Chances are, you’ve got a lot on your plate. Chances are almost as good that you feel ridiculously overwhelmed right now. Been there, done that. Hate. It.
So I keep a little toolkit under my desk; a list of things I can do to beat back the hoards of thoughts and commitments surging over the battlements.
1. Write it out. I’ll bet there’s not just a bunch of little problems. There’s also this one big problem that’s sucking all your energy right now, am I right? So set the timer on your phone. Mute your computer and shut of the screen. Move to another location if necessary, with a really nice pen and a legal pad.
Now, write out the problem, and all the thoughts stuck on auto-repeat about it. Mindmap it, if that’s your style, or journal, or just brainstorm. Just get it out of your head where you can actually deal with it. After about 15 minutes, have a look. Do you see a pattern? Have ideas? Do you at least feel better?
If it’s the type of problem that can be solved, take another look and decide on about three items you can do to move towards resolution. Make a phone call? Do some research? Set up a meeting? Whatever it is, use your new found clarity to move forward. Don’t stay stuck.
2. Clean out a drawer. For Getting Things Done junkies like me, you might know that “Clean out a drawer” is GTD shorthand for achieving mental clarity by imposing that standard on a small sphere of influence. Practically speaking, when you feel like you’re not getting anything accomplished, tidy up. In 20 minutes, you’ll not only feel better, you’ll be chomping at the bit to start something more productive.
3. Take a break. For me, this is only for if #1 doesn’t apply, because who can relax when you’re under siege? But, if you’ve just gotten to the point where you’re fuzzy-head and prone to mistakes, get up, run your cortices, drink a glass of water. Go for a stroll. Ideally, this break will include a small, positive social interaction and/or enough physical activity to get your blood pumped up.
4. Do something nice for someone. When you’re overwhelmed and frustrated, it’s easy to take it out on someone we love. Instead, turn the circle around. Go bake cookies or offer a foot rub. You might not have accomplished everything you wanted to today, but you nurtured the relationships that matter.
5. Create a supportive environment. Okay, so technically, this isn’t a 20 minute project. But if you’re feeling stuck and overwhelmed regularly, take the time to figure out what you need out of your environment. I recently rearranged my office using the free e-book at Inspired Home Office, which I recommend for your workspace, if that’s your problem. If, instead, it’s organizing your kid’s schedules, buy a really huge wall calendar and an organizational system for permission slips and things. Or whatever. What do you need? Be honest with yourself. Just because you go tby without it this long, doesn’t mean you don’t need it to be productive.