Sometimes there are so many things on my to-do list I can barely decide where to start. On just such a day earlier this month, a colleague of mine asked her Facebook followers what they do to overcome overwhelm.
Here are 20 suggestions based on their responses:
#1 Go Out and Go Shopping. The benefit may not be the shopping itself as much as getting out of the office for a change of scenery. Even though I could take a 10 minute break, surf Amazon, and come up with some amazing purchases, it doesn’t quite have the same effect of getting out and going somewhere. So the emphasis here is on “Go Out”. (Go shopping if you must.)
#2 Finish Easy-to-Do Loose Ends. Sometimes overwhelm is caused by too many things left undone. Look at your task list and ask yourself, “What 3-5 things could I knock out fastest?” Targeting some of the low hanging fruit and crossing some things off your list will give you a quick sense of accomplishment and remove a handful of tasks contributing to your feeling of overwhelm.
#3 Write It Out. Sometimes it’s not the to-do list tasks as much as the feelings surrounding them. Try taking a break (outdoors, if possible—again, a change of scenery) with your laptop or just a pen and pad of paper. Set a timer for 15 minutes and write down all your feelings. Getting the thoughts out of your mind and onto the page can bring a sense of clarity and closure.
#4 Throw or Shoot Something. I’m guessing this suggestion came from a basket ball player. But who knows? A trip to the courts—or to the gun range—could relieve a whole lot of tension!
#5 Run. Lift. Exercise. If I go too long without a trip to the gym, my stress level goes up. This most likely happens because I’m prioritizing work over taking care of my body. When tensions run high, a Zumba class can be just what I need.
#6 Get a Massage. This has got to be my favorite and also the thing I tend to do the least. Why not plan ahead to keep overwhelm at bay? Let’s all schedule a massage for next month so we have something to look forward to!
#7 Say No. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed because I have too many things going on at once. When I have said “yes” to activities that take time away from my most important goals and commitments, I can feel it. Try to step back and look at your task list. Is the “good” stealing time and attention from work that would make you or your world truly great? If so, what can you say “no” to? (For example, I’ve publicly sworn off copywriting clients for all of this year so that I can focus on building God and Business Today.)
#8 Laugh or Cry It Out with Friends. Whenever I’m about to cry, wondering why in the world I’m doing what I’m doing, I call my friend Stephanie. She is a fellow copywriter and knows exactly where I’m coming from. She’s the perfect person to call when I need to laugh or cry it out because she sympathizes completely with the path I’m on. Who “gets” you? Who can you call when you need a shoulder to cry on?
#9 Take a Spa Day. This is similar to massage but sometimes easier to justify. Whenever I have a speaking engagement or conference to attend, a mani-pedi becomes a necessity rather than a treat. Take a look at your calendar. Isn’t there some event in your near future that requires a trip to the spa?
#10 Do Fun Things First. Most of your tasks probably aren’t “fun”. But some things you want to do more than others. If you find yourself in a funk, ask yourself, “What is there on my list that I want to do (or that I’d be willing to do) right now?” You may not get the most important things done first, but at least it will get you moving in the right direction! After all, it’s better to do something than nothing at all.
#11 Do Feared Things First. I’ve tried this tactic and it works well for me. Sometimes the anxiety surrounding things I don’t want to do bleeds over into everything else. I get paralyzed. I don’t move forward on anything because of the one or two things I’m anxious about. If this is the case, put circle the “feared things” on your list and knock them out first.
#12 Ask, “What Do I Really Want?” When overwhelm sets in but it’s not caused by a “looming checklist” or a crisis to handle, it may be time to check in with yourself. You could be wondering if you’re on the right path. Ask yourself, “What do I really want?” Is your answer consistent with the path you’re on? If so…great. If not…make some changes.
#13 Ask God, “Am I on the Right Path?” Sometimes everything is going great but I’m not sure I’m on the path God wants me to be on. Copywriting for clients continued to cause me stress because I knew I was supposed to be writing my own material and moving forward with God and Business Today. Praying and asking, “Am I on the right path?” gave me the courage to make the changes needed to get on the path I wanted to be on—and one that aligned with the path He wanted me to be on too.
#14 Serve Someone Else. When my father died several years ago, a friend of mine from down the street (who already had five kids of her own), came and collected all three of mine, saying, “Let me know when you’re ready for us to bring them back.” I didn’t ask her to do it. She just did. I planned a funeral, purchased cemetery plots, planned an out of state memorial service, and more. When she brought my kids back after three full days, I felt grateful and a little guilty. But all she could talk about was how blessed she felt to be able to serve us in our time of need. Overwhelmed? Get outside your world and serve someone in worse shape than you are.
#15 Stop. Be Still and Meditate. In listening to Echkart Tolle’s The Power of Now, I learned how to be completely in the moment. I learned how to feel that in this small moment, I am alive. I am safe. I am okay. When I learned how to be in the moment with people and with my small tasks, I found joy. I’m not saying I’m good at keeping that state. But when I do, everything is all right.
#16 Take a Nap. Thank God for naps! Last week I had a full day where I just couldn’t get anything done. I was in a fog. No matter what I did, I just couldn’t seem to prioritize or get motivated. When I started yawning at about 4:30pm, I realized I’d actually been tired all day! The next morning, after dropping the kids off at school, I came home and took an early morning nap from 8:15am to about 11:00am. Once I was re-energized, life was good again and I was back on track. Never underestimate the power of a nap!
#17 Fuel Your Body and Mind. Sherri Bowthorpe posted, “Drink a loaded chocolate vita-shake spiked with quinary, coconut oil and sunny dew…within minutes you are ready to take on the world again.” You might try your own nutritive recipe. But you’ve got to admit, without the right fuel for your body, everything is overwhelming.
#18 Prioritize. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed because I haven’t decided what to do first. When I prioritize everything using Covey’s ABC 123 method (assign priorities of A, B or C, and then number all the A’s in the order you will do them, then the B’s and C’s, etc.), all I have to do is follow the plan for the rest of the day. It saves me time and TONS of mental energy!
#19 Rewrite Your Thoughts. Sometimes overwhelm comes from fear. Fear is generated by thoughts. And too often, what we are thinking isn’t rational or true. The Feeling Good Handbook outlines how to change your thoughts.
First, write down what you are thinking (i.e., I’m never going to get this done…or No one is going to want to read this book I’m writing.) Then rate on a scale of 1-10 how true that thought is. For example, is “I’m never going to get this done” really true? Maybe it’s a 3 out of 10? Next, write a thought that is more true.
For example, “This may take me six months, but I can get it done.” Voila! Truth reduces overwhelm!
#20 Dance. Take a time out. Drop everything. Put on some loud music and DANCE!