7 Ways to Manage Your Life and Reduce Stress

Posted by in Louise Behiel | 35 comments

I have had an amazing response to my posts about burnout. Turns out that I’m part of a big group of people who are caught in the same chains. There is so much that needs to be done and so little time to get it all done. To make matters worse, Christmas is around the corner and we all know what that means. (By the way, I have 3 gifts hiding upstairs. YAY!)

I did some research and came up with a list of things to help me manage my life if I start feeling overwhelmed. some of them are fairly easy, but others…not so much. And yes, you have my permission to remind me of this post if it seems like I’m failing in the application of these simple steps.

1. Make a list of all the things you have to do.

I have discovered Evernote and I LOVE it. It’s on my phone and both home and work computers. It is searchable by tags, so I make the list of things I need to do and tag it with the current date, to do list and overwhelm. Best of all, I can put a little box beside each item and then I can tick that item off when it’s completed.

For some reason, I have more success creating this list when I’m at work. I will take a break and sit down in front of my work PC and start to come up with the items that need doing. Because I’m not at home (where these items need to be done) they come more easily to me. And because the list is everywhere, I can add to it whenever I want.

2. Sort and Prioritize the list.

I sort the list by areas. Mine usually include household items (fix the toilet or change lightbulbs), writing items (pages, edit a book as a beta reader, write a blog etc.), errands (buy a cartridge for my printer or lightbulbs) and things for my therapy practice (look up something, renew my membership in one of my professional associations) etc. I put those into a priority list. So if I’m getting company, the household tasks might take priority, but a deadline might mean i have to put writing first. And then, within the topics, I prioritize my lists. Yes, I have to write pages, but if I’m feeling behind on my beta reading, it nags on me and confounds my new writing. So I may decide to finish the beta read in a massive dose and get it off my plate.
3. Most of this type of lists talks about the importance of stopping activities that don’t move you forward and saying ‘no’ to future requests. That is often much easier said than done for most of us. But I have learned that if I dread going to a meeting and am relieved when it’s over and am delighted to leave, even though I like everyone there, it’s time for me to resign. This kind of activity sucks the life and energy out of me and drains every bit of creativity I’ve got. So it’s importnat to stop when isn’t feeding my soul and use that time for me.

4. Determine how to attack your list. Some of us need to get the ugliest jobs off our list first. Others need to create a success experience, so do the easier or more pleasant things first. In truth, it doesn’t matter. Simply approach it in the way that works for you. Not sure? Then try one way and make notes aobut your reaction. If you’re doing the ugly things and still upset and aggravated, then best you do the easie, more pleasant items first.

5.If you are wedded to your planner, put these items in your planner with start and duration times. If you’re not, then the list works great.

6. Determine what will give you the most reward and biggest bang for your efforts. Are you a race through and get it done kind of person or are you more likely to finish the list if you take regular breaks. You get to figure this out and then work in that way. There’s no right way and you may find success using alternate methods at different times.
7. Are you the type of person who needs to pray about the list? Meditate? Journal? Great. Go for it. But if you’re not, that’s okay too. The goal is simply to get through your list so you can reduce your stress and maintain some peace of mind.



  1. Louise, when I was a kid my dad showed me the niftiest trick. He put a to-do list for the day in his daily planner. And whatever he didn’t get to that day was moved to the next day. It’s a rarity that I get to everything on my list, but I always remember tomorrow I can knock off more things. πŸ™‚

    • good trick Kourtney.

  2. Louise, I, being the perfectionist that I am, I started out my adult life making lists. Every day I would make these lists and would end up defeated. I could never get through them. They were never ending. They drove me nuts. I ended up starting from the bottom of the list trying to out-smart myself. If I started at the bottom, surely I would have a better chance of accomplishing everything on that list. But no, that didn’t work either. So now I do not make lists. I don’t care if I don’t get everything done. I take one day at a time and do the best that I can. I have given myself permission to let go. And I’m much happier, believe it or not. πŸ™‚

    • good for you, Karen for finding a way to stave off procrastination and get things done and live with yourself. I am more stressed by the risk of forgetting to do something than I am by the list, so this way works for me. and i like the success of ticking things off. but I’m very good at ignoring the list

  3. I’m not a list person, but I definitely see the value in our suggestions, Louise. Thanks for offering so much support to your readers. I’m not surprised that your burnout post was so popular. πŸ™‚

    • thanks August. If you don’t use lists, how do you stay on top of everything you do without burning out?

  4. For whatever reason, the only lists I can write are about what I need to remember. Not to do, just to remember. A to-do list will disappear amongst the many post-it notes I have. If it stays around, then I will ignore it and muddle through. It works for me. πŸ™‚

    • sounds like you have a system that works for you

  5. I’m a big believer in lists. And I especially like being able to check something as I’ve done it. I think I need that validation that I’ve actually accomplished something. Thanks for the advice, Louise.

    • Me too on both counts. that’s why I love Evernotes ability to add a check box. and a check mark when the work is done.

  6. Even though my whole life revolves around computers I finally discovered that my ‘process’ required an oversized flip chart! I divide it into 3 sections – Business, Personal, House and capture tasks under each as I think of them. Each morning I highlight the 2 (or max 3) I believe HAVE to be accomplished that day – and that day ONLY! When each task is completed, I cross it off with a big thick black marker. This keeps me focused on today, rather than worrying about what I have to do tomorrow or should have done yesterday. And I can see that I’m getting through the list slowly but surely. Thanks for all the great advice Louise!!!

    • isn’t it funny how we often have to work contrary to our lives to manage our time? good for you for discovering it.

  7. I am still in trouble, I do not like to make lists, I can see all the many things I need to keep up with.
    My own physical limitations dictate which things I will tackle that day. Yes there may be times I will stress and wish things looked better if I have guests/friends over but I am learning to pace myself better and I am finding more joy as time goes on.

    • pacing yourself is what matters, Shirley. as long as you are okay with the outcomes, that’s all that matters.

      • Thanks Louise, yes better to pace myself then have others upset knowing I have done too much. I appreciate just being able to say some of these things here. ((hugs)) to you also

  8. Great advice, all. Louise, I love the new look of the blog.

    • Glad you liked the list and the blog Lara. I’m sill figuring out this ‘independent, on my own’ place but it’s getting easier.

  9. I use Springpad, which is essentially the same as Evernote. I’m on a Mac desktop, a PC laptop, and an iPhone, and it works well. Guess that’s why I never found Evernote all that interesting.

    • sounds like you’ve found a solution for yourself, which is all that counts.

  10. Great list, Louise. My husband mentioned we needed to start Christmas shopping and I about screamed. Can I just go to bed and wake up on January 1st? πŸ™‚

    • Thanks Jill. I decided to do a little bit – otherwise I’m swamped by December and I have a dec 15 release that I’m sure will keep me busy then.

  11. Great list, Louise. Saying “no” always has been, and still is, one of my biggest challenges, if only because there are very few things in my life that I can opt out of (really, it’s just two: writing and blogging. Everything else has to stay). Like Stacy, I’m also working on procrastinating, which is especially easy to do because I work from home. I think prioritizing, like you suggest, and having a set time/place for “work things” might make things easier.

    • saying ‘no’ is difficult for so many of us, Lena. I had to learn to do that – it was a skill, like so many others. Now I rarely take on something I can’t handle. yay. and yes the separation of work and home things is critical if you work at home. otherwise, there’s no end to work or home.

  12. I use Cozi organizer (www.cozi.com) and I don’t know how I lived without it. Oh wait, I do know – lots of sticky notes, some of which would invariably lose their sticky and get lost. I love lists. I usually do something easy first so I feel like I’ve accomplished something. I save something fun for last – sort of a reward for getting the tough or not-so-fun stuff out of the way. But sometimes, no matter what, there’s still too much on the list. Dealing with that is an ongoing challenge, especially with the holidays coming up!

    • sounds like you have a system that works for you Jenn. I’ll check out Cozi – sounds interesting, although I love Evernote.

  13. Off to download Evernote. I had something similar on a phone that got stolen from my back pocket while on vacation. I think I’d like to try this! Thanks!

    By the way, I had a glitch in my subscriptions through WordPress, so I’m going to be catching up now! I’ve missed your wisdom…

    • nice to see you again Heidi. Sorry about the loss of your phone – that would kill me.

  14. This is a great post, Louise. I use Evernote as well, and it’s been a huge asset to my less than stellar organization skills. I do need to work on prioritizing, though. I tend to do the things that appeal the most to me and procrastinate on the others. If there is one thing I’m utterly superior at, it’s procrastination;)

    • LOL. I hear you Stacy. I have my times and days that I excel at procrastination. Which is why a cleaning service is coming in on Monday LOL. let me know what you think of it. I’m just starting to get beyond the beginners uses of evernote and am looking forward to using it even more

  15. Louise, I recently read Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy and loved his suggestions. Everything in his book is based on lists but his suggestions on how to priortize the items on the lists really spoke to me. It’s actually helped me knock a few things off my lists that weren’t productive or enjoyable. πŸ™‚

    • that’s perfect Sheila. I love lists too, but I have to be careful – I can spend more time making lists than doing the chores – it’s a wonderful procrastination tool for me. I’ll check out Brian’s book – he’s one of my favorites

  16. This is the hard part for me.

    Thanks for the timely article.

    • nice to ‘see’ you here. thanks for stopping by

  17. I think number four is the most important and the hardest.

    It’s great to have a list, but transforming the list into something actionable can be really difficult. I think it’s not always a matter of how ugly the task, but how to break it down to do it.

    • Very true, Lori. I can also struggle with where to start…once I get that sorted out I’m often good to go.


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