Most of us have an overwhelming amount of things to do and handle each day.
Here’s a 3-step process for prioritizing and eliminating the feelings of dread and overwhelm.
Step #1: Do a brain-dump.
Eben Pagan calls this “Clearing Your Mental Desk.” If you get everything out of your head and onto paper, then you can prioritize it all and stop wasting mental energy worrying about it. A brain dump to paper also allows you to see that your “never-ending to-do list” is actually finite.
Find a quiet space and sit down with either a notepad or your computer. Write out every single thing there is to do and handle in your life including personal and family responsibilities. Keep writing until you can’t think of anything else.
Step #2: Define what’s important to you.
Write down 2-3 main goals or priorities in each area of your life. The areas of your life may include: Health, Family, Spirituality, Career, etc. Post your goals in a place where you will see them often.
Before adding anything to your to-do list or taking on any new opportunities, look at your goals and priorities sheet. Ask yourself, is this task or opportunity in alignment with my priorities? Will it move me closer to my goals? If not, don’t add the item to your to-do list or take on the new opportunity.
Build your to-do list around your priorities and goals. Take on new opportunities only if they are in alignment with your priorities and goals.
When you are crystal clear on your priorities and goals, it becomes easy to say “no,” or “not yet.”
Step #3: Take action!
Now that you have whittled your to-do list down to the important, high-impact items, it’s time to get things done!
Every day, before you close up shop, choose 3-5 high-priority items that you commit to getting done the next day. Select the ones that will have the biggest impact on your life – the ones that will move you toward meeting your goals the fastest. It’s easy to get bogged down in minutia that makes very little impact on our lives. What can you eliminate or delegate so that you can focus on the “to-do’s” that will have big impact on your life?
By choosing a relatively small number of priorities for the day, between 3 to 5, you are more likely to actually get them all done, and you will have enough time and energy to do a good job. If you have time afterward, you can always take on more.
Imagine what you would accomplish this year if you get five, high-impact items done every day, six days a week.
BONUS: Schedule opportunities for accomplishment
This step can turn overwhelm into happiness… if you let it.
When you take on a new project, outline the steps and estimate the time it will take you to complete each step. Then, schedule WHEN you will complete each step. Put it in your calendar as if it’s a meeting – because it is! It’s a meeting with yourself to work on that project.
Schedule the time as an opportunity for you to have an impact on your life in an area of your life that matters to you! Use words that affirm your commitment. For example:
- Work: “[From 2pm to 3pm,] I conquer my email inbox!”
- Family: “[From 7pm to 8pm,] I nurture my children through bedtime stories.”
- Spirituality: “[From 7am to 8am,] I reconnect with the source of joy and happiness in meditation.”
Scheduling will ensure that you get the project done on time, and it will prevent you from over-scheduling. If your calendar is a big open canvas, then you’ll probably find yourself forgetting your commitments.