(Conveniently put into a podcast so you can push play and listen while you do something on your list.)
Oh my gosh, can’t it be overwhelming to have a lot on your To Do list!? Especially when things start going sideways, as a friend of mine likes to put it. You know, when that five minute thing turned into 20, or worse yet, when you spent the only 20 minutes you had on two tasks that took 6 minutes each—but now you don’t really have time to fit in anything else.
When my list is great and progress is stop-and-go at best this is what I do.
In this order.
Have my moment of freak out (tears may come to eyes).
Take several deep breaths.
Recall that this IS the way of life. Truly. Often it takes longer than you think and sometimes things you thought were straight forward turn out not to be at all. It’s okay. It’s life really. It’s unlikely to change.
Take another few big breaths with this understanding in mind.
Ask myself, “What are my top priorities in this moment, given my current circumstances (Circumstances like I only have 20 minutes right now or I’m speeding down the road far away from my computer, etc.)
Select 1-3 items that I can accomplish under these circumstances and write them down. This gives my brain a relaxer. It allows me to feel like I don’t have to continue the mental circus. I have what’s important to me written down, and I can refer to it if necessary.
Do said items.
Once when I was in college I remember my mom calling me and telling me all the things she had to do. She was also at university finishing her degree. Her list went something like, “20 page paper due on Friday, a quiz in a totally different subject due on Wednesday etc. etc.”… the list went on and on. AND she was working a full time job. I felt for her, truly. I was a senior in college by that time so I did have several years of fielding this kind of university brain panic under my belt.
That day I remember telling her. “Mom, you absolutely can not think of all of it at the same time. It will paralyze you with overwhelm. Break it down into the next steps and do the next thing on your list period.”
It’s advice I still apply to myself today. Whether I’m speeding down the road toward a meeting, considering all the things I didn’t get done that morning, and doing a mental calculation of the other things I still need to do, while simultaneously brainstorming on Christmas gifts and wondering where the time to do the things I’m brainstorming could possibly fit in the schedule. (This is very fresh for me—can you tell!?)
That’s when I start my process. I take the moment stopped at the red light to breathe (well after I practically cry—or at least really want to… because even more than I want to cry I don’t want to make my make-up run on my way to a business meeting). Back to the breaths. By the time the next red light comes up I’ve pulled out my notebook and I’m ready to jot down the top 3 things that can do given my current time, place, and constraints.
By the time I pull away from that red light I feel (finally) relaxed and okay with what is happening around me and in my life—giant list and all. And I feel I am finally truly seeing the scenery for the first time. Oh hello- yes I am driving down the road. Foot on the pedal, deep breaths coursing through my body, I’ve left the chaos of my head and am back in the present, now.