Writer, Advisor + Consultant

How to beat overwhelm + figure out where to focus your attention

Overwhelm can paralyze you. When there’s too much to do, the natural response is to run (a.k.a more procrastination—anything but face our massive to-do list). And often we do. And in the end—that leads to longer to-do lists, and more overwhelm (it’s an evil cycle)

So how do you break the cycle?

First of all, you need to let all the overwhelm rise to the surface so that it can release.

What do I mean? I mean just like in meditation—it’s helpful to consciously allow all the thoughts to rise up so that they can continue to float out of your head—making way for clarity. The same is true for overwhelm.

When overwhelm hits: sit with it and breathe into it for about 60 seconds (likely that 60 seconds will feel like a long time). By breathing deeply you already start to calm the overwhelm down. Breath is a powerful tool for harnessing peace.

Next—take conscious action: one of the reasons overwhelm feels so bad is there is so much happening in our heads we don’t even know where to start. So take action by getting out a blank sheet of paper and writing down everything that’s in your head/on your to do list.

Whether it’s your laundry, banking, or writing your blog post/book/working on the prototype for your creative project….whatever comes up—write it all out in a bullet-form style list.

This helps you take a good look at exactly what’s causing the overwhelm.

Chances are—this exercise alone will help you feel way better.

Next, you need to take on the role of a firing manager. What I mean is—you need to fire anything on that list that either: you don’t care about or isn’t helping you reach your goals/live a healthy and happy life.

Now I want to make it clear: there may be things left on the list that you aren’t crazy about (like getting your taxes in order) but this is still necessary as it will help you lead a better life (because you don’t want to get in legal trouble!)

The point is—cross off everything that isn’t serving an important purpose.

An example is: there may be an acquaintance who wants to meet you to pick your brain. However you truly don’t have time for it, and your intuition is telling you that this favor needs to drop off the list—these are the kinds of things to drop off your list. Cross it off.  Or maybe there was a book you started working on but you are no longer in love with it and there’s a new project you want to focus your attention on: then cross off that project that no longer plays a role in your bigger vision.

Hopefully: a few things have been washed off the list.

Next: Create Category A circle the top 5 urgent things that must get done: urgent can be your pile of laundry, getting taxes in order, finishing a report that has a deadline.

Then, Create Category B highlight your top 3 passion projects: this could be the creative project in your business such as a new program you’re creating or even a blog post you want to compose and share.

Next: Look at anything else that did not fit into Category A or Category B.

Take a moment to decide if they’re even important or if they go on your “Later List”

A Later List is a magical place: it’s a list you can go to on a rainy day when you have plenty of time and no ideas. A Later list is where you place all your other ideas/to-do’s that aren’t pressing—that you may want to pursue at a later time/when you have time.

You can review your Later List once a month to keep it up to date and to decide if anything on your Later List needs to shift over to your Top 3 List or be crossed off completely.

Now, get out 2 more pieces of paper:

Paper 1 is for Category A: Everything that’s Urgent.

Write each urgent thing in bullet-point form. Beside each one write out the deadline.

Then go to your calendar and slot in the specific time that you’ll get your urgent duties out of the way.

Next: Paper 2 is for Category B: Your Top 3 Projects that you really want to work on and finish

Write out each one in order of importance.

Make sure your first one is your number 1 goal.

For the next 7 days focus all your attention on this one. You may find that your top project(let’s say it’s writing a blog post) only takes a few hours to write and edit. In that case you’ll be able to move on to project #2 on your list. But in case your Top Project is more labor intensive, it ensures that you pour your focus and attention on moving it forward towards completion.

It’s important that you also schedule time for your creative work. My recommendation is schedule the time where you are at your peak. This means if you’re a morning person: your creative work needs to be slotted in to your morning time-block (let’s say 9am-11am)

And if you do your best work in the afternoon or evening then make sure you slot your creative work in there.

You see: by taking a little time to organize things—you ensure that your work gets done with more peace.

Overwhelm can leave you feeling frantic, and frantic energy stops you from taking action forward.

Instead: spend 30 minutes to an hour implementing the organizational strategies above and you’ll find yourself getting your work done with more focus, clarity, and joy.

 Now I’d Love to hear from you: what are your top 3 projects that you’ll be focusing on? And which 1 project will you get started on this week? Please share in the comments below:

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