When what you need to do becomes overwhelming, it can be hard to discern between what to do first and what to do next.

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Why does it seem that we never have enough time to do all the things we need to get done, yet can always make time for what we want to do? What a great trick it would be if we could convince ourselves that we actually wanted to do the things we need to do.

Often I’ll think about what’s on my to-do list for much longer than it would take to simply get the jobs done. Eventually, I reach the point as I’m thinking about a task that I perceive as undesirable when I finally say to myself, “Let me just get it over with so I can get it out of my head.”

This form of procrastination is quite normal. We each have only so much energy, and we all need some relaxation and time to have fun. Unfortunately, life and just being human can get in the way. It’s how you handle it all that can make the difference between enjoying this experience and feeling frustrated with your life.

When what you need to do becomes overwhelming, it can be hard to discern between what to do first and what to do next. The easiest answer to this confounding question is to do whatever is immediately in front of you. Once you complete that task, the next one will appear. The trouble is, we usually ignore what’s in front of us and look for a distraction. When this happens, you must repeat to yourself, “No distractions. I need to stay on task,”and then return to the job at hand.

Sometimes it’s hard to get an entire task completed in one sitting. Believe me, there have been a few columns written one paragraph at a time. It’s fine to break your challenges into bite-sized chunks, and in many cases, it will make doing the job much easier. Remember that this isn’t a race — you can’t lose by making yourself more comfortable.

Of course, when you know you have so many things to do, you may find it difficult to rest until they’re done. Trying to relax while your to-do list is spinning in your mind isn’t going to work. However, if you can get a little done now and remind yourself that you will do more in upcoming days, you will find it easier to release the tension.

For those who are really stuck and can’t seem to move their lives in a positive direction on any level, there may be more serious issues going on. If this sounds like you or someone you care for, please consider seeking professional help. If freezing up is related to depression, it’s important to do something about it as soon as you can.

Making your life the best it can be is not for the faint of heart. It does take effort. Sometimes you have to grab yourself by the scruff of the neck and pull yourself up, so you can achieve the happiness that you most certainly deserve. It’s up to you.

(Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author, most recently, of “100 Ways to Boost Your Self-Confidence — Believe in Yourself and Others Will Too.” Email him at Barton@BartonGoldsmith.com.)