This episode was inspired by a great question asked in the Productive Woman Facebook group. The question was about getting back on track when it seems like everything is out of control. Join me as I talk about how to tame the chaos and get your life back in order, while giving yourself some grace along the way.
Taking back control of your life, one day at a time
Becky, a member of our TPW Facebook group, asked this question:
“You may have covered this before but I would love to hear tips on how to get going when you have lost control of everything (email, work projects, home organisation, health goals). Not just how to deal with a bad day but picking yourself up and starting again when you have let everything slide for months and are faced with an overwhelming, chaotic backlog”
We’ve all been there. Something happens in our life that throws our schedules, systems, and habits out of whack. I mentioned last week that for me, a series of houseguests and family events, combined with a series of tight work deadlines, got me off track in several ways.
When something like this goes on for any length of time, it can result in a situation that is overwhelming. Things can become so chaotic and the backlog is so big we don’t even know where to start. Add to that some negative self-talk (“What’s the matter with me? I should have been able to keep up. How did I let things get so bad?”) and we can end up stuck in a cycle that just perpetuates the problem.
How to take back control when things have gotten out of hand
It starts in our mind–recognizing when we’re criticizing and condemning ourselves for being human. It’s hard to take any action when we’re mired in self-criticism. When you catch yourself having those thoughts, decide whether or not you’re going to believe them. Take a step back and consider what the “problem” is and how you got there. Maybe an illness? New baby? Family crisis? Pandemic? There’s a reason you are where you are today–what is it? Learn to manage your own thinking so you can start to turn things around.
In Episode 221 we talked about some things to do when we’re disappointed with our progress toward goals. Much of what we discussed in that episode is applicable here, so it’s worth listening to. Here are the key points:
- Don’t compare yourself to anybody else.
- Let go of the “shoulds”.
- Show yourself as much compassion as you would a dear friend or a child. Give yourself grace–you’re allowed to be human.
Take a few minutes to look for the positive–What’s working for you right now? What have you done well (instead of the other things you feel like you should have been doing to keep life under control)? If you’re struggling to come up with things you’ve done well, ask someone you love to help you. There is always something you’ve been doing well. The best way to get into a positive frame of mind is to look for the good in your life. Try writing down 10 things (or more) that you’re grateful for right now, even in the midst of chaos.
Do a mind dump—write down everything that’s weighing on your mind. Getting it all out of your head and onto paper where you can look at it and evaluate it rationally really is the crucial first step of restoring peace and order. Every project that’s uncompleted, every healthy habit dropped, every deadline looming (or missed), every task that needs to be tended to. What is the chaos? Where is it in your life? (Is it at home, work, or somewhere else?) What needs to be done? Write it all down, even if what needs to be done is “figure out what to do about X”.
Pay attention to your thoughts as you do this. If you start down that path of beating yourself up, remember . . . GRACE. If you start to feel that panic of overwhelm or despair, take a few deep breaths and remind yourself you don’t have to do everything at once; you’re just getting your arms around the scope of the situation.
Choose one thing on the list and take action on it–There is no right or wrong answer about where to start, so go for a quick win, something that will give a visible result with minimal effort, such as clearing the dishes out of the sink. Here is a great quote attributed to Mark Twain:
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small, manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”
Use some simple hacks to get immediate relief
- Is your email inbox stressing you out with a huge backlog of unanswered or unread emails? Instead of allowing emails to accumulate, create a new folder called “To Process” and move ALL of the emails out of your inbox into that folder. Then, schedule 10 minutes a couple of times a day to go into that folder and process a few of them–read, reply, file, or delete.
- Is the house a cluttered mess? Grab a big laundry basket or box and sweep through the rooms, tossing everything that’s where it doesn’t belong into the basket or box. Choose a place for that box, and schedule 10 minutes a day to go into it and pull out things to put away.
- Have healthy habits gone by the wayside? Pick ONE thing to reinstate. Maybe it’s drinking 8 glasses of water a day, going for a walk each day, or lights out by 10 p.m. each night so you can get a good night’s sleep (it’s pretty hard to be productive without enough sleep). Let that one habit settle in before you add another one.
Ask for help–Get your family members or work colleagues on board to give you a hand. Find a friend who also wants to get things back on track and encourage each other:
- Help each other identify the next steps needed to take back control
- Check in by a quick text in the morning: “Today I will do X”; then follow up at the end of the day: “Did you do X?”
- If it’s a fitness or health goal, work on it together.
- If you don’t have someone local who’s of a similar mindset, reach out to the TPW community. I’ll bet there’s someone there who you could pair up with to encourage and hold each other accountable.
Hire a coach in whatever area you think will help most:
- Fitness trainer
- Business coach
- Professional organizer
- Life coach (mindset work)
Schedule time on your calendar to work on it—block out time on your calendar, maybe every Sunday evening, to look at the week ahead and decide when you’re going to work on a project. No one will give you the time, you need to find and create it for yourself.
The most important thing–give yourself permission to make small progress–we sometimes feel like when things get completely out of hand that we have to fix it immediately, but that’s not always possible. It takes time to get back on track and that’s okay. The longest journey is made one step at a time. Small steps taken consistently will take you anywhere you want to go.
What do you think? Questions? Comments?
What are your best tips for getting back on track when life has gotten chaotic? I’d love to hear from you. Share them in the comments section below or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or send me an email.
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