Strategies for Fighting Overwhelm!

This morning, I woke up feeling totally overwhelmed.

This happens every once in awhile. I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about my “to-do” list, various ideas that have been forming in my mind, upcoming events on my calendar, and ways to organize so that I get everything of importance done. I’m one of those women that creates work for herself. I enjoy learning, creating, and doing things, so – when left to my own devices – I have no problem finding ways to keep myself busy. The positive side of this is that I am rarely ever bored.

The negative side of this is that I sometimes fall prey to feeling overloaded.

The feeling of overwhelm isn’t fun. It happens to everyone, and everyone responds to it differently. I generally respond by not doing anything at all. I lay down somewhere, binge watch something on Netflix and scroll through Facebook.

But that sort of response won’t get me to the place I am ultimately working toward. And if your response to overwhelm involves you avoiding the things you need to get done, it won’t get you anywhere, either.

Here is one of the ways we can get ourselves out of the rut.

Create a master list of everything that needs to be done. This will help you to get it out of your brain and onto paper (or onto whatever list making app you might be using). Creating a master list will take away the feeling that you have to remember everything all at once. Since you’ve written it down, it doesn’t have to stay in your head. Sometimes just writing a list like this makes me feel more organized.

Prioritize the tasks on your list. What are the time sensitive tasks? What tasks are harder to accomplish or will take more time to accomplish than others? What tasks are menial and not very important, but are things that you want to do anyway? What tasks can be done in a shorter amount of time? What tasks can you do by yourself? What tasks rely on the participation of others? What tasks don’t really need to be on the list? For example, I cook dinner every night, so I don’t need to write that down.

Now, it’s time to organize your task list. One of the biggest mistakes I used to make when writing my to-do lists is that I would write down 15 or 16 tasks! There isn’t enough time in the day, especially when I’m alone with a toddler (sometimes two toddlers!) to get 15 or 16 additional things completed. A better strategy is to write down 3-5 tasks to complete each day.

If you’re writing down 3 tasks a day, I would suggest completing two large tasks and one small task. If you’re writing down five tasks a day, I would write down 3 larger tasks and 2 smaller tasks.

Small and Large Tasks

A small task might be something like making a phone call or sending an email. Depending on how many dishes are piled in your sink, doing the dishes or throwing in a small load of laundry can be small tasks, too.

A large task might be something like “complete the creation of symbols for the vowel sounds in a con-lang,” or “finish the next two chapters” in whatever book you’re reading or studying.

If a task is especially large, for example – “plan all of your social media for the week”- make that your only large task and then tackle a bunch of small things.

If you were packing the trunk of your car, I would tell you that it’s best to pack the large items first and fit the smaller items in around the large items. But when it comes to getting things done, I think it’s best to complete the small items first. Set up that doctor appointment. Pay that bill. Send out that birthday card. Easy. Done.

Now you can focus the rest of your day (and your energy) on the larger things – studying a new language, creating a piece of artwork, choreographing a dance, washing and folding a massive pile of laundry, decluttering your home.

If you find that you have a little extra time on your hands – get a head start on tomorrow’s smaller tasks!

I hope this was helpful! Sometimes, being able to visualize and plan tasks helps us to feel more in control and less like we are drowning.

If you need help breaking down your task list, I’m only an email ( or Facebook message (Whole Heart Blog) away!


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