Nine things you should NOT do when you are feeling overwhelmed, lessons learned from firsthand experience when I've been drowning in things to do.

A Lesson In Overwhelm: What NOT To Do When You’re Drowning In Things To Do

I had an entirely different post planned for today’s installment in our From Overwhelm To Organized: Making Time For All The Stuff series, but I’m scrapping that because I want to get real with you today. Over the past couple weeks, I have been experiencing some serious overwhelm. While I like to think I’m quite good at staying productive, I have to accept the fact that I’m no superwoman.

Since I blog a lot about time management and productivity, I want to make sure you know that I’m far from perfect at it. I’m right there with you, always trying to improve so I can be more organized and, ultimately, spend more time on the things that are most important to me.

There’s so much happening in my world right now that, although I may appear to be holding it together, the sheer amount of stress I’m feeling and things I need to be doing makes me want to stay in bed with the sheets pulled up over my head.

So today, rather than sharing the time management tip I’d planned, I have a list of eight things NOT to do when you are drowning to-do. And yes, I am most definitely speaking from personal experience.

Nine things you should NOT do when you are feeling overwhelmed, lessons learned from firsthand experience when I've been drowning in things to do.

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What NOT To Do When You’re Drowning In Things To Do

1 | Jump from thing to thing with no real plan.

When life gets crazy and we’re drowning in things to do, we tend to become more scattered. It’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to do way too many things all at one time, which is definitely not the most effective way to accomplish anything. It’s those busiest times when we need a plan the most, but when we are least likely to create one.

I find it difficult to slow myself down long enough to create a plan for tackling my overwhelming to-do list. While my instinct is to go-go-go, I’ve found it very beneficial to make a plan first. When my mind is overflowing and I’m drowning in things to do, I love to do a brain dump as my first step toward creating a plan of attack. It gets everything out on paper so I can clear my head and begin to prioritize my to-dos.

2 | Willingly add another major commitment to your plate.

I need to raise my hand here because I totally just did this to myself. I knew this month was going to be extra busy, so I had decided to sit out this round of the One Room Challenge. But if you’ve tuned in over the last week, you know that I am one week into a complete room makeover. Do you suffer from FOMO? I know I do. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is a huge reason why we struggle to say no to things.

So keep in mind that if you are already feeling strapped for time, it’s probably in your best interest to use the word “no” frequently. I struggle with this, but I try to remind myself that saying “no” to one opportunity means creating space to say “yes” to something else in the future. And just because you opt out of something right now, doesn’t mean you can’t revisit it later on when you’re feeling less stressed.

3 | Start a brand new activity or habit.

Does this happen to you, or is it only me? When I’m in the midst of a busy time, I get distracted so darn easily. Here’s an example: a blogger I follow wrote about the Whole 30 recently. It sounded like something I wanted to try out, so I immediately listened to a podcast on the subject to learn more. Before I realized what I was doing, I had downloaded the Whole 30 book to read, with the thought I could start my new diet right away. That was a terrible idea for so many reasons! First of all, remember that you already have plenty of things to spend your time and energy on right now. It’s tempting to focus on something new and more exciting, but don’t let those shiny objects steal your attention from what matters most right now. Make a list and revisit these new ideas when you have time to focus on them in the future.

When you have the urge to start something new, remember that you already have plenty of things to spend your time and energy on right now. It is tempting to focus on something new and more exciting, but don’t let those shiny objects steal your attention from what matters most right now. Make a list and revisit these new ideas when you have time to focus on them in the future.

4 | Set unrealistic deadlines.

When you are swamped, it is a bad idea to create unrealistic expectations about how much you can accomplish. Evaluate what’s currently stressing you out and think carefully about what is actually urgent and what deadlines are self-imposed. I’m always surprised at how much of the stress is completely my fault. Push back some obligations if you can, or even table projects for later if at all possible. Also, if you know you are already extra busy, give yourself additional time to complete other tasks that come up.

5 | Sacrifice your health.

I’ve been so busy doing things that I’ve completely abandoned my exercise routine. Again. This happens to me all the time, which is horrible! It likely happens to you, too. If at all possible, stick with your workouts. If you need to, maybe consider shortening them during a crazy week, but try not to break the habit altogether.

I also eat out a lot more when I’m feeling overwhelmed. Plan ahead for those days when you just cannot handle cooking dinner by stocking up on freezer meals or keeping ingredients for a few super, super simple meals on hand. Know what those meals are so when a stressful day comes up, you won’t even have to think about what you’re making.

6 | Neglect your family.

Although you are drowning in things to do, it’s probably not a great idea to go days without seeing your family. It may need to be less than normal, but do your best to carve out some downtime to connect with your spouse and kids. They’re so important! Heck, perhaps there are some things on your list that you could delegate to them or even involve them in doing.

7 | Commit to time-consuming social functions.

When you are in the thick of a busy few weeks, committing to extra social obligations is probably not wise. It’s natural to want a break, but if you really are that busy, you probably don’t have time to spare for an entire day of shopping, for example. I was so tempted to do this on Sunday! Take a rain check on invitations to hang out with friends, and plan something fun with them once things settle down.

8 | Spend the whole day on the couch, in your PJ’s, watching Netflix.

It is so easy to feel paralyzed from doing anything when we’re completely overwhelmed. I find that I’m most likely to gravitate to the couch when I’m extra stressed out. While it’s okay to allow yourself a break for your favorite show, an entire Saturday afternoon binge-watching TV is not a great use of your time. Fight the urge to stay in your sweats and veg out all day; get dressed and get to work. If you do give yourself a break, I highly recommend setting a timer to limit how long it is.

Nine things you should NOT do when you are feeling overwhelmed, lessons learned from firsthand experience when I've been drowning in things to do.

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I hope you enjoyed this list of eight things NOT to do when you are buried in things to do. It’s been a crazy few weeks in my world, and I’ve been so tempted to fall into the traps of these things. Stay disciplined, do the work, and then make a plan for how you are going to avoid that much stress creeping into your life again.

When I am feeling crazy overwhelmed and drowning in things to do, I find it most helpful to take a quick timeout and create a plan for how I’m going to get everything done. I map out the upcoming week so I know exactly what to focus on. It helps me stress less knowing I have a thoughtful plan in place! If you need some help getting your week under control, I encourage you to enroll in my free course, Crush Your Week. The course will teach you how to design an intentional weekly routine in just five days.

More From The “Overwhelmed To Organized: Making Time For All The Stuff” Series

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