Well-Being//

Try This Now: Take One Thing Off Your To-do List

Finishing just one project or task you started has the power to lower stress and boost your energy.

antstang / Shutterstock
antstang / Shutterstock

When we put something on our to-do-list, it means, of course, we have every intention of completing it. But life (or maybe human nature) has a habit of getting in the way. Perhaps there’s an email you meant to write or bills to pay. Whatever the case, sometimes incomplete projects remain on our list indefinitely, which can sap our energy. “Everything on your list is an agreement you’ve made with yourself to complete,” business consultant and coach Martha Ringer tells Thrive. “And the price we pay for not keeping our agreements can be steep, like fatigue, confusion, irritability, and lack of trust in ourselves.”

But if you finish just one task on your to-do-list, however small, you’re likely to find your energy and clarity improve. “Choose something that’s been on your list for some time — whether it’s scheduling a dental appointment or framing a photo,” says Ringer, “then decide exactly what you need to do today — and get it done.” 

If the project requires more than one step, Ringer recommends identifying the first step you need to take. For example, if there’s a research project you want to complete for work, consider calling a colleague who could help. Or you could simply google the topic. Taking that crucial first step gives you momentum, and “you start to reclaim your energy by moving the project forward,” Ringer says. 

As a final step, Ringer recommends acknowledging yourself for finishing what you intended to complete. “People often don’t take the time to appreciate themselves,” she says. Just smile or say out loud “Well done!” You’re worth it. 

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