Every morning a close friend of mine and I exchange texts as to what we’re each getting up to that day. Sometimes (or as she might say, often) my message to her can be quite long. I’m a busy girl. In an average week, I need to juggle my family, work, the house, a fitness schedule and social life.
I know I am not in the minority on this.
Whilst we’re keeping the plates spinning, we can start to feel overwhelmed. Thoughts of, I’m spreading myself too thin, I’m not going to get everything done, this is just too much for me or even, I’m going to fail, can take hold of us.
Here are 4 suggested ways to help overcome feeling overwhelmed:
We often start to feel overwhelmed when we are not thinking clearly. When we are clear on what we actually need to do and when we actually need to get it done by, we suddenly gain a better perspective of reality.
The first step in gaining clarity is to debunk the myths we tell ourselves – do you really have a million emails to get through or is it actually 10? Is it really going to take you all day or can you get it done in a couple of hours? Once you’re in a more realistic mindset, it’s time to build a working-smarter-to-do list.
Imagine you’re a night club owner being presented with a daily list of names of people wanting entry to your club. You check each name and then rewrite the list to only include VIP’s and people who you believe will benefit your business. The rest are left to queue outside only gaining entry once space allows. Apply this principle when building your to-do list. Question each item. Is it a V.I.T (very important task) that is non-negotiable and has to be done today? If it is put it on the list. Does the task have a deadline? Will achieving the deadline become impacted if it isn’t completed or started that day? If yes, put it on the list, if not, make it wait in line. Can any of your tasks be grouped together? (can they take up the same table in the club?). No task should be given access to your day without proper scrutiny as to it’s merits for completing it on the day in question. Don’t be overwhelmed by the tasks you have ‘lining up around the block’, they will each have their chance to make it onto the list. Just like in a nightclub, overcrowding ruins the experience, needlessly overcrowding your to-do list will ruin the quality of your productivity.
Once you’ve built your list you will then need to assign time and time slots to each task. Build in each task that has a non-negotiable time slot, such as school runs or set appointments/meetings. Then plan in the other tasks around them. Get creative with your time planning. Are there tasks that are better completed whilst the kids are at school or having a nap? Is there a phone-call you can make or something that can be completed online whilst waiting for your appointment? Can anything be altered slightly to allow you to achieve more? What is the most streamlined way for you to turn your to-do list into a done list?
Break down big tasks
Any good project manager breaks each project down into a series of milestones that need to be completed at certain points in time. By adopting this approach, and looking at projects in ‘chunks’ rather than as a whole, it starts to make everything less daunting and more manageable. For example, it is less overwhelming to think, I’m going to spend one hour selecting and booking a venue for my child’s birthday party today, rather than I need to arrange my child’s entire birthday celebrations. Or, I am going to spend two hours today working on the first module of my course, rather than I have to fit in three years of study to gain my qualification. The time to look at projects and tasks as a whole is once you’ve completed everything; then look back and feel proud of your accomplishments. Until then take it one step at a time.
Whatever you have to complete, you will complete it a lot faster if you give it your absolute focus. Work hard not to allow yourself to become distracted. Put the phone down! Hang up the do-not-disturb sign. If you’ve set yourself an hour to do a task and you give it complete focus, you will invariably complete it within the time you’ve allotted. If you allow yourself to become distracted, you can almost guarantee your task will take longer and have a knock-on effect for the rest of your day/week. I know this can be difficult if you have young children in tow, so you do have to set yourself realistic timeframes, think creatively and ask for support where you can. Which leads me to…
Rally the troops
You are one person. Often we become overwhelmed because we believe we are the only person capable of completing that task and if we don’t do it, it won’t get done. Here’s some news for you – the world won’t stop just because you do. People are more flexible, capable and supportive than we often give them credit for. So when you can, delegate. Delegation isn’t restricted to working environments. It can be applied to all areas of your life. Can someone else help with the school run? Can someone else take your dog for a walk? Even if it’s delegating the picking and delivery of your weekly grocery shop to your friendly online supermarket, instantly saving you hours, it all helps. Look at your network, where can you gain some support and buy yourself some time?
So, you know what to do. Start getting clear on what you actually have to do and when you actually have to do it; get strict on your to-do lists; break down your bigger tasks into more mentally manageable chunks (giving you the head space to focus more freely on them) and seek any support available to you if needed. And, when you have managed to get a few important things done, allow yourself time for a well-earned break!