How To Combat Overwhelm

If you’ve been in business for any amount of time, I’m willing to bet that you’ve felt completely overwhelmed at one point or another. While it may not be a very fun experience, often overwhelm can teach us where we need to take better control of our time.

Today I want to share three tricks I’ve been using to combat overwhelm in my own business, and get back on track. My hope is that they can help you as well!

BRAINDUMP EVERYTHING ON PAPER

I want you to get out a physical piece of paper and a pen. Don’t use a Google Doc, Evernote, or anything else.

Now, set a timer for 20-30 minutes and just write out everything that you have to do. It doesn’t matter whether it’s for business, or for your personal life. Just get it out on paper.

The reason you’ll want to actually, physically, write these things out is so that you can really get messy -- maybe you’ll start an impromptu mind map, or realize you’ve written down the same thing five times.

By physically writing everything down, it will actually provide relief to your brain because it won’t feel like it has to hold everything anymore. (This is why many people feel physically lighter after journaling for any period of time!)

Once you’ve gotten your initial braindump down, you can go through and organize everything. If you love Post-It’s, you could write down every task as an individual Post-It and arrange them on your wall. 

Or you could get a fresh piece of paper, and make two columns - one business and one personal - and organize every item you just wrote under those columns.

PRIORITIZE YOUR NEW LIST OF TASKS

Now that you have your freshly-written-down-and-organized list of things to get done, it’s time to prioritize everything so you know what to do and when.

I really like to do this by making a prioritization matrix (or officially called the Eisenhower Matrix). This is something else that I love to create by hand, but if you’d like you could use a digital tool now that you’ve gotten everything out of your head.

Essentially, you draw a big box and then evenly divide it into four smaller boxes:

Now, you’re going to label the different boxes. So across the top left-hand box is marked URGENT, the top right-hand box is marked NON-URGENT. Down the left-hand side, the top box is marked IMPORTANT and the bottom box is marked NON-IMPORTANT.

Once you’ve labeled all of your boxes, it’s time to sort your tasks. So place each task in a box, depending on how urgent / important it is.

The traditional way to then prioritize those tasks is like this:

  • URGENT + IMPORTANT: Do it as soon as possible
  • URGENT + NON-IMPORTANT: Delegate or delete
  • NON-URGENT + IMPORTANT: Schedule and do as soon as possible
  • NON-URGENT + NON-IMPORTANT: Ignore

Now, you have a clear map of what needs to get done first, and a plan of attack to make your overwhelm nonexistent. 

PUT UP AN EMAIL AUTORESPONDER

So now that you’ve braindumped everything, and you’ve gotten it all prioritized, it’s time to start knocking out tasks!

I’ve found that the best way to do this is to set up an email autoresponder (if you need an idea of what to put in yours, be sure to read my post on how to get in control of your inbox!) and then close your inbox.

That way you won’t be tempted to check it and get distracted from the tasks you just determined are the most important.

If you’re not able to resist that temptation, you can download an application like SelfControl that will block you from that (and any other distracting sites!) until the timer ends. Trust me, there is no way to get it to relinquish control - not even restarting your computer will do anything!

Without the temptation to live in your inbox, you’ll be forced to actually, you know, do the work. When I have marathon work sessions like this, I like to put on a Spotify playlist that is full of upbeat music (workout ones are great!), make a huge pot of tea and get a big glass of water, and then work for 1-2 hours and see how many things I can get done in that time.

You could also use the Pomodoro Method, where you work non-stop for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break. Just do whatever works for you!

Before you know it, your to-do list will be much smaller than it was when you started and you’ll start feeling more in control of your business.

Task-Prioritization-Mockup.png

Download the Task Prioritization Matrix

How do you combat overwhelm? Do you have different tricks than what I shared here? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!