We never want to do just “one thing”, do we? Quite the opposite, actually: we want to do ALL the things. Travel, make money, find time to exercise, learn a new language, read at least two new books a month, all while also eating pizza. We find ourselves being pulled in million different directions. It seems like there’s so much that needs to get done and with so many things to do, you don’t know where to start.
So what do you do? You do nothing, OR you try to do it all at once.
Either way, you’re getting nowhere.
Think about it: you can have five, different, amazing ideas. Try and pursue all of them at once, they’ll never live up to their full potential.
This is exactly what I’ve been dealing with lately. I sometimes have days when there are so many different ideas and projects running through my head, I get overly excited and then I immediately feel lost. I don’t know where to start, which idea to focus on. All of a sudden, I find myself feeling SO stressed about getting things done, I spend a majority of my time feeling anxious about… getting things done.
There are SO many different things that cause those feelings of overwhelm, and everyone deals with them differently. It can happen when you’re going through any kind of life transition or when you commit to more than you can handle.
You don’t have to let it take over.
Prioritizing is asking yourself: “what is most important, right now?” Take a piece of paper and write down everything that you feel is overwhelming you: your home life, your work, your relationships, your goals. Write them all down. Take as much time as you want. Now, go through your list, line by line, and circle things, ideas or goals that you want to set as a priority. Let’s say that one of your big goals is to finally get a car- it’s something that’s been on your mind for years. Problem is, you don’t have a driver’s license. So what’s the next logical thing to do here? It’s not driving around dealerships, looking for a car- it’s you taking your butt to nearest DMV and taking your permit test.
Maybe you always talk about learning a new language, but it’s also something you’ve been putting off for years? We live in times where we have access to endless resources and learning a new language is a simple as downloading an app and spending some time studying every day for about an hour or so. It’s up to you what you decide to do with your time: you can spend three hours a day watching TV, or, you can devote that one hour every day, before sleep, in the morning, after work, to practice French.
By setting your priorities you’re getting things done. I think pretty much all of us, at one point, had a list of things we set out to accomplish- a list we often forget about. Thing is, those sort of tend to hang over our heads for years. Every time you think about taking that permit test, you think to yourself: “Ugh, I swear I’ll get it done by the end of the week!” Then, it changes to “by the end of the month” or “by the end of the year“, etc. The same thing goes for everything else in your life. If there is something that you really dread doing, just do it right away and get it over with. If you keep putting it off, it will just hang over your head and make you feel uneasy-both of which can lower your productivity and leave you feeling overwhelmed.
Speaking of writing things down: mind-mapping is a great way of getting your thoughts out of your head and onto a piece of paper. It’s also a great way to organize your thoughts, ideas, plans. Start with a blank piece of paper and write down your goal or idea, right in the middle. From there, start branching out by adding different categories, topics, all without *thinking* too hard. Just write down whatever comes to your mind. You can use words, symbols, different colors, keywords, and codes.
Mind-mapping is a great tool for creative self-expression and works wonders when it comes to decluttering your brain when you find yourself feeling overwhelmed. If you have a hard time identifying your priorities, mind-mapping can help with that, as well.
Get Organized + Schedule it
There’s no denying that overwhelm often stems from a lack of organization. To some, the extent to which I schedule my day can seem a bit OCD (or a lot OCD), but it’s the only way I can get things done. Every time I look at my schedule, this is what I see: you are in control. You are the one dictating what’s going to happen, and when it’s going to happen. I’ve talked about time-blocking before, and if you’re also someone who gets distracted very easily, you have to give it a try. By blocking out your time and scheduling your day, you know what your day will be all about. It creates a place of certainty- you will know what’s coming next and it will minimize that daily overwhelm.
We are constantly being overloaded with information and it really doesn’t take much to feel overwhelmed these days. Of course, sometimes things happen, things come up and we can’t help it. It’s a part of life. Staying organized is a great way to prepare yourself for those unexpected detours, without feeling overwhelmed when they do.
You have to learn to say “no.” I just mentioned information overload in the previous paragraph- but what does one have to do with the other? You have to use your “no” as an “information filter” and be very selective about the things you choose to focus on. You have to learn to set boundaries and guard your time.
I’ll be honest, it’s something I’ve struggled with for a very long time.
Because to me, saying “no” meant letting people (or myself) down.
Let’s take emails, for example. I get tens of emails, every single day, and the majority of them are from people (or brands) asking me for favors. Of course, I always try to respond to readers and blog friends and I have no problem responding to those emails as to me, it’s part of my “job” as a blogger and I love connecting with others. BUT when I get constantly asked for favors from people that don’t even bother to address me by my name, people who want me to take pictures of their products (paid or not paid), people who want to guest post on my blog even though I make it very clear that I don’t accept guest posts, people who want their links placed somewhere within my posts, people who have all sorts of “suggestions” for my blog. It gets exhausting, and some people can be really pushy (as in, they’ll email you every single day, trying to convince you that they know what’s best for your blog, better than you do). I mean, sometimes even after I tell someone “no, thank you” I get a response “can you tell me why you’re not interested?” That’s a game I’m just not willing to play.
To be honest, if I were to reply to those kinds of emails as soon as I get them, I’d have no time to do anything else. Like, eat or sleep. I have a generic response that I just copy and paste when responding to some emails; some emails, I have no choice but to ignore. For the longest time, I felt horrible about it. I kept thinking “I don’t want to be that person who ignores people, I don’t want anyone to think I’m not a nice person“. At the same time, my contact page clearly states that contacting me about guest posting will be a waste of time, so I can’t blame myself for not responding to all 10 requests I get every single day. People also tend to think that everything is for sale (70% of the time I say “no” I get a response: “what if I paid you?“). It gets overwhelming, not to mention time-consuming. I don’t want to have to ask myself “am I writing and taking pictures today, or am I spending the rest of my day responding to nonsense emails?”
This, of course, is just one example. You might have a coworker who constantly asks you favors or a neighbor, or maybe you yourself take on too much because you don’t know how to say “no” to some of your own ideas. By failing to set up reasonable boundaries for yourself, you take on more than you can handle. Extra projects, requests from other people, dealing with too many ideas- you have to learn to say no to some things, so you can focus on what matters the most.
When there’s so much to do that you start feeling overwhelmed, you sometimes end up doing exactly nothing. It’s sort like dealing with a really messy room- where do I start? What do I pick up first? There’s this constant planning, time-wasting, and eventually, you end up feeling guilty about not getting anything done while your “to do” list seems to grow by the minute.
Take action. However small. Once you’ve tried mind mapping and you’ve identified your priorities, start doing. Tell yourself that it’s impossible to do it all at once and that it’s okay. You can’t do it all at once. Pick one task, and focus on that.
Overwhelm is a feeling. We often tell ourselves: “I am so overwhelmed” over and over again. Instead, try a more mindful approach and tell yourself: I have a feeling (or a thought) of being overwhelmed- it’s just a thought. Take a moment to center yourself, go for a walk, meditate- sometimes, just doing that, will be enough. Take a few deep breaths and tell yourself “I am okay“. Most of the time, our feelings of overwhelm have to do with the future- whether it be a year or a week from today. When you find yourself being overwhelmed with feelings of… well…. overwhelm, ask yourself: “How am I doing right now, right this present moment?” Chances are, you’re just fine. At this moment, right now, you’re doing okay. So take a breather, make a plan, write stuff down and focus on your priorities.