How To Manage Overwhelm & Tackle Your To-Do List
The ability to manage overwhelm & take action every day is the difference between realizing success and dreaming of success.
For most of you, starting your business began with a dream. There was an idea that floated around in your head for probably way too long and, after being nagged by this image of creating the ideal life and making an income from home, it came time to start taking action.
But, it didn’t take long for the reality to set in – making this dream a reality was going to be a lot of friggin’ work.
I don’t know about you but, sometimes I have trouble just getting started because my to-do list is so big and the amount of time that I have is so small!
So, this week I am sharing some tips on how to manage overwhelm and tackle your to-do list.
What does it mean to feel overwhelmed?
Overwhelm can lead to procrastination, which gets in the way of your progress. You’ve got a 9 to 5 that you want out of and a business to grow. You can’t afford procrastination.
So, it’s important to be able to identify overwhelm before it damages your productivity.
Think about all of the people and projects in a day that demands your time and attention. Deadlines at work, children, a spouse.
Each one of those responsibilities asks for a bit of your focus.
When you’re head starts swimming, you’re irritable, and your brain feels foggy with no clear direction of where to start – you’re overwhelmed.
There are too many tasks, responsibilities, and demands for your mind and emotions to process. You can’t see a clear path for how to approach each one because there are so many.
Feeling overwhelmed is usually defined as the feeling you get when you start to think about all of the things that you need to get done.
But, I prefer the definition where overwhelm is the feeling you get when you think about everything that you are not doing.
For me, this mindset shift puts the feeling of overwhelm more in my control.
Often, feeling overwhelmed leads to just not starting.
You may only have 20-minutes available to work on a project but, you are so overwhelmed by how much there is to do … that you use your 20-minutes trying to deal with the feeling of not knowing where to start.
Instead, switch your thoughts about what you are feeling overwhelmed by …
You are not overwhelmed by how much there is to do … you are overwhelmed by how much you are not doing
This change in mindset can bring that feeling of overwhelm from being a problem that can’t be solved until you do ‘all the things’ … to a problem that will be fixed by simply starting.
A feeling that will be alleviated by putting your fingers to the mouse, keyboard, pen or pencil and simply beginning … just starting a task alleviates the feeling of overwhelm and you are able to use those 20-minutes for something spectacular.
Of course, this is made much easier if you know that all of the items on your to-do list are worthy of your time and will propel you closer to your goals.
This is easily accomplished by working backward from your goals and creating a list of tasks that support progress towards those goals.
You Can Do Anything … But Not Everything – David Allen
Believe it or not, there is a recipe that creates overwhelm. And, if you know the ingredients … i.e., the behaviors … you can avoid doing them and thus, avoid overwhelm.
Here are a few to be aware of … see if any of them feel familiar to you:
You set an expectation for yourself
This sounds like it isn’t really a bad thing. It is good to have benchmarks to shoot for, right? Yes. Absolutely. But, when you set an expectation for how much you should get done in a day and not taking into consideration all of the variables, you are setting yourself up for being completely overwhelmed.
Working full-time and growing a business means you have to work in tiny circles. You have to carve out little sprints of time to accomplish your tasks.
These blocks of time are simply a starting point though. Just because you have blocked them off on the calendar – doesn’t mean that you will have all of those minutes available when the clock says so.
You can’t set an expectation that your day will go exactly as your calendar outlines. You have to be thinking about your goals and tasks as a “good, better, best” scenario.
Having studied with Todd Herman and his 90-day Year program, the “good, better, best” scenario has saved me so much stress and overwhelm.
Essentially, you set your tasks for the day as a best-case scenario. But, you keep in mind the better and good case scenarios also. That way, if your day turns south, you are still accomplishing what you set out to do.
Don’t set just your ‘best-case scenario’ expectation. Life doesn’t always allow for that scenario to be realistic. And, you could damage your relationship with goal-setting.
You Take On Too Much
Of course, you want to be the person who says ‘yes’ to everything and gets is all done. You’re a high achiever and a natural caregiver.
But, the fact is, you have a unique skill set. You can fly through some tasks while other tasks take a bit longer. If you want to grow your business while working full-time, you have to learn to say no and, set priorities.
The point is, you have to set your priorities. It is better to do a few things really well than do many things half-assed.
Taking on too much because you feel obligated is definitely a recipe for overwhelm.
You put too much pressure on yourself
Along with setting unrealistic expectations and taking on too much comes putting pressure on yourself. Unfortunately, this often comes in the form of negative self-talk.
It has been scientifically proven that just thinking about reaching a goal releases dopamine in your brain.
It stands to reason that anything negative that you think about could lead to feeling depressed.
In fact, research has found that people with clinical depression suffer from relentless negative self-talk.
What you tell yourself is directly related to how you feel about yourself and your ability to achieve.
Mastering your self-talk and minimizing the negative or deconstructive talk is essential to your productivity.
If you keep your self-talk positive, you are far more likely to push through the overwhelm.
How To Manage Overwhelm And Tackle Your To-Do List
Go To Time Out
The first step to managing overwhelm is to step away from your work and take a deep breath.
Reduce that feeling of mental fatigue and come back to your work with a fresh perspective and focus.
The best way to do this – is to take a timeout and settle yourself down.
Remember, you are only overwhelmed because of everything that you are not doing. So, as soon as you do something, the overwhelm will move away.
The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Take a break and choose one task that you will work on. For instance, write the title and first paragraph of a blog post. Don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to write the whole thing.
Set Your Priorities
Make sure that you are clear about what you are going to be working on during your blocks of time.
Plan your time blocks the night before and identify one thing that you must get done that day.
When you only have one task to get done, your feeling of overwhelm is reduced because your focus is narrowed.
Obviously, if you can get more done that’s great – but, focus on getting just one thing done.
Create your “good, better, best” scenarios.
Best – write one blog post, send email to my list, schedule three client calls
Better – send email to my list, schedule three client calls
Good – schedule three client calls
Your ‘good’ scenario still builds your business and gets you closer to your goals.
Write It All Down
If you are feeling overwhelmed, it might be added stress from other areas of your life.
Journaling is a great way to reduce internal stress and give you more capacity for managing your workload and schedule.
It provides a release from all of the anxiety that you’re feeling. Being overwhelmed can be a sign that you’re inside of your head too much.
Writing in your journal gives you that outlet to share what you’re thinking and feeling. Once you purge all of that, your mind and heart can rest more easily.
You can’t control how your day will go or what you accomplish that day.
There are too many variables.
There is no way for you to be in control of everything all the time.
But, you can control one thing implicitly and without fail … you can control whether you try again the next day.
The only way that you are going to succeed in seeing your dream business become a reality … is to keep trying. You only fail if you give up.
Don’t let feelings of overwhelm paralyze you to the point of not starting. Use these tips to manage overwhelm and tackle your to-do list.