Of all the Ten Saboteurs of Success, people report Overwhelm as their biggest challenge. In overwhelm, paralysis takes over, balls get dropped, productivity decreases, mistakes increase, and the result is feelings of guilt and frustration.
It’s such a big topic I break it down into two parts: Macro Overwhelm, where you’ve got too much on an existential level, and Micro Overwhelm, which is what we’re talking about today.
Micro Overwhelm generally comes down to a breakdown in managing your time. There are so many things you’re supposed to be DOING RIGHT NOW that none of them actually get done. In this article, I’m sharing five of my favorite ways to bring order back into your life and stave off overwhelm.
Tune up your list
What’s important to you? What are your personal and public goals? There are many things we just have to do, like taxes and dentist appointments. But so many things we take on by choice.
Look at your to-do list and ask yourself: Is this a Have-To or a Choose-To? Of the Choose-To items, make sure they are aligned with your personal and public goals. Don’t be afraid to make cuts!
This is a strategy I learned from my friend Megan Ferris. The Ideal Week is a lot like a meal plan for your time. Start by making a schedule template. If you follow it, is almost guaranteed to yield results.
The great thing is that even if you have only 75% adherence, you will still get results. So take some time and map out every day of your typical ideal week and keep that map where you can see it and refer to it as you make your schedule.
This is a time management hack that changed the game for me. When you’re about to sit down for some focused work, dedicate the first 15-20 minutes to returning phone calls, texts, and emails. This not only staves off likely interruptions for a little while, but it also clears your mental deck so you can dedicate a longer focus to the task at hand.
Are you distractible? Competitive? Do you fight rigid schedules but secretly like order? Then the timer is going to be your best friend.
Next time you’re faced with a task or project that feels like it’s going to take forever (which is why you haven’t started it yet), set a timer, commit yourself to just 15 minutes of work on it, and prepare to be very surprised. You’ll have a massive sense of relief that you have started the project, you’ll still feel like you’re in charge because you know you can stop after 15 minutes, and often you’ll find that the lure of beating the clock inspires productivity you didn’t know you had.
Brian Tracy’s book, Eat That Frog, illustrates the simplest concept: If you have to eat a bunch of frogs, you may as well start with the biggest, ugliest one first. Then every other frog after that will be easier.
I use this strategy when facing a to-do list full of big, overwhelming tasks. Writing this article was a big frog for me; I often put off writing because I fear it will crowd everything else on my list. But this morning, I started before I even got out of my jammies, and now an hour later, the task is done, and I still have the rest of the day to gobble up the rest of my frogs.
Overwhelm is the most common struggle for people. Fortunately, order and productivity are within reach! With these practical techniques, you can conquer overwhelm and achieve a sense of order and productivity in your life. So take charge and regain control—overwhelm is a conquerable obstacle.