I set some big goals for myself this year, both personally and professionally. I decided I want to work out four times a week. I promised to carve out more quality time with my kids and husband. I’m continuing to see clients full time while developing, and launching, a virtual Closet Makeover Program. It’s a lot. Normally, I excel when it comes to making lists and executing, but recently, I found myself totally overwhelmed. It all felt like too much.
I know from my training as a coach that our thoughts dictate our feelings, which drive our actions, and ultimately determine our results. So, if I wanted to feel less overwhelmed and get out of panic mode, it was time to work on changing my thoughts. The thought that helped me the most was, “I can break all of this down into pieces and complete one thing at a time.” That mindset shift helped convert my overwhelm into action, and I came up with the following practice:
Start With A Thought Download
When you feel overwhelmed, try writing everything that’s swirling around in your head down on paper. Don’t judge or edit yourself. It may just sound like, “oh my god, I have so much to do, I am so overwhelmed, there’s no way I can manage all of this, gaaaaa…” Just get it out and onto paper.
Break it Down
Now, that you’ve given your brain a chance to freak out a little, jot all of your tasks down onto a master to-do list. When I made mine I sorted everything into categories: professional, family, and personal to-dos, and then created separate mini lists within my master to-do list for each category. If you were trying to organize your entire home, you would break it down room by room. If you were a student, you could break your list down by course or subject. Just write down every single thing that you want to get done.
Trim The Fat
Before you move into action, it’s important to question the importance of everything on your list. Is it really necessary? Can you put it on a “someday” list? Can you delegate it? Can you let it go? Let go of anything that doesn’t line up with your current goals and priorities, or feel urgent and necessary.
Next, it’s essential to rank each item on your master to-do list in order of priority. You will remain overwhelmed and paralyzed if you attempt to do everything at once. (I know – remember, I felt totally paralyzed before I did this.) Assign a number to the items that made the cut with “1” being the most important task. You can also do this within each category if you prefer – I kept my personal and professional lists separate and simply ranked each list in order of priority.
Complete One Thing at a Time
Now, all you have to do is stay completely focused on the first thing on your list. Ignore the rest. It will be tempting to want to knock out some of the easier things on your list, but do your best to stay focused so you can have the experience of completing just one thing at a time in order of priority.
Tip: Check out the book The One Thing, which outlines how focusing your energy on only one thing will lead to greater efficiency and success. Another example is the concept of the debt snowball plan which has you focus all of your resources on paying off one credit card at a time until you are completely out of debt.
Ultimately, using this approach helped me to quiet my buzzing mind and get focused enough to complete one major task. The relief was immediate and allowed me to keep moving through my list one item at a time.
Between ambitious resolutions and existing responsibilities, it’s common to feel overwhelmed this time of year. Try breaking down your to-dos into categories, and then tackling them methodically in order of priority. I’d love to hear how it goes, or if you have other methods that have worked for you.