My company has a to-do list. Everyone can work on one item.

My colleague already has 5 items which he took months ago and yet hasn't finished, but he still wants to take on more items.

I told him

Wrap up what you already have, and then take on new items.

But are there more idiomatic ways to say this?

To me, "bit off more than one could chew" emphasizes on that he could not manage too many things, but my focus here is that he should keep his list small, and leave to-do items to other workers who have time and right skills.

The word hoard or hoarder is for hiding collection. My colleague is not hiding. Every employee can see he has taken 5 items.

I feel it's more like eating. His bowl already has many food, but he is picking up more food from other plates. I doubt he could finish everything in the end (and other diners are still hungry).

Do you have an idiomatic expression to describe this?

2 Answers 2


"bit off more than one could chew" seems fine to me. He is taking more than he can handle, and therefore is behind and becomes "hungry". You could say he is:

overburdening himself


I would say this is... pretty close. "Take on" is an expression for something you usually accept reluctantly. "I had to take on more tasks at work when someone quit." Also, to me, the word "items" sounds... well, I would just call them "things." It might be the programmer in me, but when I think "item", I think of a specific list.

I might say one of these:

"Finish what you already have, and then you can start something else." (This has a nice symmetry between "start" and "finish.")

"Wrap up what you already have, and then you can take another item from the list."

Note that in both cases, I've added "you can" to the sentence. What you're really doing is giving your colleague permission to start something else, but only once they've completed what they've already been assigned.

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