“Help! I have so many items on my to-do list. I feel overwhelmed!”

“My to-do list is so long, I don’t know where to start!”

Ever feel overwhelmed by your to-do list? Have trouble knowing where to start? Feel frozen?

That’s not uncommon for people with ADHD and executive functioning challenges. But, you can learn strategies that will make it much easier to manage your long to-do list!

One key strategy to add to your “toolbox” is a way to prioritize tasks.

A nice method of prioritizing, particularly for those of us who are visual (Many with ADHD) is a four quadrant approach called the Eisenhower method. This stems from a quote attributed to Dwight D. Eisenhower: “I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”

The Eisenhower approach used a four-quadrant matrix for sorting tasks by both how urgent and how important they are.

Here’s an example that shows how varied tasks might be categorized by both their urgency and importance. The upper right quadrant is highlighted is because that is the type of task we want to make sure to devote attention to. (While we have to attend to the urgent and important we also need to make sure we devote time to the less urgent but still important longer-term tasks.)


Using the matrix:

If you like to work on paper, it’s easy to draw the four quadrant matrix. Make it large enough that you can insert the tasks form your to-do list into the quadrants.

If you prefer to type, set up a table in your word processing program.

If you prefer an app, take a look at “Priority Matrix”:

Then, set aside some time to go through the items on your to-do list, sorting them into the four quadrants. Think carefully about each item. How urgent is it really? How important it it? Categorize the items you are certain about first and leave items you are uncertain about until last. Then, think carefully about the items you were not certain about. Perhaps they are not urgent or important. Or perhaps they feel important but you can’t decide how urgent they are. Set aside perfectionism and do your best to categorize. You can always change things later!

Now that you have your to-do list sorted into the matrix, does it feel more manageable?

What would it be like to use the matrix regularly to help in prioritizing?

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