{productivity} How I use a master to-do list to prevent overwhelm

master list

Let’s talk about the difference between a master list and a daily to-do list.

People often confuse the two which is the exact reason they experience overwhelm. I would also feel overwhelmed if I saw 30 items every day but I don’t feel overwhelm if I only see 5 or 6 items.

  1. I make a master to-do list of what I call Life Admin every so often. This list has things around the house, projects, financial things, medical appointments, etc.
  2. Here’s the trick – I keep this list on my desk so it’s visible at all times.
  3. Every week I put one or two of these things on my weekly list – to be done either during the week (if it’s time-specific or dependent on other people) or on the weekend (usually self-imposed and needing only my input).
  4. When I complete the item, I cross it out with a highlighter. As I progress through the list, more and more items get crossed off which feels very satisfying for this upholder.
  5. I then rewrite the list when the list of undone items is less than half the list, or it’s a new month (I love the fresh slate of a new month).

I mentioned above that I have a master list for my life admin. I also have one for all my clients at my full-time job (in Excel) and I suppose you could call my To Blog list a master list too 🙂

If you don’t already use a master to-do list, I encourage you to try one. There is a satisfaction in knowing that you can take a month, two months even to get to all your things, but that you only need to do just as many as you want to, every couple of days or weeks.

Do you use a master list? What do you have master lists for?

When life throws you curveballs

A reader recently sent me a question asking what my suggestions were for her and for other readers who get thrown from their usual routines by life’s curveballs.

I think this is a great question because she’s right – we all have things that throw us off track:

  • busy time periods at work (month-end/ year-end/ closing out a project/ going live with other projects, etc.)
  • busy periods in our kids’ lives (concert week, recitals or plays)
  • any illness (usually means kids or parents not sleeping)
  • going on holiday (lovely to be away but re-entry can be tough)
  • any out-of-the-ordinary happening that messes with your routine

I’ll share with you my top 3 ways to get back on track:

  1. Lower my expectations

That seems counter-intuitive but it makes complete sense for any of us control freaks.

I know after returning from a holiday that it’s going to take about a week for things to return to our normal. There’s no sense in getting stressed every day because there are piles of undone laundry, no food in the fridge and kids who can’t wake up for school because they’re too tired.

This one step is the biggest creator of peace of mind in the home.

  1. Get back to my basics as quickly as possible

For me, that’s making a menu plan and making sure we have enough fruit and vegetables in the house. I can almost always cobble meals together from the freezer or pantry; it’s when there aren’t enough apples or carrots that I start to twitch. Food is important to me and the family, so this is one of my priorities.

In essence, start putting your routines in order. When we get back from a holiday, I start unpacking immediately because I can’t stand things laying around on the floors and I’ve trained the kids to do the same. They’ve unpacked their own suitcases for the last 3 years.

  1. How can I restore order in the quickest, painless way?

I could take one day, generally the Sunday afterwards, and do laundry non-stop, and while that would be quick, it is not painless for me! I choose to do a daily load until we’re caught up instead as we generally only do the laundry about 3 – 4 times a week. It ends up being just a day or two longer, but knowing that there’s a plan in place helps a lot to keep me at peace!

If doing laundry isn’t painful for you, you might as well get it done quickly.

I read a blog once where the mom used to go to a laundromat, use 6 machines and just get all the laundry done if they had a curveball or two thrown at them. She said she’d take a book, relax for two hours and leave with everything up to date. That actually sounds splendid.

To summarise, I’d give myself two weeks to get back to my routines. Decide what is most important to you, and start doing that thing immediately (as you saw above, unpacking and food for me!).

Then build on those initial steps until your routine – and peace of mind – is restored once again.

What are your basics?

Do you have a strategy for life’s curveballs?

One hour to sanity

Break out of overwhelm

If you’re feeling a little bit crazed and harried, don’t worry – you’re not alone.

This time of year makes us all feel a little bit tense, irritable and even overwhelmed, and we’re all just waiting for people to go on leave, aren’t we? 🙂

Here are a few resources to help you:

1. Use the Master To-Do list in the Time Management Purpose Pack on this page and get your head empty of anxiety as you write down everything.

2. How I deal with overwhelm

3. Break out of overwhelm (one hour to more peace and calm)

4. Avoiding Pinterest overwhelm

Wishing you reduced overwhelm this week!

PS please share these resources with a stressed/ overwhelmed friend today

Break out of overwhelm


Periods of overwhelm are completely normal in our lives.

Hopefully they only last for a week or two (like an annual deadline at work, exams, etc) but other times it seems like you’re living in the overwhelm with no true and complete end in sight (living situation changes – new job, addition of a child, caring for family on a permanent basis, etc).

If you’re in the first camp, grab my master to-do list in the welcome pack and start making lists to get through this time.

If you’re in the second camp, this email is for you.


In this audio/ workbook combination, I’ll show you how to identify emergency responses to get you out of that paralysed feeling of overwhelm that will work WITH your personality.

I’ll then show you how to go into a state of maintenance where you can manage it all better.


This is my favourite of all my products probably because I personally use this 2 – 3 times a year myself 🙂

I know this will help you!

Just for you if you feel overwhelmed

We all go through periods of overwhelm in our lives.

Sometimes it’s just a week or two of pushing through (like an annual deadline at work) but other times it seems like you’re living in the overwhelm with no true and complete end in sight.


If you’re in the second camp, this email is for you.

I created Break out of overwhelm for some of my clients who were totally overwhelmed, stressed and frazzled.

Download your copy now

In this audio/ workbook combination, I’ll show you how to identify emergency responses to get you out of that paralysed feeling of overwhelm that will work WITH your personality.

I’ll then show you how to go into a state of maintenance where you can manage it all better.

Download your copy now

This is my favourite of all my products probably because I personally use this 2 – 3 times a year myself 🙂
I know this will help you!

How to avoid Pinterest overwhelm

I’ve always seen Pinterest as the easiest way for me to organise and store all the website links I’d previously bookmarked, and by category too.

And when I look at one of my boards, it’s a whole lot of inspiration in one place.

I also browse a little to get some tips, tricks and ideas for specific purposes, like now as I’m planning my babies’ 3rd birthday party, or even if I want to do a craft with, let’s say washi tape.

I see 3 problems with Pinterest.

1. Pinning can get complicated

There’s been quite a bit of internet drama about ethical pinning and first checking if the original blogger allows pinning, etc.

I get some of it but mostly I think if your work is out there and it’s cute, it’s going to get pinned. I certainly do the best I can but I’m not the internet police.

(feel free to disagree with me in the comments)

I do think that most people feel flattered when their creations are pinned. I know I do! *hint, hint*

Solution – when you pin, make sure that it points to a specific page on a blog and not the general blog address

2. Perfectionism


We start thinking that these beautiful snippets of people’s homes mean that their lives are perfect and ours are not. We think that other mothers are perfect because they’re crafting with their kids all the time and we’re not. We think that other people are more creative (okay, this part may be true, especially in my case) and we’re less than because we have other strengths.

Solution – Realise that you may have different gifts. Also, if a blogger shows a pic of a perfect room, you can be 100% sure that room doesn’t look like that 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They’ve staged the room to take a pretty pic for the blog.

3. Overwhelm

I see from the blogs I read and from my own Pinterest status updates that people are on there a LOT.

I don’t go on and “get lost” because I pin with a purpose. Remember I primarily use Pinterest to store links.

In my view, the point of a site like Pinterest is to inspire you to (sometimes) take action.

I love that there are blogs out there who regularly host parties so you can link up the things you did that were inspired by Pinterest. Just google and you’ll see.

If you’re getting overwhelmed and you’ve stopped taking action, it may be that you have too many pins so you don’t know where to start.


From my coaching work with many creative people, creativity actually increases if there are some boundaries and order.

E.g. if I provide a canvas and only one or two other supplies, you’d probably be more creative than if I left you in a room FULL of supplies as you wouldn’t know where to start.

Solution – go through one of your boards, be honest with yourself and delete the pins you know you’ll never do. Then pick the easiest thing to do (maybe something you have all the supplies for) and just do it.

Once you get your motivation up, you can pick another and start taking action again.

To avoid Pinterest overwhelm, set a fun goal to do something, no matter how imperfectly, at least once a month. It’s even better if you invite a friend and make a date of it.

My word of the year is CREATE and I choose at least two, but sometimes even more crafts, especially if they’re easy to do (my favourites).

 This week’s coaching challenge 

1. Take action on anything (or two) on your to-do list, whether on a Pinterest board or not. Your to-do list will do 🙂

2. If you need help or support, contact me for a once-off coaching session to get unstuck or book a get-acquainted chat with me to see if we’re a good fit for a monthly coaching relationship.

Do you suffer with Pinterest overwhelm?

Please share what’s working for you.


5 reasons why you must have a master to-do list

There’s something so powerful about a central place to store all of your ideas, thoughts and to-do items.

You don’t feel distracted and scattered because everything is in one place.

Whenever I start feeling overwhelmed, I make a master to-do list of everything I need AND want to do.

My current list contains things I have to sent out in the mail, business projects I want to work on, and documents I need to update, like some e-books and coaching tools.

So why a master to-do list?

What’s wrong with the back of an envelope and millions of post-it notes?

1. Writing it all down frees up your brain for big picture thinking so you don’t have to concern yourself with remembering details.

2. It eliminates all the bits and pieces of paper, post-it notes, backs of envelopes, etc.

3. There is something about the act of actually putting pen to paper that seals things in your mind. If you’ve ever been on one of my goal-setting workshops, you know exactly what I mean.

4. Once you see it in black and white, you can deal with reality so much better rather than imagining how bad it all is.

5. You can choose the exact number of tasks you want to tackle every day (I don’t recommend more than 6) without feeling overwhelmed. Move these 6 tasks to your daily to-do list.

My challenge to you

* Download my paper-based master to-do list from my website or use Outlook if you like the electronic version. The method doesn’t matter much; what does matter is that you have a central place to collect your tasks.

* First brain dump everything – go wild, you can sort it out later.

* Now, make categories and then start attacking that list.

Happy organising!


Over to you – do you use master to-do lists?


Marcia Francois is a time management coach and speaker who inspires busy women to break out of overwhelm, make the most of their time and take purposeful and focussed action so they have the time and freedom to live life to the full.

Visit  http://purposefultimemanagement.com  for your free Time Management Purpose Pack.

The single biggest thing that gets me out of overwhelm

There’s still time to enter the giveaway for the Clutter Rehab book.


I personally can’t think of many things that stress people out so much as the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Overwhelm can happen both in work, business or in your personal life.

The absolute best tip ever to start feeling less overwhelmed is to stop and grab a master to-do list or a piece of blank or lined paper.

I included a master to-do list in my Time Management Purpose Pack which you can get for free on my website.

Take 10 minutes and empty your mind my writing down each and every thing on the list.

Just try it – I promise you you’ll not only feel better when you’re done BUT you’ll also then have a realistic picture of what you need to do.

Hint – it’s often a lot less than you think.

If you think in categories as I do, then print one list for each segment of your life – I usually do one for personal, one for work and one for business so that you don’t have to rewrite the items at a later point when you want to work on one area.

This is just a small sample of the steps I take you through in my Break out of Overwhelm audio teleseminar.

It’s my favourite product of all time (yes, really) because I personally use it a couple of times a year when my life gets too hectic and I start feeling overwhelmed.

Here’s what one person had to say… 

The Break Out of Overwhelm seminar was terrific and really hit home with me!  I got sooo much out of it.

I learned a few very important things.  First of all, I hate to eat my frogs and yet they are so very important. Secondly, I have to say no and third,  I realized just how overwhelmed I really am. My health is at stake and sometimes I feel like I am in a total shutdown.

The analogy  you used to illustrate the overwhelm in our lives was great.  I now know how to apply “emergency first aid”!!!!  I also love knowing how to use my Organizing Personality to reduce my overwhelm.

The important thing here I believe, is that  I recognize the problem, I am facing the problem,  I just have to sort the alternatives I have.

So, as a result of the teleseminar, I have recognized my overwhelm,  set my goals, and already, after one day, I ate my frog.  I really got a lot out of this!!  You did a great job!

Mary Perlongo

New York



One more thing before I go…

If you haven’t booked your place for the Inspired workshop yet, do so now. Bookings close in 8 days.

On a scale of 1 – 10, I was feeling like a 10 about 10 days ago. Once I made my lists (I think I had a combined total of about 65 items), I felt TONS better.

Today I’m a 2 because I’ve had a really good couple of productive days.

Where are you on the overwhelmed scale?

Question of the week – letting go

There are only 6 days til Christmas.

At this point you have a choice – you can stress and run around trying to do it all or you can let go.

When you visualise the two choices, which sounds more attractive to you?

What can you let go?

  • the need to have a perfectly decorated house
  • the illusion of super mom
  • running around to the shops daily
  • running around to lots of events
  • hosting the perfect lunch or dinner
  • your own expectations of yourself or others

What’s not serving you?

This weekend I have a question for you – what’s no longer serving you?

Sometimes we keep on doing things simply because we’re in the HABIT of doing them and not because they actually serve us anymore.

Let me explain.

You go through a really busy period at work and work until 6pm every night. After that, it’s become a habit so you continue to do so EVEN THOUGH there’s really no need.

But it’s no longer serving you.

You could be enjoying the extra time at home with your family, exercising, taking up a new hobby, etc.

Or you might have a bookshelf full of books you don’t like or need to have.

It’s no longer serving you.

Or you have piles of baby clothes that your children have outgrown and you know full well you’re not having any more childrn.

They’re no longer serving you.

One more…you have 5 sets of bed linen for your guest bedroom. You have guests twice a year and never even get past set 3 on the shelf.

That’s no longer serving you.

So this weekend, my challenge to you is to jot down 3 – 5 things in your life that are no longer serving you.

And let them go.

They can be anything from kitchen utensils, crockery and table linen to old appliances to bad habits or time commitments.


What’s no longer serving you?

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