Ever felt so stressed that you could not make any decisions? Ever felt so frightened in a situation that you lost the ability to think rationally? That’s your amygdala taking resources away from other critical parts of your brain
bury or drown beneath a huge mass of something
the act of being overwhelmed by something
Does this definition feel familiar to you? Not surprisingly what will be overwhelming to one person won’t be to another. Equally, what overwhelms you at one point in your life could cause little difficulty at a different time. If this is a problem for you right now, here are 15 tips to help.
1. You cannot do it all. At least, not all at once.
2. Your health and mental well-being are the top priorities. Start from there.
3. Plan time to step back from everything and get a true picture of the scale of the problem.
4. Get down everything in your head. Pull together any information in diaries, piles of filing, scraps of paper etc.
5. Look for anything with a deadline - record it. Anything that needs an action - record it. If you can plan these under category or project headings straight away, it will help.
6. Decide on actions headings that suit you, for example – File Now / Quick tasks to sort / More in-depth – time required.
7. Sort individual tasks into your action headings. One simple way is a large sheet of paper with post-it notes under each heading.
8. Get systems straight – depending on what it is that needs organising, you will need structure. So, if it is paperwork, you’ll need a place to store it. Does it need to be accessible or can it be archived somewhere where it won’t take up day-to-day space?
9. Make use of an urgent/important matrix (sometimes called The Eisenhower Principle)-plot it all on there.
10. Don’t task flit – plan in small focused tasks.
11. Block distractions – identify where they come from, then sort them. For example; emails – plan a time to view, working from home – set expectations.
12. Know where you are heading; if there are specific goals you are aiming for, then prioritise the actions which will move you towards those. Break big projects into smallest steps. Have a laser-like focus on the most important goal.
13. Don’t over plan what you will achieve in one day…pick 3 key tasks. Aim to include tasks which will support your future efficiency and not simply be reacting to the next ‘essential’ deadline.
14. Tools to help – try a bullet journal if you like paper and pen methods. It is more flexible than a printed diary, just don’t get overwhelmed with all the creative options out there!
15. Prefer digital organisation? – I’m loving Trello at the moment. Google calendar is also helpful. Make use of invites to events and notification reminders.
Questions to help you think –
Which areas are causing you the most pain?
What steps can you take to address those?
Which steps will have the biggest impact?
How do you use time currently?
Where are you most efficient / least efficient?
What can be delegated / dropped / postponed?
If you are really struggling with finding a way through overwhelm, then enlist the support of someone you trust. Sometimes when we are wrapped up in many projects, everything feels essential and urgent. A fresh pair of eyes can help you evaluate the situation objectively.