As much as I like to stay busy, when I have even one thing extra to do, I get overwhelmed. In fact, I get overwhelmed way too easily. A lot of it is courtesy of my overthinking and perfectionism. And for a long time, I dealt with it in such a self-destructible manner; by literally doing nothing. The hard fact that something is better than nothing does not process in my brain in times like that, and when there is soo much to do, I end up doing nothing. Does this sound familiar to any of you?
I’m pretty sure every one of us gets overwhelmed once in a while, some people more often and easily than others (like me). And getting anything done during times like that is a chore. So how to be productive and get your work done when you feel all overwhelmed? When everything seems all over the place and you don’t know where to start and what to look for.
Here is a 5 step process that will help you get started on your work when you are feeling overwhelmed. This is what I usually do when I get overwhelmed and there is so much to get done and all I really wanna do is curl up in bed and read a book or watch endless spirals of Youtube videos.
1. Journal to clear your mental clutter
Journalling is definitely one of my favourite things to do. Whenever things get too much, and I start overthinking and feeling overwhelmed, I write. I write and write and write till there is nothing nagging in my head. It’s one of the best ways for me to clear my head.
If you don’t already journal, take out a notebook or just some loose papers, or even your notes app if you are a more typing person, and start writing. Don’t think about what you are writing. Just let your thoughts flow onto paper as it comes and write as much as you can even if it doesn’t make any sense. Write till there are no more thoughts in your mind. The point is to let your stream of consciousness fall onto something tangible (like the paper). This way of free-flowing writing can help you clear your head.
2. Take a step back
Usually, when I sketch or paint something, there comes a point I just can’t figure out if anything looks good or not. No matter how much I work on it, it doesn’t seem to improve. The best advise I got for times like this is to move away from my art. Leave it all for a while and come back when I’m not thinking about anything that I was before. This way, once I do come back to the art, it’s almost like I see it all with a fresh pair of eyes. The same thing can be applied to most overwhelming instances in life.
Once you clear your head, the next step is to have a change of environment. Take a step back from everything that you’ve been surrounded by for a good few minutes. Maybe go outside for a walk or merely into another room. Just get away from everything you’ve been doing for a while. If you are anything like me, you might feel so resistant to do this thinking it’s a waste of time. But really, a few minutes of refreshment is far more beneficial than simply lamenting over everything that you need to do without actually getting anything done.
3. Make a list
Now that you have come back with a clear and refreshed mind, write down everything that you need to get done. Make a list of everything and anything that is nagging at you about getting done and dump it all onto paper. It doesn’t matter how big or small, just write them all down in a secure space so that your brain knows it’s safe somewhere and can stop constantly thinking about it.
4. Pick the most important ONE thing to do
Once you have your list, prioritize it and number each task according to the order of importance or urgency. And then pick one, just the first ONE thing that is the most important to get done. Whatever it is that you know is needed to get done first and can’t be put off. I know how tempting it is to want to do many things at once. Somehow we assume that we are saving time that way. But really, multitasking is a myth. If you try to focus on too many things at once, you probably can’t do any of them right. If you want to do something efficiently, focus on one thing at a time and move onto the next after you are done with it.
5. Baby steps
Getting started is usually half the task. But that getting started part is also the hardest part. After you have chosen your most important first task, break it further down into small tasks. Taking baby steps is the best way to go when there is a huge task that you are overwhelmed about. If your task is to finally write that essay that’s due, ask yourself what is the first small thing that you need to do to get started on it. Probably to open up your computer and a word doc. Then ask yourself what is next. Probably to write the title of your essay. Then perhaps do a brain dump or mind map of a rough outline of how you want your essay to go. And so on.
‘Writing an essay’ by itself would sound like a daunting task. But opening up your computer, writing the title, doing a brain-dump, all as individual tasks wouldn’t sound so much so.
Finally, once you are done with the first task through your baby steps, go back to your list and choose the next most important ONE thing to do and make baby steps for it too. This way you aren’t giving your brain time to think too much about everything else. There’s only so much you can do in a given time, and you’ve already written everything that you needed to do and you are going through it one by one in order of priority without thinking about anything else. If you can follow through with your baby steps, without letting yourself ponder on the larger task, then you have conquered you overwhelm.
Here is your five-step process on how to get your work done when you are feeling overwhelmed. I really hope you found this helpful.