To-do lists are a helpful tool for managing your association workload. Sometimes, however, instead of reducing your stress, they add to it. This seems to be a common sentiment in today’s world. Especially for association volunteers, your professional and volunteer to-do lists can get jumbled up. Everyone has too much on their list and too many obligations to keep up with.  How do you create to-do lists? Are they organized by checklist of projects, deadlines, and tasks — do you write them out on paper, or do you keep them digitally?

Plan out how you will spend your time because you can easily feel frustrated or defeated when your to-do list keeps growing. If you are someone who tends to seek validation, a to-do list can be tough. There will be days where you won’t get everything done. This creates unnecessary pressure and can send you into a stress-whirlwind.  Thankfully you can avoid feeling overwhelmed by following a few helpful steps.

Check-In With Yourself

Some days you’re more productive than others. Accept that you won’t always be fully focused on your work. You’re a human being, not a robot. If you know you have a particularly busy day or week ahead, stay realistic about what you can get done. This will help you push back against the overwhelm that might creep in.

Break the List into Two Parts

You can create this list based on the dailies, things you need to do every day like connect with your members, and then the to do’s, the non-daily tasks that need to be done and usually have a deadline associated with it.

You may also benefit from having two separate lists: one for your association volunteer responsibilities, and one for your professional responsibilities. Be strict and attentive when adding to one of these lists. You don’t want to add a volunteer task to a professional to-do list, or visa-versa.

Give Yourself Deadlines

Prioritize the main and important to-do’s and highlight them to avoid them getting lost in the general fluff.  The goal in this is to give yourself a day to complete the tasks.  We all know that if you are productive you will work on something steadily to get it done by the deadline, but if you are a procrastinator, you will put it off until the very last minute. Understanding how much time it takes to complete a particular task and when to execute the task helps to avoid stress in your day.

Set up dedicated time to work on certain tasks. Depending on your schedule and how you work best, it may be helpful to schedule yourself some time away from your occupation to work on board or committee tasks.

Read my colleague’s article The Organized Association Leader for more tips on scheduling both professional and volunteer work.

Don’t Do Everything Yourself

Busy people are often guilty of trying to do everything themselves. They don’t delegate, either because they are too busy to do so, or they believe that someone else could not do it as well as they can.  Delegating is a key skill to productivity and to ensure you are not keeping tasks that could be done by someone else.

If you are on a board of directors, you have many opportunities to delegate to committees or your fellow board members. A board of directors is a team, so don’t be afraid to ask your team to help you out with association-related tasks.

Take a Time Out

Working tirelessly on your to-do list is a sure path to burnout. I’ve learned the importance of prioritizing myself to keep my sanity intact. Whether your timeout looks like a walk around the office park, a few minutes of deep breathing or something else that helps you refuel and reenergize, take time to do it

Your to-do lists might appear daunting, but it doesn’t have to take over your life. Keep deadlines in mind but remember that you don’t have to tackle everything on your list at once. Try changing your perspective. Having the right perspective can change your mood about what you’re doing at any given moment.

Finally, keep in mind that taking on extra association-related responsibilities is a lot of work. Recognize the great work you are doing for the colleagues in your field. You can even add “appreciate the work I’ve done so far” to your to-do list.

Finding the best strategy that works for you and your association, can be challenging. However, if you are motivated to use this productivity tool to make your life easier, then it will get easier.

For more information, read Organization and Time Management: Four Steps to Success.