As promised, today we're going to chat about surviving & thriving when you've got a to do list longer than Rapunzel's hair....and maybe how to avoid that happening again!!
I think we deal with overload about as well as a balloon does – we’re blowing it up….it gets air in it and looks & feels good (it’s supposed to have some air in it, right?) but then at a point, there is too much air in there, the balloon stretches uncomfortably, the strain becomes apparent but it holds on. Then if you just keep adding a bit more and a bit more, it can't cope and it pops.....eventually it got pushed so far beyond capacity, that in the end it cannot hold any air at all.
Humans are the same. We all know how easy it is for our workload to build and suddenly out of nowhere, you're totally bombarded with so many things you have to do! And when it all becomes too much and we are pushed too far beyond our capacity, it feels paralysing - like we cannot do anything at all. (ngl I'm quite pleased with that metaphor haha 😂).
So - when that explosive to do list arrives - what can we do?
1. Write out everything. Make an exhaustive to do list, get out the diary and write any dates/times of meetings, events, anything you need to remember. I often find part of the stress is trying to remember it all and when I pour it out of my brain into a calendar or a to-do list it takes a huge amount of strain off and creates space in my brain for actually dealing with things!
2. Remember that if all of these things came separately, one by one you could totally deal with it……so……what if you just dealt with it one by one?! I know it sounds stupidly simple but when we get to that level of overwhelm, sensible things don’t always occur to us – we’re in blind panic or breakdown mode!
3. Start with the dishes. From the starting point, things like: writing a 30,000 essay; doing a 100 things on a to do list; coping with unknown entities; or working through a difficult problem, can feel COMPLETELY INSURMOUNTABLE!!! How on earth can you begin to imagine starting that mammoth task? And yet, you can do it. Start with the dishes – this is small, it is achievable and it is easy. Once you’ve done that, you’ll feel satisfied, you’ll be motivated by this small achievement to start the next thing…and the next. It will help you to get going – cause once you’re going, YOU are unstoppable!
4. Work out what you ACTUALLY have to do today
! You don't have to do every single task ever today. You just need to do what needs doing today - again sounds obvious we don't think straight when we're mega stressed! (I have literally done this one today.....which means you've got a Jiggle Mood Boost on Jiggle Mood Boost day, but I haven't been to the post office or done my washing 😂 I don't actually HAVE to do those today, another time will be just fine!)
5. Pick something nice you’re going to treat yourself to after you’ve done the things that need doing today! It might be a nice bath, or drinks with friends, some time on your paint by numbers, or a big glass of wine! (or it could be all of these things!!).
6. I know it's my answer to everything, but exercise is so soooo good for these times - it improves your brain function, creativity, efficiency and memory. It refreshes you, ready to come back to your work more energised, focused and inspired. And you don't even have to do much - just a 5 minute stretch and wander will help!
Now that's a bit of a checklist for when you're in the mess. But ideally, we don't want to get to that stage of being completely overwhelmed in the first place. Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Matrix is a great way to avoid getting to breaking point with your workload. You put every task in one of the following categories
- Urgent/ Important
- Not Urgent/ Important
- Urgent/ Not Important
- Not Urgent/ Not Important
Then, depending on the category, you know what to do with that task.
Urgent & Important - do it
now. Do it yourself, right now and then it's done.
Not Urgent but Important - schedule
a time to do it. Pick a time convenient for you and stick to it,
Urgent but Not Important -
this is a great task to delegate.
Pass this on to someone else and free up your time to deal with the Important things. (Obviously, this is a work-related idea but I think it still works for other situations....for example, if you find yourself overwhelmed at home, could you ask someone to help with tasks in this category like setting the table or hanging up the washing? etc)
Not Urgent & Not Important -
think about deleting
this task. If it's not important and it's not urgent, do you really need to to it? Eliminate any unnecessary workload and tasks because that frees up your time & mind to deal with the real tasks at hand.