Guest blog post by Julie Subotky, bestselling author of Consider It Done: Accomplish 228 of Life’s Trickiest Tasks, who was recently featured on the Nate Berkus show. If there ever was an expert of how to get things done, Julie is the one. Settle in and read her tips on how to get things done when you’re feeling overwhelmed!
When you’re feeling overwhelmed by all of the daily tasks in your life, it’s amazing how easy it is to automatically shift into panic mode. Imagine this: you’re moving along fine, accomplishing what you set out to do, then one day you’re asked to take on a little bit more. You say yes—and then, the kids have a snow day, or you get the stomach flu, or the furnace calls it quits and you’ve got no heat and suddenly your busy but manageable life, just took a turn down a deep dark hole and you’re frantically scrambling to dig your way out. Or maybe nothing goes wrong, but you’re suddenly riddled with doubts about your ability to get everything done. When daily life begins to feel a bit chaotic, here’s what you have to remember: You’re still in charge and you can make it all happen, step by step.
- Start with a list. People often contact me and say, “I have so much to do” and the look in their eyes that tells me how daunting it all feels to them. Well, here is tip number one: nothing is ever never-ending. The first thing to do is sit down and actually make a list of all your tasks. You will see that your list will be finite. Once you see in front of you in black and white that there is in fact an end, it becomes easier to begin.
- Choose three tasks. Check your list once a day. I prefer evening but some prefer morning, so whichever works better for you is fine, just be consistent. Identify three things that you will get done in the next 24 hours. Do these things before you get lost in the hustle and bustle of your daily activities.
When choosing your top three to do’s of the day, remember, it’s the doubts and worries that come up before you even get your feet wet that make you feel the most overwhelmed, so just jump in and start. And don’t be surprised if once you get going, the thing that seemed the most intimidating turns out to be the easiest of the bunch. They don’t have to be the most challenging tasks or the easiest ones either, mix it up, because at some point they will all eventually get done.
- Forget about Facebook. Now that you’ve chosen three to-do items, don’t allow yourself to attend to anything else until they’re accomplished. That’s right, no e-mail correspondence, phone calls, Facebook lurking, or vacuuming the house. Not motivated? Just think, if you accomplish three tasks a day, you will get to check 15 items off your list every week!
- Action steps. Another useful trick is, as you write up your list, include an action step next to each item. For instance, if you have to make a dentist appointment, jot down the dentist’s phone number next to that task. It eliminates a step and makes it that much easier to get started or accomplish something quickly on the go.
- Accountability buddy. A great way to ensure that things are getting done, is to find an accountability buddy. Partner up with someone willing to share their task list with you. If you tell your buddy what you have to get done and he or she does the same, you end up holding each other accountable for the tasks at hand. We often keep the promises we’ve made to others better than those we’ve made to ourselves, so sharing in this way can really boost your efficiency. It also makes your list somehow more official once someone else sees it, which may help with motivation. The more you hold each other accountable, the more things you will get done. Plus, sharing overwhelming tasks with people is a sure way to take the pressure off.
- Know when to say no! Learning to say no is a fundamental success skill. When you’re asked to do something, wait a moment before answering, take stock of your priorities and remember not to put too much on your plate. Not committing to too many things, will help you to avoid the overwhelming feelings altogether.
Saying yes pleases other people and makes us feel needed and important. But agreeing too quickly, eventually ends up inducing anxiety and resulting in a task poorly accomplished, which does no one any good. Instead, try “Let me get back to you” or “I’ll need to check my schedule before I can commit.” And then: “Sorry, my plate is too full right now.” It feels good, no?
Bottom line is this. Don’t get paralyzed by the things you have to do. Put yourself first, write it all down, and get started. Before you know it, you’ll have everything on your list crossed off, and you may even look forward to what comes next.