Keep Yourself From Being Overwhelmed

You know the feeling. You have twelve hours’ worth of work to do and only four hours left in the day. Your mind is racing. What should you do first? How do I decide? Why am I so overwhelmed? What about . . . . You get the idea.

I just got back from a week in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota on the Canadian border. I had a week with no phones, Internet, or contact with the outside world. What a change from my regular life.

As many of you know, I like my electronic toys and tools, and spending hours a day on the Internet is a fact of life in my business.

When I got back to civilization, my mind was spinning. What was I supposed to do for client A? Client B wanted this done, and right before I left we signed a new client and we have work to do for them.

Plus, what about my e-mail? A week without checking it! Do you have any idea how much e-mail I get in a week? My mind started racing. How was I going to get it all done and be ready for everyone on schedule?

I have found over the years that when this happens, the best thing for me to do is to write down everything. When a new task comes up, write it down. This is critical. Keeping the list in your head won’t work.

The next step is prioritizing everything. Depending on your personality, you may find this the hardest step. For many years I just worked harder and longer and did it all. That doesn’t work now that I have thirty hours’ worth of work for every day, and I want to maintain my marriage and relationship with my family.

After I have the list prioritized, the next step is putting it on my calendar. If you don’t do this, you really aren’t serious about getting the tasks done. Everything takes time, and unless you schedule it, you won’t get it done. This holds even for a task as simple as writing this article; I had to make choices to write this now instead of another time.

Once everything is on your calendar, you will feel better. You know what you need to do and when you can do it. You’ve made the hard choices and let some things go until later—or maybe let them go altogether. Now you have a plan, and you can accomplish what you need to.

On a side note, several years ago, when I was still trying to do everything, I read an article containing a tip that has stayed with me ever since.

The tip was this: “Many times, the best way to get something done is to not do it.”

Ever since, I have kept one list of tasks I have to do and another list I would like to do if I have time. It’s amazing how many times I don’t get to a task—and how rarely it matters, as long as I have prioritized properly.

I feel better, my clients are happy, and my life is less stressful.

Try this system and see if it works for you:

  1. Write down your list.
  2. Prioritize it.
  3. Schedule it.
  4. Do it.

Have a great week.

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