In this episode we’ll talk about a few things we can do to get ourselves moving when our to-do list has us feeling overwhelmed.
Beat the overwhelm and get started on your to-do list
“Busyness is a full-time job.” ~ Unknown
When you factor in the varied roles we play–employee or business owner, mom, wife, friend, volunteer, home keeper, and more–it can be difficult to find the balance between being productive and feeling overwhelmed. In this episode, I’ll offer five tips to help get started when we feel paralyzed by overwhelm.
Five tips to get the ball rolling
Tip # One: Start with a plan
You need to know what you want–your goals and objectives–before diving into the day-to-day tasks that need attention. That’s why it’s so important to build in time to think about what matters most to you, to have that picture in your mind of what you want your life to look like and who you want to be in the world, so it can guide your decisions about how to spend your time and what to do when.
Keeping that in mind, when I find myself paralyzed by overwhelm because of all the things that need to get done, I try to take a deep breath, then sit down and do a brain dump–just get everything out of my head onto paper or the screen so I see it and then start to figure out what to do about it. You can use an app like Trello, Google Calendar (or any other calendar of choice), Evernote, or any note-taking app, or just a pen and paper to capture your thoughts and outline your plan of attack. Evaluate the things on that list in light of your own goals, objectives, and priorities, and make some quick decisions about things that can be deleted or delegated.
Tip # Two: Prioritize your tasks by importance
Once you’ve weeded out the things you’ve decided not to do, scan the list again to assign priorities to what is left. This will help you see the most important things to do first and those that can wait until later–now that you have them written down so they won’t be forgotten.
I’m not suggesting you spend a lot of time putting them in numerical order, but group them roughly by urgency and importance. By scanning the list you can identify whether there’s something that really, truly needs to get done RIGHT NOW–maybe paying bills that are about to be delinquent, or returning that urgent call from a client. Once these urgent matters have been taken care of you can feel free to go back into tackling any unfinished work without being bogged down by distractions.
Tip # Three: Be realistic about what you can do with the time and energy you have at the moment
Here I’m really talking about that feeling of despair we get when we look at something on our list and know it’s got to be done, but there’s just no way to get it done in the time that’s available for it.
If a task feels too daunting, look at it again–is it really a task, or is it a project? It’s important to understand the difference between a project and a task. A task can be completed in one place in one chunk of time; a project cannot because it is made up of multiple tasks. For example, decluttering your house (or even decluttering a room) isn’t a task; it’s a project–and a pretty big one, at that. The way to make it happen is to break it into smaller chunks that seem manageable so progress isn’t stalled due to lack of motivation.
Tip # Four: Set a timer
Once you’ve identified and prioritized your tasks and chosen which one to start with, adjust your thinking. Instead of thinking “How long will this take?” (which can definitely lead to overwhelm), make an executive decision about how much time you’ll spend on it. Set a timer, start, and know that when the timer goes off, you are done. That can motivate you to work quickly, and it’s easier to start when there’s an end in sight.
When you have an overwhelming task that needs to get done, it can be easy for the time to feel never-ending. Setting yourself up with deadlines in the form of a timer can help you stay focused but also keep your productivity high throughout each day (or week).
Tip # Five: Take a break
It’s important to take time for yourself, even if it means just taking five minutes out of your day and doing something that makes you happy (such as reading the news or catching up on social media).
As you work, the Pomodoro Method may be a good technique to try out. This will help keep burnout at bay so when work does need to be done again there is enough energy left in reserve.
Give yourself rewards as you achieve milestones–even if it’s just a cup of tea on the porch for 10 minutes after you’ve completed your first timed session.
What do you think? Questions? Comments?
What do you think? How do you get yourself going when faced with paralyzing overwhelm? Please share your best tips in the comments section below or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or send me an email.
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Royse City, Texas