As I write this article, I have exactly 32 other things to do that I’ve labeled high priority. In addition, I have 39 things to do that are medium priority. And, lingering toward the end of the list, I have 21 things to do that are low priority.
You might think that I’m overwhelmed. But guess what? I’m not. Here’s how you too can take your productivity to a whole new level while keeping your stress down.
These ideas will work whether you’re running a home-based business or simply trying to be more effective in life or work.
Why We Freak Out When There’s Stuff to Do
Understanding the root of stress is the first step toward getting rid of it. I believe a lot of our stress comes from the “unknowns” in our lives:
- We know we have a lot of email sitting in our inbox and think that the number of emails is what makes us feel overwhelmed. The lack of knowing what’s contained in those emails, however, is probably what’s keeping us overwhelmed. It’s an unknown.
- We have bills piled high on our desk and don’t know if we can pay them. That scares us. It’s an unknown.
- We are feeling tax time approaching and are not quite sure if we’ve done our accounting right. We don’t know if we’ll be able to find all our receipts and documentation. It’s an unknown, and it terrifies us!
All of us have unknowns in our lives. In fact, we always will. So what do we do about these unknowns? Do we run and hide? No! We’re fighters! We’re not giving up!
How to Calm Down and Get Back to Work
Get all of that stuff out of your head.
Have you heard of a neti pot? It’s something you can use to flush out your sinuses. Gross, yes. In a similar manner, the first step toward feeling better and less “congested” is to empty your head of all the tasks you’re trying to remember to do.
Cleanse your head by writing everything down you need to do in the future. Yes, everything you can think of. Some things you’ll be able to do right away, others you’ll need to do later. Some things are big projects, others are simple things like remembering to take the garbage out.
Now you can choose to prioritize your list if you like. But whatever you do, don’t make a I’ll-do-this-today list. If you make one of those, you’ll inevitably not do something on that list and feel horrible and discouraged when you have to move tasks to tomorrow.
I like David Allen’s concept of “Next” lists. Try making your list based on different contexts such as “things to do at home” or “things to do regarding work.”
Then you should take your list and prioritize it. Don’t make a big deal about this. Just prioritize loosely. Make sure that you include due dates for your list. It might help to get some task management software like Things for Mac to help you organize.
Do the most urgent and important things first.
Even though you may have prioritized your list, you might have to follow your gut when it comes to choosing what to do next. Generally, it’s best to choose a task from your next list that is high priority. But which high priority do you choose to accomplish first? That’s where you have to follow your instinct.
Dave Ramsey (mastermind behind the 7 Baby Steps), in his book EntreLeadership, talks about the difference between urgent and important tasks. Urgent tasks are those things that have to get done soon or they’ll die. Important tasks are those things that should get done because they hold a purpose. If any task is both urgent and important, you should do those tasks first.
Do the weekly review. Seriously.
Once a week, I review all of my items to make sure that I’m on track. The only time I review my entire list is once a week. Why? If I reviewed my list every day, it would overwhelm me. I, like you, have way too much on my plate and have to focus on the task at hand – not stressing over what I have coming up.
Focus on one task, complete, repeat.
If you’ve taken the advice above, you’re ready to focus on the task at hand, complete it, and then repeat the process.
There is a great power to focusing on one task at a time. Try it. You’ll be better able to focus now that you don’t have to remember everything you have coming up (it’s written out in a list).
After you complete your current task, go right to the next task – follow your gut – what do you need to accomplish next?
By following this process, we put off trying to understand or worry about the “unknowns” in our lives and simply focus on one thing at a time. We trust that we’ll get to those “unknowns” and figure them out at a later time because we have them in our system.
Jesus wants us to have a strong focus on today:
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:34 NIV
So, what are you overwhelmed about? I suggest you get it out of your head, onto paper, and focus on what you can accomplish right now. You’ll feel more motivated to get things done!
Are you overwhelmed? Tell us about it. What are some ways you cope with the stress of multiple tasks weighing down on you? Leave a comment below!