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Adult EF Skills 101: What to do when everything feels important

NOTE: This article is part of a series called Adult EF Skills 101. Each post is inspired by the course, Adult EF 101, designed to teach the essential executive function skills for success in the "real world". This series will cover the following topics:

  • Learn how to plan your priorities 🎯

  • Learn to get started (task initiate) 🔨

  • Learn how to keep things tidy 🧺

  • Learn how to find and keep a job 🧹

  • Learn how to communicate effectively 🗣️

  • Learn how to budget 🤑

Learn more about the course by clicking here.

My stress levels were sky-high

For me, 2016 was rough. I was a second-year teacher and a graduate student at LMU. The combination of lesson plans, coursework, and self-inflicted pressure left me constantly overwhelmed. There was so much to do and everything felt important.

One evening, I broke.

After work, my mind raced with a list of to-dos. As I got into my car, I noticed the dashboard covered in dust. ANOTHER TO-DO. 

How am I going to clean my car, lesson plan, exercise, grade, do my homework?!?! 

With stress bursting through my body, I started to visibly shake.


My solution was not a good one: pull an all-nighter. The next day, I was a mess and people noticed. A colleague knew something was wrong. With a jar, sand, and 5 rocks, she taught me a life-changing lesson.

What to do when everything feels important

It's difficult to prioritize when we are emotionally deregulated.

The first step is to clear your mind. Find a quiet, calm space and leave distractions behind. Take 5 deep breaths, in through your nose, out through your mouth. Or, try 5 rounds of box breathing.

Now, it’s time to prioritize. 

  1. Make a list of everything that is on your mind. This will offload to-do’s from your working memory, reducing stress. 

  2. Categorize your to-do list. I use work and personal. You may add other categories to fit your lifestyle. 

  3. Select your 3 MITs (most important tasks) for the day and place a start next to each

  4. Look at your calendar and add each MIT to a specific time 

white male with long, dark hair, standing in front of a green background, wearing a black jacket

How do I choose MITs? 

Sometimes, we struggle to identify our most important tasks. This is where a specific strategy comes in handy. Have you heard of the Eisenhower Matrix? 

The Eisenhower Matrix is a time management tool that helps prioritize tasks based on their urgency and importance. 

It works by dividing tasks into four categories: urgent and important, important but not urgent, urgent but not important, and neither urgent nor important. This method aids in focusing on what truly matters, minimizing time spent on less significant activities. 

The Eisenhower Matrix

To use it, categorize the tasks that feel important according to the matrix. Any tasks that fall under the category “urgent and important” are an MIT. Focus on completing these tasks first. 

Next, plan for "important but not urgent" tasks by scheduling them in your calendar. Delegate "urgent but not important" tasks if possible, and eliminate tasks that are "neither urgent nor important." 

This approach allows you to systematically identify your MITs. It creates space for you to focus on what truly matters while riding unnecessary tasks from your list.  

Can I choose more than 3 MITs each day? 

Learning a new skill takes time. Whether it be learning guitar or learning how to prioritize, it is important to start small. 

If we don’t prioritize with intention, we anchor ourselves in the present. This prevents us from becoming the individuals we aspire to be. 

Start with only 3 MITs. If you have additional time in your day, you can revisit your task list and complete smaller, less important tasks. Over time, you may find that you can do more than 3 MITs. 

Remember, my colleague who shared life-changing advice? This is what she taught me: 


The journey from overwhelming stress to intentional prioritization isn’t always easy, but it is profoundly rewarding. If you're feeling swamped by the demands of your daily life, remember that there's a way through. Prioritizing with intention and clarity can turn the tide from feeling perpetually behind to leading a balanced, fulfilling life. 

Each day, take time to identify your 3 MITs (most important tasks) and add them to your calendar. If everything on your to-do list feels important, use the Eisenhower Matrix to systemically identify what is truly urgent. 

Did you find this helpful? Your insights and stories could inspire and help others. Leave a comment below! 

Want to join our next cohort of Adult EF Skills 101?

We know adulting is HARD. It demands strong executive functions. Luckily, we've made a course to cover the fundamentals so you can make the best of each day. In this course, you will:

  • Learn how to plan your priorities 🎯

  • Learn to get started (task initiate) 🔨

  • Learn how to keep things tidy 🧺

  • Learn how to find and keep a job 🧹

  • Learn how to communicate effectively 🗣️

  • Learn how to budget 🤑

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About the Author

Eric Kaufmann, M.Ed is a Professional Educational Therapist and Certified Executive Function Coach. He is the Co-founder of UpSkill Specialists, an online adult executive function coaching company designed to guide adults in overcoming disorganization, procrastination, and productivity roadblocks so they can unlock their potential. Eric is also the founder of Elevate Learning Solutions, an Educational Therapy practice located in San Clemente, CA, that guides students with neurological differences toward becoming independent and confident students and self-leaders.

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About 👋

Upskill Specialists was founded when two former special education teachers turned executive function coaches decided that adults need tools and coaching to improve their workplace skills and feel confident and empowered. Our mission is to ensure every adult with EF challenges has access to high-quality coaching services. 

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