A Strategy to Overcome Overwhelm & Prioritize Your Time
When my grandmother was overwhelmed, she used to say that she was “running around like a chicken with its head cut off.”
You know, those “the sky is falling, the sky is falling…” days when absolutely everything feels important and you don’t know where to start?
Occasionally, it really is just a bit of overwhelm…too many swirling thoughts obscure reason and things feel more important than they are.
Back in the day, I could slip into this mode for something as trivial as planning a party. I know, but what can I say? I was so afraid of not being perfect…of not being who everyone expected me to be, that I actually made parties stressful!
Sometimes however, there is a lot riding on the things on your list, and they’re not the sorts of things that can really be outsourced. After all, your boss expects you to submit that proposal to the firm’s biggest client by 5:00 pm, your mother wants to hold your hand in the waiting room at the doctor’s office and while your accountant is happy to take care of your taxes, it’s you who needs to get her the information.
So, what do you do when there is an overwhelming competition for your time and attention, the stakes are high, and it all really seems impossible?
Before you do anything else, it’s critical that you get yourself out of that Henny Penny state of high-alert. No strategy can be successfully applied with a cocktail of stress hormones pumping through your body.
Tap into whatever soothing, calming or centering behaviors (exercise, yoga, meditation, writing, etc…) work best for you. If the time crunch truly feels too overpowering to allow for a twenty minute refueling, take a moment to do a ONE STONE. (If you’re one of the new kids in this tribe or if you haven’t yet tried this simple 60 second strategy, you can download it here.)
Apply the B.A.L.M. approach to take the edge off conflicting priorities.
OK…now that you’re grounded…you did one of the grounding exercises above, right? No Henny Pennys allowed in the strategy section.
Apply the B.A.L.M.
Get the Big Picture – Zoom out and get a sense of the actual scope of your overwhelm. List off everything (and I mean every) task that’s flying through that head of yours.
Consider the Aftermath – Your values, what you really care about, needs to play an active role in prioritizing your time and effort. Take a look at your list and consider what’s at stake for you and rate each item for its level of importance to you.
Lump Things Together Where You Can – Look for places you can kill two birds with one stone. Maybe you and your mom can help your daughter with her homework in the waiting room. Perhaps you can repurpose your newsletter to also be your social media posting (wink wink).
Map Your Tasks – Ok, you have a, hopefully consolidated list of what needs to be done and how important it is. The final factor in prioritizing is how urgent it is. (When’s it due?) As a visual thinker, I love using Eisenhower’s Matrix for this step. You’ll find my modified version below. Take each task and pop them into one of the four boxes.
If it’s urgent and important to you, do it yourself – today.
If it’s urgent and not too important to you, find another way to get it done (delegate it).
If it’s important to you but not time sensitive today, schedule time to handle it yourself.
If it really isn’t time sensitive or important to you, just cross the damn thing off the list.
WARNING: If you put more things in box one than you can do today, go right back to One Stone and repeat the process until it’s doable. If the leader of the free world could make this work, so can you.