We have been talking this month about how to get back to the basics when it comes to time management. We’ve learned how determining our priorities and setting goals based on those priorities help us to manage our lives well and give us purpose and meaning.
While knowing our priorities and setting goals is so foundational to good life management, what happens when we really don’t know where to begin? What if life is so overwhelming with numerous roles and responsibilities that we just can’t determine what’s most important during this season of our lives? What if we have so many big things to do that just trying to do the everyday essentials becomes overwhelming?
Well, friend, if this is you, you are not alone. I am right there with you. In fact, my feelings of overwhelm finally spilled out and over in an ugly way with my husband just recently. I had stuffed emotions and thoughts down so far and I guess finally filled up all I could hold and they just spewed out all over him. And really, what I’ve been dealing with is not his fault. He was just the unfortunate recipient of my point of not being able to take anymore.
Be sure to listen to the episode to hear what was behind my overwhelming feelings.
If you are in an overwhelming season of life, I encourage you to make spending time with God the first priority in your life. When you are doing that consistently, then you’ll be better able to make good decisions about what to do and you will be filled with God’s hope so that you can press on.
I have come up with some action steps that I hope will get me through this overwhelming season. One thing I know for sure, simple is better. Meaning, these action steps are not complicated and not necessarily big things. However, I firmly believe that if I follow these steps, I will see some real results soon. Not only results I see with my eyes, but results I can feel in my soul in the form of hope and peace.
Action Steps to Conquer the Overwhelm
Do a brain dump and list everything that is on your mind.
This could include big and small things. It’s so important to get things off your mind and onto paper to really get a good idea of what’s going on in your life. One benefit of a brain dump is that you get everything off your mind. Once it’s on paper, you don’t have to remember it anymore. You’ve recorded it in a safe place.
You may have some big action items that really are projects. However, you may also have a lot of smaller action items that when put together feel much bigger.
In the next step, we’ll focus on those big projects. We’ll come back to the smaller action items later.
I’ve got to insert here the reminder that not everything on your to-do list needs to be done. Or at least not in the near future. Before you attempt to make a plan of action for each thing you listed out, take a moment to ask yourself if each task needs to be done at all, could it be done later, or could someone else do it. Once you’ve sorted through the tasks and hopefully have deleted, delegated, or deferred some of them, then you can focus on what’s left. That should immediately reduce some of your stress.
Organize your projects
I have written out each project on a different sheet of paper. Then I’ve listed what tasks need to be done to complete those projects. The act of breaking down a project into specific tasks can help you see what really needs to be done. Sometimes the project is not as overwhelming as you think it is. But then again, sometimes you’ll discover there is a lot more to do than you realized.
That’s ok. We’re going to talk about how to get all these action items done in the next step.
Once you’ve identified your projects and created a space for organizing and planning them, whether it’s just using a sheet of paper like I did or creating a file for them, it’s now time to prioritize which projects and action items need to be done first.
Make a plan for getting things done.
Back in step one, I mentioned we’d talk about the smaller tasks that were not related to any projects. This is where they come into play. In step 2, you created project sheets that listed out tasks related to complete each one.
So basically we’re at the point where we just have a list of tasks to do. Now is the time to go through all of these tasks and ask yourself which ones are the most important.
One of the best ways I know to remind yourself what needs to be done and when it needs to be done is to create three lists. The first is made up of the tasks that need to be done in the next week or two weeks. The second is a list of tasks that need to be done within the month or three months at the latest. And the third list contains tasks that don’t need to be done until more than three months from now.
The idea behind this is to keep you from having one big list that overwhelms you because you don’t know what to do next. Keeping these lists to a minimum should also help you concentrate on what’s most important and not be distracted by what needs to be done later.