Success Monday: Digging Yourself Out in Three Steps—A Quick Fix for Overwhelm

Source: Baker Communications, a Houston-based business management, leadership and sales training firm.

“It’s happened to almost all of us at one point or another. Your to-do list is overflowing. You have work obligation, family obligations, and social commitments coming out your ears. There are things you need to handle at home and at the office, and deadlines are looming. You’re under pressure from every direction.

And in response to all these overwhelming demands, you find yourself frozen like a deer in headlights.

When you have so many things to do, it’s virtually impossible to figure out what to do first. The mental and emotional drain of keeping track of all of the myriad tasks on your plate can actually sap your ability to make a decision and prioritize anything—not to mention what it does to your motivation to get started.

So how do you get moving before everything comes crashing down on you?

Step 1: Make a list. Do a thorough “dump” of all your mental to-do lists. Getting it all down will actually relieve some of the pressure if you’re trying to keep track of everything in your head. Many people find that either writing their list on paper or typing it up is more effective; go with your intuition, or experiment to find which approach is better for you.

Step 2: Swat the flies. Identify the tasks that will only take a short amount of time to complete, and get some of them out of the way immediately. Ideally, do every item that takes less than 5 minutes. If all you have to do is make a phone call or shoot someone an email, go ahead and get it out of the way. This will allow you to immediately cross some items off your list, and build momentum for tackling something bigger.

Step 3: Take a bite out of an elephant. Look at the bigger tasks on your list and decide which one is most pressing. Maybe it’s the one with the closest deadline, the most daunting challenge, the greatest visibility, or the most stages to completion. Spend the next hour (at least) focusing on this project to the exclusion of everything else.

Making even minor progress on your biggest, most intimidating task should help you feel like you’re making progress instead of just spinning your wheels. As the saying goes, you eat an elephant one bite at a time.

After you’ve dug yourself out of your hole and gotten moving, it should be somewhat easier to confront your list and start tackling tasks one by one. Just remember these guidelines:

Do It: If it takes a short amount of time or a small effort, go ahead and get it taken care of immediately.

Delegate It: Is it’s something that needs doing, but you don’t necessarily have to be the one who does it, see if you can pass it along to someone else.

Defer It: Can it wait till later? If so, schedule it ahead and get it off your current to-do list. You can deal with it eventually.

Delete It: Does this task REALLY need doing at all? If it’s been on your list forever without any real consequence for inaction, it may be time to reexamine its value. If it’s not actually worth spending time to do, it’s probably not worth worrying about either.

The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing. —Walt Disney”