list and ask yourself, “What can I delete?” Be ruthless: delete all you can.


Once you have deleted all the unessential items, ask yourself, “What can I delegate?” The items on the list don’t all need to be handled by you. In fact, some might even be better suited to someone else, who will do a better job and get it done faster. For example, you might find that you can delegate the review of the 50-page report to your assistant, who can provide you with a 2-page summary. The point is: Don’t be afraid to enlist help.

What Can I DEFER?

You have deleted and delegated what you could. Then, what? Your list might still be quite long, and you may not be able to tackle everything today. Be at peace with that; you can schedule certain tasks for another day. Go through your list and ask yourself, “What can I defer?” These tasks don’t have to be done today. Put them on your agenda for a later date.

What Must I DO (First)?

Now, your list should be much shorter. That said, it might still be too long for one day’s work. What’s most important isn’t to tackle “everything” but to tackle the “right thing” first: the task that is most important. To identify that task, ask yourself, “What must I do now (first)?” In other words, “If can I only tackle one task today, what must it be?” The answer will highlight the task you should focus on.

What's most important isn't to tackle 'everything' but to tackle the 'right thing' first! Click To Tweet

Once you’ve completed that first task, ask yourself, “What must I do (next)?”And each time you complete a task, ask that question again. This will ensure you tackle your tasks in order of priority. And even if you don’t accomplish everything, at least, you will have done the right things.

Question: What do you do when you have too much to do?