How to have an enormous to-do list and not feel overwhelmed

Most entrepreneurs are juggling lots of different ideas, projects and sometimes businesses… We farmish entrepreneurs have our unusual lifestyle and work environment on top of that.

If you live on a farm, on a homestead, on the road (or maybe you're dreaming about that kind of life), and you're running an online business or thinking about starting one - then this is for you.

1. Remember your “WHY”

Why do you live the life you live - and why do you run your business?

A few years ago I was traveling around Europe, on a very small wooden sailboat with my partner, our dog and our cat. While traveling, I couldn't find work that made me happy. I was waitressing and cleaning (which was fine and paid the bills), but it wasn't fulfilling. Also, I didn't know what language the locals were going to speak at the next place that we went to, and I wanted a skill that I could carry with me.

So my motivations for starting my business were to support the kind of lifestyle I wanted. Starting your own business, in my opinion, should enable you to live the life you want, being able to spend time with your family, grow your own food or raise animals or whatever it is that you want to do.

Then you start the business that will allow you to live the life you want… and if your business is doing well, you’ll soon notice it’s taking over. When you’ve got a lot to juggle, not enough time and feel overwhelmed… you feel like the days are whizzing by. That’s when you need to find a system that helps you to cope with that, that helps you be more productive, get more done, and get on top of all the things you’re juggling right now.

How do you live this life and run your business and not get really stressed and feel buried and all the things you need to juggle?

2. Segmenting your life - to get things done

When we look at what exactly leads to overwhelm and stress - of course it has something to do with **having lots to do**. Or more specifically, having the feeling that you’ve got lots to do.

—> Let’s look at some specific ways that you can reduce the stress and overwhelm, and really feel on top of all the things you need to juggle.

The main way to get organised is to get planning. Write all of your tasks and chores down, note when you're going to do them, and how long each of them is going to take you. That allows you to be more efficient and really focus on all of those things and not feel like there's too much. It sounds like the opposite (writing down all the stuff you need to do… it sounds like it’s going to be huge!) - but it's not.

The main perk of writing down your tasks, is you’re less worried about what you’re forgetting. You know exactly when you're going to do everything. Imagine you're in your garden; you’re not thinking about your business, and rushing because you need to get back to work…

Instead, you’ve planned your time in the garden, and you know the other work is going to happen - after the garden.

Segmenting your tasks in your head is important, so you can zone in on the right things at the right time. When you’re working on your business, you're just thinking about your business and about the tasks at hand; when you’re in the garden or taking care of the kids, then you get to focus on that (and not think about business for a bit). If you get a great business idea while you’re doing other things, you can just grab your phone or notebook and write it down (or even email yourself) - so you can carry on with what you were doing. By jotting it down, you’re putting it out of your mind - but it’ll be waiting for you, when it’s time to get back and work on your business.

When you plan what you need to do and when to do it, you’re not stressing about forgetting things and each task is getting the attention it needs.

One important aspect of this is knowing how much time each task will take you - only then can you really plan it. For instance, I need to feed my pigs every day. I used to think it took me 10 minutes to feed my pigs… but I was wrong. Turned out it takes 30 minutes. Before I tracked my time, every morning I was getting up, I would feed the pigs and come back 30 minutes later thinking I was 20 minutes behind on my planning… that was not good for motivation, and made me feel overwhelmed. When I started tracking my time on every task, I realised feeding the pigs took me longer - so I’d assign more time to do it.

How you like to plan your time… that’s different for every person. Many of us at the Farmish Collective use the productivity spreadsheet; we also recently switched from Asana to ClickUp and absolutely LOVE this productivity & planning tool. But whether you’re using an app or a notebook and pen or maybe post-its on the wall… the principles stay the same.

At the end of every day, it helps to review your day and plan ahead for tomorrow. Not only is it rewarding to look back at what you’ve achieved today; knowing what you’re doing the next day is helpful, as you wake up in the morning knowing what’s on your plate for the day.

Use the Daily Planning Toolkit for this!

Then, once you've identified your top priorities for the day ahead, this post shows you how to use a simple Excel spreadsheet to tame that To Do list.

My top tip for staying on top of the multitude of things that you have to get done is **segmenting**. Being able to really focus on the task that you're doing, instead of thinking about all the other things you have to do, putting all of the things into separate blocks of time. And, of course: planning, not only your business, but also your personal life, your farm, your traveling schedule, whatever it is, all those things you're juggling.

For more help with staying focused on the task at hand, check out this helpful article on how to incorporate the Pomodoro Technique into your working day.


3. Making your workspace a space to work & focus.

The other challenge many people who work from home struggle with is **finding a place to work**. Having an office isn't always possible if you're on the road, if you're on a farm or building site.

Running several online businesses and living off the grid AND caring for my kids AND raising animals is a lot to juggle - and more so in a space that isn't ideal.

I live in a tiny house, while we’re renovating our house: we’ve got 20 square meters. The one room is the kitchen, living room, kids’ playroom and my office.

We all work in different situations. If you're traveling around, you could be using co-working spaces, libraries and cafes and your environment's changing all the time. Often you need to find a way to deal with that to make sure that you can actually sit down and get stuff done for your business.

Try and reduce the chaos in your working space as much as possible. In my tiny house, when I sit down in my kitchen, I make sure that my washing up’s done. I make sure that I've got a clear table to work at and I make that space the most productive environment it can be.

Don’t do everything before you start though - you may want to leave a little laundry to fold so you can get up in between work, and take a break from your computer as you catch up with housework.

I also make sure that my family know when I'm going to work. If you're working in a communal space and you've got a client meeting or some tough tasks you need to concentrate on, you’ve got to tell the people you work with. If you tell them about it ahead of time, they’ll be able to go and plan other things during that time.

This goes both ways; if you know your children will be around in the morning, you can try and plan meetings in the afternoon or the next day.

So to sum up, how do I make this work?

- Planning properly
- Focusing on one thing at a time and
- Making myself a space that I can work in.

If you’re planning, plan your time, plan your space, plan your personal life, plan your farm, plan it all and reduce that stress and overwhelm.

Make your business a success, make your family a priority and make your alternative lifestyle work, juggle all the things but juggle them smart.

And if you'd like more help with working smarter not harder and to learn how to get things down without the overwhelm, then our 'Smart Productivity' course is definitely worth taking a look at.

Have you got any tips for us on how to tame a To-Do list that's out of control? Let us know in the comments below!"