The feeling of having too much to do can be paralyzing. There’s so much to do; where should you start?
One way to get out of this situation is to start just anywhere. When you have a lot of tasks to do, completing one of them might be better than completing none of them. Plus, once you complete one task, it’s often easy to move on to the next, as you generate momentum.
The strategy of starting just anywhere works well when all your tasks are of similar importance and urgency. But when you are juggling many projects that are not equally important or urgent, there’s a better way to stop feeling overwhelmed:
Review your projects.
Reviewing your projects means examining them one by one to make sure your lists of what you want to do are up to date.
I suggest you review all your projects every week—and if you use software like OmniFocus, this is super easy to do—but you can also do an impromptu review as an antidote to overwhelm.
Here’s what I recommend for a simple review:
- Look through all items on your physical desk and create to-dos for any items that require you to take action.
- Ditto with any other inboxes you have (e.g. your email inbox or your computer’s desktop). Create to-dos as needed. Don’t do the things right away, but write them down for future doing.
- Assign each of the tasks you’ve just identified to a project.
- For each project, ask yourself: do I still want to do this? Can I delegate it to someone else? Can I defer it until later?
- For each task within each project, ask yourself the same questions.
- Check which tasks and projects are due in the coming days and weeks.
- Plan what you’ll do and when you’ll do it for the remainder of your work day.
- If you like, plan tomorrow as well.
If you’re like me, when you’re overwhelmed you might have the urge to work harder and harder, to try to reduce the size of your to-do list. But that strategy can backfire, as you might end up working on less important tasks. Working harder might also stress you out and be counterproductive.
Try to resist that urge to work harder and check off as many tasks as possible. Instead, do a review, so it’s clear what you should work on first.
You’ll end up making more progress towards your goals that way, and you’ll feel calmer while you’re at it.