First of all, breathe! It’s completely normal to find yourself feeling overwhelmed from time to time.
We’ve all been there. We try so hard to be all things to all people, and we pile more and more onto our plate. The enormity of a project or the exhaustion from trying to juggle many different tasks catches up with us at some point. The pressure of all of those things may make you feel like hiding in bed all day, completely ignoring your responsibilities altogether. You’re up to your eyeballs in things to do and overwhelm quickly sets in.
I know the feeling of overwhelm all too well. I’m an overachiever by nature, and that tendency to say “yes” to everything can sometimes be my downfall. I tend to be overly involved, and am often the first to volunteer to take on something new at work or to help a friend in need. While I love to challenge myself and please the people around me, I’m ridiculously optimistic about how much time I have to get everything done.
While I’ve learned many strategies for managing my time and juggling many to-dos all at once, I still get overwhelmed sometimes. So today I’m sharing seven things I try to do whenever that feeling of overwhelm sets in. I hope these ideas will help you get through the slump and back to your happy, productive self.
7 Things To Do When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed
1 | Get Everything Onto Paper
The very first thing I do when I’m feeling overwhelmed is a brain dump. Focus on getting all of those to-dos out of your head and onto paper. Write down every single thing that’s on your mind. It doesn’t have to be in any particular format, just scribbles on a piece of notebook paper will do.
Putting everything onto paper frees up space in your mind for actually doing something, instead of your whole brain being filled with to-dos swirling around inside. Once I can see everything written down in front of me, it’s much easier to prioritize the to-dos and focus.
I wrote an entire blog post with my process for decluttering my mind with a brain dump here.
2 | Make a plan of action.
Take some time to sit down and make a plan for how you’re going to get everything done. Analyze everything on your mind and ask yourself how urgent and important they really are. What can be pushed back a couple weeks? Can anything be delegated? What is on your calendar or to-do list that you can say ‘no’ to?
Once you’ve reevaluated everything, make a to-do list. Add things to the calendar. Enlist help. Say ‘no’ to something. And let some things slide for now. You can download my to-do list printable and learn how I organize my to-do list in this blog post.
3 | Focus on one task at a time.
It’s easy to get so caught up in the stress of your huge to-do list that you don’t actually accomplish anything. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath and then take action on something, anything. Choose one task, set a timer and just get started. The simple act of starting one thing will have a ripple effect. It’s like Newton’s first law of motion: once something is in motion, it stays in motion. This same concept applies to your workload. Focus on one thing until it’s done, and then move onto the next. You’ll build up steam and get some things off your list in no time.
Learn more about how a timer motivates me to get more done in less time here.
4 | Stop trying to be superwoman.
This is a goodie and something I’m terribly guilty of. When you are feeling overwhelmed, evaluate all of the to-dos and pinpoint where you are trying to be superwoman. Does that item even need to be done at all? Or does it just seem like a great idea, or like something you feel like people expect you to do?
When you try to be superwoman, you add unnecessary tasks to your workload. You are trying to please other people, hoping to impress them. But remember, you are not superwoman. You are human. So give yourself permission to let some things slide for now.
5 | Aim for progress, not perfection.
When I’m feeling overwhelmed about the crazy number of things I need to do, I try to remind myself to aim for progress, not perfection. I often fall into the trap of spending way too much time on a project because I want it to be perfect. But much of the time, it really doesn’t need to be perfect–it just needs to be done. So if I can overcome that perfectionist tendency, I can get those projects off of my to-do list and free up time and energy to focus on other things.
Of course, some things really do need to be perfect. But I’ve learned that more often than not, it’s better to find a solution and complete the task than to spin my wheels trying to achieve the elusive idea of perfection.
6 | Give yourself a break.
Although you have a zillion things to do right now, sometimes the very best thing to do is give yourself a break. Indulge in some quality me time, and do something enjoyable and relaxing (I talked all about me time here).
Another strategy is to change up your scenery. Sometimes packing up your laptop and heading to the library can help you regain your focus. If it’s getting late in the day and the overwhelm is preventing you from making any real progress on things, get some sleep and start fresh in the morning. Do something that will recharge your batteries. When you come back to your to-do list afterward, you’ll have a clear head and renewed energy.
7 | Watch For Early Warning Signs
If you are paying attention, you’ll likely be able to tell when the feeling of overwhelm is creeping up. Watch out for it and prepare when you see it on the horizon. Work ahead on a project now, enlist extra help at the office, hire a babysitter, meal plan, say ‘no’ to something, etc. There are many ways you can prepare for an extra busy or stressful time.
You probably already know that certain things will cause overwhelm, so be on the lookout for them. Make sure you are organizing deadlines, appointments and events on one calendar so you can spot any extra hectic weeks before they happen. That way you can plan ahead and prepare for them.
Inner chaos creates outer chaos. So when you are feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath and implement some of these ideas. Everyone goes through crazy seasons and extra stressful weeks. It’s not fun or easy to be overwhelmed and stressed out, but you’ll get through it. Do your best to regain your focus now and get through the craziness, and be sure to take note of the situation so you can work to avoid it happening again in the future.
If your workload is feeling overwhelming and you really need to get your calendar in order, I created the free Crush Your Week e-course just for you. You’ll learn to design your days and plan routines that ensure you make time for everything you have going on in life. You can sign up for the free, five-day course here. The first lesson will be in your inbox right away so you can get started.
Enjoy your day!