All of us have such busy lives that it’s understandable most of us feel overwhelmed. Our to-do lists seem to develop a life of their own and grow just that little bit longer everyday. Our inbox is overflowing. And I may be imagining it but I’m convinced some mischievous genie has actually reduced the number of hours in a day …..at least that’s what it feels like some days.
I reached Overwhelm DEFCON 1 last week. I had just emerged from a series of very productive meetings and my mind was buzzing with new ideas. Feeling inspired and energised, I proceeded to add things onto my already bursting-at-the-seams list of things to do. After all, how could I not act on all these wonderful new ideas to improve my business ?
The result – complete overload. I looked at my calendar and felt instant panic that it was almost the end of March. How could a quarter of a year go past so quickly ?! I started beating myself up for not being more productive. The list reminded me of all the things I hadn’t accomplished. I couldn’t focus. I didn’t know where to start. I felt drained just looking at what needed to be done.
So this is what I did –
Wipe The Slate Clean
Start with a clean sheet of paper – literally – and start over. Instead of constantly adding to your list, do a regular ‘spring clean’ of your goals and priorities to ensure you are focusing on what truly makes a difference to your work …and to your life. Let’s face it. With almost a quarter of the year gone already (yikes), if you haven’t done it by now, it’s probably not that important.
What’s the One BIG Thing ?
A question I like to ask myself when I’m feeling overwhelmed is – What is the ONE thing that will make THE BIGGEST difference to my business (or life) now ? This helps reground me onto what’s most important. It cuts through the ‘noise’ and provides a laser sharp focus on where I should direct my time and energy. In fact, I find asking “What is the one thing that will make the biggest difference to my LIFE this year?” a great approach to developing personal goals for the year.
Chunk It Down
Once you have identified your top 1-3 big things, start chunking it down into action steps over the next few weeks or months. Again, I would exercise restraint here. Keep to 3 big things to accomplish per week. I keep a list of my 3 big things per week clearly visible on my desk to keep me focused everyday.
Celebrate and Replenish
I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but when you’re feeling overwhelmed, give yourself a break to replenish. Our natural instinct is to dive in to begin chipping away at that long list. But I’ve found that to be counter productive. Give yourself a short break and do whatever it takes to replenish your energy. And during that time, celebrate what you have accomplished to date. Even if it’s just for a day, that de-compression time is invaluable. From personal experience, I’ve always emerged more clear headed and refocused.
Feeling overwhelmed seems to be an inevitable part of life nowadays. But there are ways to manage it. The tips above have worked for me. I hope you’ll find them useful too. And I’d love to hear what works for you when you feel overwhelmed.