Productivity is as much a mental game as it is about the tasks you do. This week we’ll be looking at overwhelm, and today we’ll look at the external factors.
Signs of Overwhelm
Overwhelm is that feeling when you have a ton of things to do – and can’t decide where to start, what order to do things, or even what to do. You might start many things, or just throw your hands in the air and then take a nap. Or you might grit your teeth and try to get through all of the tasks, which is too much, or you wouldn’t be overwhelmed.
There are a couple things you need to know about overwhelm:
Overwhelm is different for different people. The level of tasks one person can take on might overwhelm another.
Overwhelm is different for the same person at different times. Overwhelm is faster to set in when you are already stressed.
Getting through overwhelm is not just about getting to work. This is as much mental as it is physical.
Things You Can DO To Combat Overwhelm
So what can you do? Recognize it, and then apply some strategies (for the mental strategies, tune into the next article).
1. Make a list
Often things seem overwhelming because we don’t have a good sense of what is really out there. If you can write down everything in one place, you can see it all at once…and decide what to do.
2. Set a limit
Don’t try to tackle it all. The truth is no one dies with an empty task list. So don’t try to outsmart them. Decide what you can do in a very specific time frame, say 15 minutes. And then get to work. When the 15 minutes is done, stop, and assess what you’ve done.
Make sure you don’t push yourself beyond the 15 minutes. Take a break, and then do another 15 minutes. But don’t force yourself into a marathon, or it will backfire.
3. Go for the low-hanging fruit
We can feel overwhelmed when there is a lot of little stuff hanging around to get done. If you see that there are five easy tasks on your list, knock them out. Go from one to the other without stopping. This will clear up a good chunk of your list, and give you some more space.
(If there are more than five, take a short break, and then knock the rest out.)
4. Let a task go
(Cue music…) “Let it go, let it go, turn away and slam the door…” Ahem.
Sorry for the Disney moment there, but Elsa’s song is applicable. Look for anything on the list that is part of a routine that will come around again. That’s one of the beauties of repeating tasks – they come around again and you can catch them on the next round. Let those tasks go and free up the list.
If you are overwhelmed, you are experiencing stress. That means you need additional rest. And as counter-intuitive as it sounds, taking a real break will make the number of tasks seem more do-able.
Five easy things to help combat overwhelm. Make a list; then get the easy stuff done, let go of routine tasks that will come around again, and tackle the rest in small increments. And don’t forget to rest!
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