Getting overwhelmed is easier than avoiding it.
It’s easier to say yes to new projects than to say no. It’s easier to become distracted than it is to stay focused. And it’s easier to get swamped than it is to have nothing to do.
I decided to write about this as a reminder to myself.
Before sitting down to write this piece, I was certainly feeling overwhelmed with everything on my plate. My travel schedule is going to be crazy over the next few months, and that’s coinciding with fast growth in a couple of the ventures I co-own.
I just walked through the steps that I want to share with you now.
1. Carve out time to get organized.
When you have an incredible amount of work to do, you might think that last thing you need to do is take time to do something else.
But you’ve got to trust me on this: you need to step back. If you don’t, then you’ll continue to feel like you’re flailing everywhere. You won’t have direction, and you won’t know what to do next.
Take a 20 minute coffee break, grab a laptop or a notebook, and find a quiet place to think.
2. Write everything out.
There’s something therapeutic about seeing your tasks listed out in front of you.
Don’t hold back and don’t try to whittle things down as you write. Instead, let it all spill out. When I put myself through this process, I usually end up filling out an entire piece of paper.
We’re going to prioritize what we think we need to do in the next step.
3. Eliminate, delegate, and outsource.
You should have a list of all the things you think you need to do sitting in front of you.
Did you notice something? I said that you should have a list of the things you think you need to do. Most of the things we think we need to do are things that aren’t actually all that important. And of the things you need to do, you might not need to do it. Maybe someone else can do it. You’re going to figure all of this out in this step.
We’re going to put each task in one of these categories: eliminate, delegate, and outsource.
Run through your list and cross out anything that you don’t really need to do. Don’t be shy. Eliminate them. Get them off your brain.
Next, circle the tasks that you can delegate to members on your team. Send them instructions in the morning.
Now take a look at the things that are circled and that have no marks. Of those things, is there anything that you can outsource? I use virtual assistants to take care of the repeatable processes that don’t require too much of a personal touch. There are plenty of ways to leverage a virtual staff, but that’s how I do it.
You don’t have to use virtual assistants as your outsource resource. Find the things that you’d feel comfortable sending to others outside of your team.
A final thought from a wise person.
I can’t remember who said it, but I do remember the mindset-changing advice he gave about overwhelm:
“We don’t feel overwhelmed because we have too much to do. We feel it because we don’t know what to do first.”
Follow these three steps, make your own tweaks, and keep yourself organized.
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Photo: Flickr/Chris Lott