Getting Rid of the Overwhelm
10 Tips and Tricks to Help You Cope with Your Busy Life
We all want to be happy and make a success of our lives. Of course we do. But sometimes, ‘stuff’ gets in the way. We get bogged down in the little things and distracted by all the overlapping strands in our lives that need attending. When this happens, we can easily lose sight of the big picture, of what we really want.
To get back on track, careful planning and a willingness to work hard becomes important. Success in life is often measured by the work we put into it. If you want your life to be a success, then it helps to be to be organized and focused.
The following tips and tricks are designed to help you with your all aspects of your life. It’s time to get rid of the ‘overwhelm’ and begin living the life you want!
1. Create a To Do List: A To Do list is your number one tool for managing all the many strands of your life. You can set up a ‘To Do’ list on a piece of paper or in your diary, but the best idea is to create one in Microsoft Word or Microsoft Outlook.
The ‘Efficiency Guru’, Michael Linenburger, suggests that we can better manage our lives simply by creating a simple, 2 page ‘Workday Mastery To Do List’ and segmenting it into three ‘urgency zones’ – ‘Critical Now’, ‘Opportunity Now’, and ‘Over the Horizon’ tasks.
The first page of the list is called the ‘Now Tasks List’, which has two sections matching the first two urgency zones (‘Critical Now’ and ‘Opportunity Now’). In the ‘Critical Now’ section only place those tasks which are absolutely due today (and remember, never let this section get bigger than 5 tasks). This section, which you should review several times a day, will help to give you clarity and an understanding of what you need to accomplish to lower your stress levels and achieve peace of mind. If you are not certain whether a task should be placed in this list, ask yourself this question – Will I be able to relax and enjoy myself tonight knowing this task hasn’t been done? If the answer is ‘No’, then the task should be in your ‘Critical Now’ list.
‘Opportunity Now’ tasks are those that are not necessarily due immediately, but which you would like to get to today if you can find the space and time. You need to review this list at least once a day in case the opportunity arises to get something done or in case an item on this list has suddenly become urgent. It’s important to note that this list will likely grow large quickly. To avoid the list getting too large (and thus unusable) never let the list of tasks in this section get above 20 in number. To keep it small move lower priority items to your ‘Over the Horizon’ list and tasks that have become more urgent into your ‘Critical Now’ section.
‘Over the Horizon’ tasks are tasks or lower priority items that can be postponed until next week or potentially much longer. You need to review this list periodically to see if you can fit one of the tasks into your schedule or whether you should move one or more of them into your ‘Opportunity Now’ list.
Remember that your list will soon get out of control and the sense of overwhelm will return if you don’t review it regularly and follow the protocols attached to maintaining the list.
These protocols are:
- ‘Critical Now’ List: Review several times a day. Never allow more than 5 tasks to be present in this list.
- ‘Opportunity Now’ List: Review at least once a day. Never allow more than 20 tasks to be present in this list. Shift tasks to the ‘Critical Now’ or ‘Over the Horizon’ lists as your priorities change.
- ‘Over the Horizon’ List: Review a couple of times a week. Shift tasks to the ‘Opportunity Now’ list if you have left them too long or they start to become more pressing.
2. Embrace the Hard Stuff: Always tackle the largest or most daunting item on your To Do List first. Simply by getting your teeth into it (it may be a task you can’t complete in one sitting), you will not only conquer your fears, but the other tasks on your list will suddenly seem a whole lot more manageable!
3. Set Aside time for Work: This might sound obvious, but it’s amazing how the day can get away on you and the commitments you have made to your work or another task are put to one side. To overcome this, set aside a specific period of time (maybe 10 minutes, maybe 30 minutes, maybe a whole hour) where you do nothing but work. During this time you must remove all distractions and focus on the task at hand, committed entirely to becoming a ‘work demon’!
4. Don’t Overlook the Small and Easily Forgotten: Putting out the rubbish, clearing the dishwasher, cutting your toenails… There are lots of little tasks that we are forever putting off until suddenly, they’ve all piled up! Don’t let them. Take a deep breath, look around, and use the next 120 seconds to be productive!
5. Find the Space to Breathe: This is really important! No matter how important the task, you can’t work on it forever. From time to time, you must treat yourself to a break, even if it’s only for 10 minutes. Relax. Meditate. Read a book. Grab a cup of coffee and watch the world wander past your window. Do whatever it is that makes you feel good. And then go back to your task. You’ll feel much better and you’ll be more focused.
6. Remove Distractions: Distractions are everywhere, and while you may believe you are the world’s best multi-tasker, work quality always suffers when you get interrupted. And don’t we all love to be distracted! In our modern age, the internet and emails are our biggest sources of distraction, whilst calling a friend or finishing the next chapter in the book we are reading remain age-old standards of distraction. Put them aside. Put on some noise-cancelling headphones and get on with what you need to do.
7. You Don’t Need to Be a Perfectionist: This stops a lot of us. We become so worried about doing something absolutely right that we end up doing nothing at all. Be prepared to forgive yourself if something doesn’t go exactly as you want it to. Better still, be proud of yourself for having given it a go.
8. Keep Yourself Motivated: Set goals and make a timeframe in which to achieve them. And be prepared to reward yourself when you get something done. Alternatively (and this works well for serial procrastinators) punish yourself for not getting something done. A reward might be as simple as curling up on your couch with a book or going to a movie. A punishment might be NOT doing those things – even if you planned to – until your task is complete.
9. Make Yourself Accountable to Others: At the dinner table or during meetings, announce out loud what you’re going to accomplish or let people know the tasks for which you are responsible. This not only puts your reputation on the line, but it shares the accountability and motivates everyone.
10. Focus On the End Goal: It’s vital you have a big picture goal – something you want for yourself or your family. Keep it in mind at all times and keep going for it, even when the small stuff gets in the way.