Ask Cassandra: Stressed Out Student

Cassandra Hagen, contributor

Dear Cassandra,

With classes starting back up again, I’ve noticed that my to-do list has gotten a bit overwhelming. Do you have any advice on how to prioritize all of the things I have to do so I can avoid getting stressed out?


Stressed Out Student

Dear Stressed Out Student, 

When tasks start to pile onto your to-do list, it can seem stressful and unmanageable. I’ve been there myself when my notes app to-do list turns into more than a couple of pages long. However, I have some strategies for effectively managing your to-do list in order to avoid accumulating stress!

Break it down. It can certainly help to reduce large tasks into more manageable steps. This includes reducing seemingly simple tasks into smaller actions. Take doing laundry – seems tiring but straightforward, right? You can separate doing laundry into separate tasks, such as washing, drying, folding and putting your clothes away.  This makes the daunting task of doing your laundry seem simpler and easier to complete now that it’s a series of smaller tasks rather than one large chore. This method can be applied to most tasks on your to-do list, making your list a series of obtainable and completely doable tasks. 

Keep it to one list. It can feel tempting to have to-do lists littered across planners, sticky notes and google calendars, but keeping one primary to-do list is the most effective way to organize your tasks. It also prevents you from forgetting anything. Having a single list allows you to budget your time and get a better grasp on what needs to be done each day, preventing it from feeling far too stressful to tackle. 

Categorize. It can help immensely to sort and categorize your tasks into separate sections. This can be done in a variety of ways—you could sort it into schoolwork, chores and miscellaneous or by the time of day you want to do them, such as morning, day and night. You can try a variety of techniques and decide what works best for you, but categorizing can be beneficial for your list!

Put the most important things at the top. Star, highlight, or move the most important items on your list to the top, such as the ones that have to have to be done by a certain time or take priority for the day. This includes assignments with upcoming due dates or important appointments. Put the items in the order you want to complete them, to better plan the necessary tasks of the day. This ensures you have the most important things done even if you can’t complete everything on your list in one day!

Keep it realistic. It’s easy to fall into the habit of trying to be as productive as you can each day, which is by no means a bad thing. However, this habit can easily make your tasks become a large, lengthy to-do list that isn’t feasible to complete in one day. Keeping healthy and balanced expectations of what you can achieve allows you to be less stressed. It shortens your to-do list, too, making it easier to organize what you have to do. 

Overall, if you find your to-do list lengthy and unmanageable, using some of these tips can hopefully allow you to better manage and prioritize what you need to do each day while reducing potential stress. While having a large list of things to get done can be daunting, remember that you can do anything – including this!

Here’s to a more organized to-do list,