It happens to all of us: that dreaded moment when the To-Do list has become the OMG list. Overwhelm!
Like Captain Kangaroo and the ping pong balls (I’m aging myself here…) suddenly there are more things that need to be done than what seems humanly possible to tackle, and with a kind of nerve-wracking urgency that really ramps up the ol’ anxiety.
Before you freak out, fling your hands in the air and flee, remember that with a clear strategy in place, it can all get done without losing your head. Let’s take a look at a few ways to handle an overwhelming amount of tasks so that you can get through it with your sanity (and productivity) intact.
Make a List
Write down every item that’s in your head as a “To Do.” Even if you’ve got things assembled in a calendar, on spreadsheets, Post-Its or somewhere else, unify them all onto one handwritten list. Why? Overwhelm can lead to a lack of clarity and direction - it’s very easy to start reacting in vague terms. If you’re thinking, “I’ll never get it ALL done,” first we have to define the “all.” You might be having an emotional response that is overloading your sense of rationality.
Making a complete list serves several purposes. First, you’ll have a specific, itemized list to sort, strategize, and recognize. It starts the brain thinking in more concrete terms, and reduces anxiety by clarifying vague feelings. You can now sort your list and create a clear strategy for attacking it piece by piece. You’ll also have a concrete place to cross off items as they’re done, which is immensely helpful because with each one, you’re on your way to feeling much more empowered to finish the rest.
Use a Triage System
Like evaluating a disaster, create a triage response by locating the most urgent and/or the most important things on your list. By sorting in this way, you might find that many of your items can be handled across the next few days, which makes your list far more manageable. Spending today’s energy on your Urgent Stuff - without continuing to mentally plan out your Less Important Stuff - is often the fastest way to get out of overwhelm mode.
Delegate Where Possible
Are there items on your list that someone else can do themselves to reduce your workload? This is especially helpful with household tasks like making dinner, doing the laundry, basic cleaning and so forth. Using myself as an example, the dreaded overwhelm hits me when my professional workload meets my household responsibilities and I feel like I’m totally in the weeds. Speaking up clearly about which specific tasks need to be assigned to someone else during this time has helped me greatly.
If you live alone (or it doesn’t apply to you in another way) and find that your lingering household duties are bothering you, I recommend setting a 30-minute timer to handle the most visible or most important household items and then move on. By doing this, you’ll satisfy your nagging urge to attack it as well as reduce the chance that you’ll have to dig out of the avalanche later. You’d be surprised at how much you can really do in 30 minutes. Stop when the buzzer rings, or else you're at risk for delaying progress on the rest of your list.
In business, delegating tasks across your team makes sense. Giving others the chance to participate in a variety of tasks strengthens their skills and reduces the pressure on any one person - especially if there's a time-sensitive or critical item that is out of the ordinary.
Be Willing To Flip The Order
Many times we assign an order to our tasks that have nothing to do with priority. For example, I used to only head to the post office in the afternoon. Why? I had no idea. It’s just how I’d always done it. That would create a bottleneck in my To-Do list and served no strategic purpose. Once I let go of that 'order' of things, I freed up the flow of tasks in a much more rational way.
If your list has a lot of items, getting them all done means that you may have to get a little unconventional with yourself. Once your triage/urgent items are handled, banging out the other items on your list means working on them even if they feel out of order to you. Remove those mental obstacles by shuffling the items in a new way - easiest to hardest, hardest to easiest, most fun to least fun, whatever feels like the fastest way through it.
Be sure to go back to your handwritten list and cross off each item as it’s done. Pretty soon, you’ll realize that you’ve got this.
Don’t Give In to the Pressure
This is one is MUCH easier said than done, and I realize that.
Pressure actually makes you stronger - as long as you keep your wits about you and hang on. Take a few deep breaths, step back, hit the pause button and remind yourself that you can do it. Creating order (like the list) out of what feels like disorder goes a long way to conquering the pressure. You might even search through your personal history and recall a different time when you pushed through a high-pressure challenge and found success.
Let Go of the ‘Shoulds’
‘Should’ is such a defeating word. When we tell ourselves what we should be able to do, or what we should have done instead, we’re not reacting to what’s happening right now. You can’t do anything with ‘should’. You can do so much with ‘I can’! ‘Should’ is loaded with guilt and obligation - it can often kick off a negative thought-spiral that doesn’t lead to a very productive place. ‘I can’ is powerful and based on the present tense.
Manage your self-talk when the dreaded overwhelm strikes. Now is not the time for negativity, reprimanding or confusion. Stay positive! One of my favorite phrases? "There's only one way to eat an elephant: one bite at a time." I can assure you that the feeling of conquering an overwhelming string of tasks is absolutely exhilarating.
Whether it’s in your professional life, your personal life or both, being overwhelmed is no fun. Using these tips can help create order out of chaos and quickly get you back on track.
If you’re in business and find that your social media presence (or lack thereof) is giving you a case of the ‘shoulds', consider delegating those tasks to Digital Heartbeat today. I’ll take it off your plate so you can get back on track. Reach out here - you'll be so glad you did.
It's Product Spotlight time!
I love to share the news when I encounter a fantastic product that really adds to my day and is worth a big shout-out. I'm a pretty picky person - and when I enjoy a product, it's a major love affair. I'm not paid, sponsored or affiliated in any way with any companies or products, I simply think they're flat-out great and you just might, too.
Golden Rabbit Enamelware landed on my radar this past Christmas, when I received this AWESOME set of Old Bay mugs from my cousin Deb in Maryland.
See, I'm a Marylander through and through - all the way down to the Old Bay that practically runs through my veins. So Deb (being the fabulous gift-giver that she is) sent me this coastal Old Bay design to further outfit my Nevada kitchen in proper Maryland style. I was thoroughly delighted, as usual, and quickly put the mugs to use.
I consider myself a bit of a mug connoisseur. My mug collection is kind of ridiculous in its volume but really meaningful and useful in its contents. I've got everything from demitasse cups for espresso to giant latte mugs for cocoa, and every manner of travel apparati. I have favorites, I have specific mugs for specific beverages, and I even have a mug with it's own lilac-colored sweater (complete with tiny wooden button).
These Old Bay mugs were unlike any in my collection: enamelware! They're beautiful, colorful, durable, and the print design is very clear. It's my new go-to mug for both morning coffee and evening tea, because unlike ceramics it doesn't lose heat very quickly. That means I can enjoy my hot beverage a little longer, and that means that I'm a happy camper.
Golden Rabbit enamelware is made with a hand-dipped process to withstand extreme temperatures - so it's considered oven-to-table. Each piece has the signature stainless-steel rim, durable and lightweight carbon-steel interior, and non-stick, fused porcelain finish. Induction-compatible, dishwasher safe, but not microwave safe due to metal. With a really nice variety in tableware and ovenware pieces, Golden Rabbit enamelware is available in a wide range of whimsical, coastal, seasonal and classic styles.
My new favorite mug is called the Old Bay Latte Mug, and you can shop for it here.
I'm officially a huge fan of Golden Rabbit and will definitely be picking up a few more pieces to expand my collection of coastal kitchen gear. If you'd like to head over to their website to have a look around, you can do that here.
Product Spotlight provided by Abby Moss Brooks - Writer and Owner, Digital Heartbeat
Let's face it - I'm a busy lady.
I always have been, I probably always will be - and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Across all of my working years, I've been savvy enough to pick up on tips, tricks and techniques employed by others to maximize efficiency and attempt to wrangle the endless work flow. I've been incredibly blessed to have worked alongside some of the most productive and creative people I've ever met, and you can bet your behind that I was paying very close attention to what they were doing and how they were doing it.
Of all the techniques I've seen, I can say with great certainty that the humble notebook promptly vaulted itself into Most Valuable Player status when it comes to work tools that actually help you get the job done.
We've all got our secret weapons, and this is mine, without a doubt.
It's not just a notebook. It's my day runner, my ever-present assistant that helps me manage the work flow and keep everything on point. Sure, I have all things digital at my disposal too - and I do use those to some degree. That said, you give me a notebook and a pen and I can run an empire.
Apps have their place, and I'm fairly nimble with all of that. Yet for me, nothing compares to the tangible, scribble-able and fully customize-able pages of an actual notebook. Old school? Maybe. Maybe not.
It all started way back in 1993, when I became a part of the team at the Special Events Office at Washington College as an incoming freshman for work study. If you're thinking that's a really sweet opportunity for a job, you're absolutely correct. I was excited, but also pretty darn green when it came to working in a bustling, vibrant office with high-priority events and high-impact guests.
My immediate supervisor Jessica was incredible: efficient, friendly, proactive, professional and just so fantastically good at what she did. The office on the whole was productive and always in motion. Naturally, I paid close attention, because I needed to get in step with the pace so that I could be a good team member.
One thing that I noticed almost immediately was the ever-present yellow legal pad - essentially, her day runner. Sure, we had calendars, our Day Timers (it was the 90's, after all) and all manner of dutiful Post-It note soldiers marching in line, but that yellow legal pad was her way of keeping total track of the work flow.
Incoming calls? On the legal pad. Deadlines, due dates, events, scheduling, contact logs and daily tracking of progress all made its way to her daily journal as a way of keeping up with the flow. It was brilliant, and so effective. Jot it down so that it's recorded and so that you can act on it as soon as possible - really helpful when the phone calls were rolling in and the moving parts kept moving.
I adopted the technique pretty much right away and had a legal pad of my own for the exact same purpose. Wow, did it make it easy to keep track of it all - and I have to say, the notebook-as-day-runner technique has been with me ever since.
Whether I was working in the Special Events Office, my early years of full-time management after college, to my ten years in Residential Property Management, my second wave of retail management in recent years, to my own business as a writing entrepreneur, there has been a notebook by my side the entire time.
This hard little worker has been my trusty assistant and worth its weight in gold when it comes to delivering all the organization that it takes for me to stay on top of my game.
I switched it up a bit in order to adjust to my current needs - the yellow legal pad (one page at a time) was set aside in favor of a classic spiral-bound notebook that I use in a very specific way.
Right side: a log that lays out the whole work week, giving me a spot to write deadlines, meetings, calls, and plans. I draw a big horizontal line 2/3 the way down to create a bottom section open for what I call my "news you can use," which is upcoming topic ideas, strategy points or anything on the horizon that I need to be ready to handle when more info becomes available.
Flip the notebook over and that whole left side is an open page for that week's brainstorming, call notes, a place to jot my research link notes and image ideas, sources, all the good stuff.
What a great way to keep track of everything on my radar and serve as effective record-keeping at the same time! It's so easy for me to review last week, prep next week, and have a dedicated spot to write down contemporaneous notes. It's easily searchable, too.
It's also a secret motivator: what satisfaction comes from crossing things off, writing 'done!' (Honestly, sometimes that's all the motivation I need.)
I did add a sidecar to the notebook - a smaller, narrow spiral-top notebook that receives all of the To Do lists for any number of assignments for work and in my personal life. Total lifesaver. Put the two together, and I'm essentially commanding the Starship Enterprise from the bridge (perhaps not as elegantly as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, but you get the general idea).
It's pretty impressive that something as basic as a notebook can be so vital to my business - and at this point, I cannot fathom functioning without one. We're up to 26 years and counting. I always have one running and a fresh, new one waiting in the wings.
Of course my notebook is just a tool, because the true spirit of productivity comes from people. That brings me back to Jessica - what an impact she made on me so many years ago, through so much more than just a simple notebook. Her follow-up game was remarkable, and I saw that, too. She's been there for me in various ways ever since. I admire the heck out of her.
I'm so glad I was smart enough to pay close attention to someone already being effective in their role - and she continues to inspire me to this day. Artistic, vivacious, informed and involved, carving her space in business (and with the coolest handwriting you've ever seen). In addition to continuing her successes in the field of higher education, she followed her passion through art and developed the fabulous Salted Pink Studio as a Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT) and Mixed Media Explorer. You can learn more about her here: https://www.saltedpinkstudio.com - take a look around, you'll be glad you did.
You can bet that I'm absolutely still a fan and a friend. When you're lucky enough to encounter fabulous people like Jessica Davies, you pay attention. I'm so glad I did. I'd give my eye teeth just for the chance to work alongside her for the day to learn whichever snazzy organizational techniques she's picked up in the years since - there's no doubt that she's got some great stuff going. Were it not for geographical distance and my inability to teleport, I'm sure that day would be most possible.
As for my notebook and me, we're grateful for it all.
If you're in business and need high-quality blog content for your website, reach out today and we'll get started. Delegating your website and social media needs to Digital Heartbeat means that you'll have more time for your business tasks without missing a beat on your online presence. My notebook and I are ready to roll.