4 Tips for Coaches Who Stress Out Over Their To-Do Lists

Categorized as Coaching Business
4 Tips for Coaches Who Stress Out Over Their To-Do Lists

Hey friend, Cass here. I want to share a little story (and a few tips) with you today.

I’m a world-class list maker. I have lists everywhere. On every scrap of paper, in every notebook — even my sketchbook isn’t immune (sorry, sketchbook).

It has not been uncommon for me to tell Tee in our weekly meetings that I have notes or a list about something we’re discussing at that moment, but I just can’t find it in the piles of other notes and lists. And she laughs at me every time.

I’m the type of person who has so many random ideas in a given day, I have to write them down or I’ll forget about them by the time I’m ready to get back to them. And let me tell you, to my brain, every single one of those thoughts and ideas is the most important thing I’ve ever come up with.

But you know what the reality is? I very rarely ever get back to those lists.

That fact used to cause me endless stress.

I would literally lay awake at night worried that I hadn’t finished something on my to-do list. I worried that I was falling behind. That the 12+ hour day I’d spent at my computer just wasn’t enough.

You’re a coach, you can probably see what the root of my stress was. I didn’t think I was enough.

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That I had to do more, be better, get faster, work harder, sleep less, focus more, blah, blah, blah.

You know what that all resulted in? Spending entire afternoons laying in bed watching Netflix because I was too overwhelmed to focus on anything. Days and even weeks of working on a random project that served no immediate purpose in building our business. And then the shame spiral of not holding up my end of this business — that was the worst.

But one day, it registered: I was stuck in a loop, repeating the same thoughts and behaviors, resulting in the same series of actions, and it had to stop.

Now I’m sure you’re aware that I didn’t just flip a switch. It doesn’t work that way.

What I actually did was test out a few different methods of organizing my time, scheduling my work hours, and making my lists work for me.

I failed, failed more, reverted to old patterns, failed again, and finally found a system that works for my brain.

On Monday mornings I sit down and write out the most important tasks for the week. You know, the ones that are non-negotiable. Clients on deck, marketing projects I have to tackle, etc; and then I add one or two things within our business that I would love to wrap up this week, but aren’t mandatory. I write these in my official “business” notebook, and it’s gospel. When I find myself with nothing to do, or finish something on the list, I cross it off, and move on to the next.

You know all those other ideas that pop into my head at random moments? I keep a pad of paper on my desk that I write them on. They’re all just collected in the same place, all week long.

On Friday afternoons, when I’m wrapping up for the week, I first check my non-negotiable list. Everything done? Great. Then I look at the ideas list.

Now that my brain has had a little space and distance from the initial excitement of the ideas, I can think about them clearly, without attachment. Anything on the list that has merit gets filed into the appropriate project folder on my computer. Anything that doesn’t, gets crossed off.

And then I throw the list away.

Why It Works For Me

This process is two-fold for me.

One, I get rid of all the piles of lists and notes that used to clutter up my desk and cause a different kind of stress — of the messy desk variety.

Two, I pay appropriate attention to my ideas and make a conscious decision to move forward with them, or not. And any that I’m not keeping, I’m releasing from my brain. I’m not storing them up in a pile, waiting to get to them — that way leads to overwhelm for me.

4 Tips on Changing Your Stressful To-Do List Habits

The key changes I made were:

Do what works for me. 

I don’t follow any single one process. I don’t stick to someone else’s plan. I take what I like from others’ recommendations, and add my own twist. Because when I tried to implement other people’s format exactly, I found myself stressed out and anxious that I was forgetting something.

Let go of the idea that I have to do everything. 

In our business, there are three of us. Me, Tee, and our amazing content manager and design assistant, Christina. That means if there’s something that’s important, but I don’t have time to get to it immediately, I can hand it off. You might be thinking, “well great, I don’t have an assistant, what am I supposed to do?” Did you know that you can go on Fiverr and hire a VA for one-off projects? Or even find someone that works on retainer for you, that you only pay when you need them? That’s how we started getting help, before we brought Christina on board.

Admitting that not all my ideas are relevant.

A list of opt-in ideas for coaches? Pretty solid idea. A recipe book of healthy snacks to keep your brain working at full function? Not necessarily a good fit for our market — even if it would be fun.

Giving myself permission to throw out bad ideas.

Instead of keeping all the things piled up and waiting for the moment when they might be useful, I take glee in throwing them out. I believe that any idea I throw out that will be necessary in the future will come back to me again when I need it.

I can’t be all things to all people, and I don’t want to be. I want to stay in my lane, do what I’m great at, and not get distracted by the twenty new ideas a week that pop up.

Instead, I’m giving myself permission to have great (and bad) ideas, but still stay focused on what matters most. It’s the balance that my list-loving, idea-having brain needs.

About The Author

Co-Founder at | Website

Hey! I’m Cass, a brand coach and the Co-Founder & Chief Brand Officer at Lovely Impact, a website template shop for coaches. I help coaches elevate their businesses with beautiful branding and websites. Here on our blog, my content focuses on branding, web design, and storytelling.

By Cass

Hey! I’m Cass, a brand coach and the Co-Founder & Chief Brand Officer at Lovely Impact, a website template shop for coaches. I help coaches elevate their businesses with beautiful branding and websites. Here on our blog, my content focuses on branding, web design, and storytelling.

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