The Simple Solution

Like you, I have too much on my plate. I frequently feel overwhelmed. And when I do, I sometimes feel that I will never, ever, get it all done. And when I begin to feel that way, I sometimes cease to function at all. Which means, of course, that I don’t get it all done. That then gets me even more paralyzed. And then I really don’t get anything at all done.

That, for me at least, is unacceptable. And that unacceptability is my saving grace.

I can no more not do what I need to do than I could stop eating. So I’ve had to come up with ways to stop feeling overwhelmed and just get on with it.

The thing that saves me is a simple to do list.       to-do-list

In my office, I keep a flip chart that has:

    • Active clients
    • Outstanding proposals
    • Upcoming workshops
    • Special projects

Normally, that’s enough to keep me focused. But sometimes I feel that I am dropping balls, missing deadlines, not doing the things I need to do. And that when I revert to a simple list on an old-fashioned pad.

I jot down what I have to do TODAY and maybe tomorrow. Then I take an educated guess as to how long that task will take. And then I prioritize—what comes first, second, etc.

The next step is to fit my to-do list into my calendar. Here’s where I need to be realistic. If I am appointment heavy, I may not be able to get everything done today. So I need to figure out when I can get it all done by, and if that is acceptable. I also need to look a little further done the road and see if I will bump up against any other deadlines.

Then I take a deep breath….and generally discover that it is not so overwhelming after all.

Knowing that, I get (back!) to work.


Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to increase their fundraising capacity and build more committed boards. Her down-to-earth approach ensures that organizations get where they want to go. Learn more at or email her at