I didn’t mean to drop off the face of the blog after my last post but I caught the almost-flu. Hope you escaped that plague.
If you are feeling a bit swamped right now – and many people I know are – I have four things for you to do. Well, okay, five, but the first one really just sets you up for the action steps.
Start here: Make yourself a cup of tea. Coffee or hot chocolate will also do. Really, just have a beverage you enjoy. Take a few deep breaths. Grab some paper, a pen or pencil that you like, and your calendar/schedule.
- Get stuff out of your head: Take a large-ish piece of paper and a pen or pencil you like and start writing down all the things that are in your brain. Tasks, worries, ideas, projects. Put it all on the paper. You can start with headings if you like – work, volunteer, family, etc. – but you don’t have to.
- Categorize: Make a pass through the whole list.* Note the things that can be done by someone else. Note the things that can wait until later. Note the things that are truly urgent/important. Note the worries. Note the tasks that can be done quickly. If you are bothered by the monster list, you can rewrite each category on to a separate list if you like.
- Schedule: Schedule items with deadlines (or other urgent factors) first. Then ‘park’ the stuff that can be done later – this means you put a note in your calendar to check that list at a specific time. Schedule a time to do the quickly done tasks. Pick a time to deal with the things that are worrying you (and to identify actions that you can take on those worries**). Fix all of those things to a specific time so you know they will be handled – your brain will love the break from having to hold all that information.
- Do something now: Push any item on that list one step forward right away. Even if it is looking up the phone number for a call you will make later. Cross it off the list and celebrate – perhaps have another cup of tea.
It seems a bit weird but I find this process enormously helpful. My brain likes knowing that I have everything put somewhere – even if it is just a slot on my calendar that says ‘read the list’ – and it stops churning stuff around. I even find it useful for worries because if I know that I am going to come back to the topic and try to find a solution at 10am on Tuesday, then that worry doesn’t loom as large on Monday at 2.
I know this won’t cure everything, it won’t make it all better, but it does give you a little mental space to decide what to do next.
I wish you well.
*I know it’s huge. It’s too big for one person, that’s why you feel overwhelmed. We all do this sometimes, don’t be hard on yourself.
**Yes, this may be too simplistic in some cases. You will know if that is the case and you can decide how to deal with those worries. Sometimes just having them on paper is enough to give yourself the distance to deal with them.