3 Simple Steps to Feeling Less Overwhelmed

3 simple steps to feeling less overwhelmedI have been a mess lately. I don’t know which way is up, what time what activity starts, where I put the mail or what the hell I’m supposed to be doing with myself. I realized, by accident, that this was directly related to the fact that I had fallen off the Using My Brand-New Planner bandwagon.

In January I was all hopped up on thoughts of organization and go get ’em inspiration. My new planner was perfect for that. I could keep track of everything meticulously and feel very organized and official. It was great. But the farther we got from the ball dropping on New Years Eve, the more my enthusiasm dwindled. I slowly began using the planner less and I became more and more scattered and unorganized.

Then one day I woke up and had no idea what my goals were any more. I felt so lost and confused and unsure of what to do with any pockets of free time I found. What the hell do you do when you don’t know what it is you’re doing?

A common thread tied around every time I feel completely overwhelmed is a lack of strategy. When I don’t know what I’m aiming for, I don’t know where to start. Makes sense, right? When the house is an absolute disaster and there are messes everywhere, you’re way more likely to throw in the towel and walk away (it’s not just me, is it?) than you are to do something about it. But if you stop, strategize, and map it all out, suddenly everything seems so easy. Hit one room or one counter at a time and things are much more doable. The same goes for running your own business. If you choose one aspect to work on and kick ass at and tackle that, it makes the rest of the stuff that needs to be done a little more manageable.

But how do you do that?

1. Brain dump. Simply sitting down and collecting my thoughts by writing it all down starts to wipe away at some of the built up dirt and muck that has clouded my objectives. I start by writing down all of the things floating around in my brain that I need to keep track of: appointments that need to be made, activities coming up for the girls, things I want to work on for the blog, freelance projects, things that need to be organized around the house. Anything that is clouding up my brain is dumped onto that piece of paper.

2. Organize your dump. Once you empty the contents of your brain, it slowly becomes easier to categorize everything that was swimming around in there. Everyone’s categories will be different. Mine might be emails/phone calls, work, kids, home. Yours might make more sense broken down in a totally different way. The only thing that really matters is that it works for you.

3. Once you’ve put things into categories, tackle one thing at a time. I have slowly realized that multitasking is my absolute worst enemy. It makes my brain start swimming again and soon I need to start back up at step number one. But if I tackle one little piece of the puzzle at a time, I feel so much more in control.

This is where my little planner comes in (here’s a link to one that’s similar to what I use. If you have one you’re in love with, please let us know in the comments!). I turn to my weekly section and I schedule a couple of things for myself to tackle each day (usually in order of importance or timeliness). More than three is usually asking for trouble and to start that feeling of everything being overwhelming again. I like to stick to three and then if I finish those and have time to keep the productivity ball rolling, I can start in on what I planned for the following day.

Making a list of what I want to accomplish and how I can get there makes everything seem so much easier. Sure, I still need to work my butt off. And sure, my enthusiasm for being organized and having a clear strategy is destined to drop off. But knowing that I have something to fall back on, a foolproof way to tackle my feelings of being buried in my own thoughts, makes everything seem clean and new again. A fresh slate.

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