If you’re reading this, chances are you’re overwhelmed right now. You have a lot of things going on that are stressing you out.
Having gone through a divorce, been a single working parent, gone through bankruptcy, went through graduate school… I really do know the feeling of being overwhelmed. There are many ways to handle being overwhelmed, but at the end of the day there is only one way to tackle your problems – head on.
Knowledge is power. That is so true when you’re juggling several problems at once. The more you attack these problems, the more likely you are to feel empowered and get through them more easily.
When I was younger, I used to get overwhelmed when I had a lot to do, or when I had several bad things happening at one time. That’s only natural. My mother always had the answer, and it’s something I’ve always remembered. She’d tell me that problems don’t stack up on each other. They’re all individual, no matter how many there are. Problems are usually horizontal and not vertical. So if you’re having a crazy day at work and you have 50 things to do at once – you start to feel overwhelmed. The first thing you have to do is calm down. Then take the absolute most important or pressing task, and just do it. Complete it 100% and get it out of the way. That might seem obvious, but let me repeat the most important part – complete your task 100% before moving on to the next one. Leaving things unfinished can make you feel just as overwhelmed as if you didn’t start it at all! So after you finish the first thing on your list, take the next thing, complete it, and so on. The worst thing you can do is try to juggle your tasks and complete them all at the same time. If you handle each task one at a time, you will feel a sense of relief each time you complete something. You won’t feel that way while trying to juggle your tasks, and there’s a good chance you won’t get anything done!
This also applies to problems. Think of the overwhelmed teenage girl… she failed her math test, her boyfriend broke up with her, she failed her driving test – the whole world seems like it’s crashing down. But you have to remember in times like this – these problems have absolutely nothing to do with each other. They’re independent problems and require their own solutions. So just because EVERYTHING is going wrong, don’t look at it as one big problem. You might have several problems to deal with, but they by no means are additive to one another.
If you’re having a lot of problems – and nothing is pressing – the first thing you need to do is get yourself out of that rut and cheer up. Sure it can be easier said than done, but you can tackle problems a lot easier if you’re refreshed. Forget about those things for awhile and go do something fun or relaxing. After you feel better, those problems probably won’t seem so bad, and then you can start tackling them one at a time. Just don’t procrastinate, and don’t wait until you feel up to it. Cheer yourself up, yes. But don’t take two days to do it!
Maybe you’re one of those people who always feels overwhelmed, and never seems to get anything done. Let me tell you a simple way to get your daily tasks in order. Grab a piece of paper, or download my worksheet. What we’re going to do is make three columns, and then we’re going to draw a line in the middle, so that there you have three sections at the top and three at the bottom. Now label the first column “Could do,” the second column “should do” and the last column “must do.” Some of you are probably saying, “I’ve seen this before,” and you’re right. This is not my invention – in fact it’s a common way of prioritizing your tasks. Obviously the things you must do are the most important tasks that cannot be ignored. The items you should do aren’t as pressing, but you would be happier if you were to get those done. The items on the “could do” list are optional, but again would improve your life if they were completed.
One problem with the old “should-could-must do” system is that we tend to do the things we LIKE more than the things we don’t like, so the even if the “MUST DO” column gets done, the things we don’t like on the “could” and “should” do lists seem to carry over day after day, sometimes for weeks or months before we get around to doing them. That’s where we’re going to alter it a bit. The top half of our list we’re going to label “like” and the bottom we’re going to label it “Don’t Like.”
Now you’ve probably figured it out by now, but when you start working on your daily tasks, you’re going to start each column with the items you don’t like first. The reason is very simple… if you only did the things you liked, you’d never get the things you don’t like done. And those tasks you don’t like will grow like a cancer – weighing down on you and taking an emotional toll, especially when that list starts to grow. Remember in the section about not letting a lot of problems overwhelm you – well here’s another way to avoid that – to get the things done you don’t like first. And I’m telling you – when you start chipping away at those things you don’t really like to you, your sense of accomplishment will soar. And when you move on to the things you do like, you won’t have the distractions of other incomplete tasks on your mind. So doing the things you don’t like to do first will actually make you happier, you’ll get more done, and you’ll avoid the sense over overwhelming responsibility – because you’ll have a clean slate tomorrow.
Being overwhelmed includes feelings of helplessness. By tackling your tasks or problems head on, one at a time and in a predetermined order, you will find a sense of power and direction in your life.