We’re getting to that point in the year where things begin to get quite overwhelming. Winter is setting in, deep and dark. Christmas is approaching, along with New Year – a time where we yearn for things to be different.
For students, this is a time with finals, group projects, and assignment deadlines are looming over our cute little heads like a dark cloud.Everything is happning at once, and this can be overwhelming.You miss one class. Or forget to do one thing on your to-do list. And before you know it, you have an endless list of things to do that never seem to get done. You don’t even know where to start. You don’t een know how to start!
So, how do you feel on top of things?
First of all, where is this feeling of being overwhelmed coming from?
- You have a lot of “unfinished business”. You’re making a mess.
Everytime a new task comes your way – whether its something that needs your action or simply your attention – you open up something new. And the more open things we have, the more stressed out we become. Until we have an efficient way or collecting, organzing, and working through our mess, we’re just going to get more and more stressed out!
The way to eliminate this feeling is to firstly, decide what you want to do with the task, and then, if you can, do it!
- You don’t have a efficient means of collecting this “unfinished business” in one place.
Instead, we try to grasp at things and “remember” them for a more appropriate time. You write a few tasks in your calender, some in your PDA, remind your best friend to remind you of something later, and most things we try to simply just “remember”. But this is incredibly inefficient and is the leading cause to our lack of productivity. And not only our lack of productivity, but even just that nauseating feeling we get sometimes when we just don’t even know how to start. How do we know what to do next if we don’t even know WHAT we have to do? What we need to do, is create a better system for collecting your tasks and to-do’s.
The best advice I have heard on this step is to find just ONE place to collect it. Two if you must. But let the second one be a “Transitionary” collector – a place where things go to be processed before making it to your primary collector. For example, you may have a notepad to write down all incoming tasks in your day (perhaps because it is more convenient to carry around a notepad), and then when you decide to review your tasks, you move them into your PDA or whatever it is you kids play with these
- You are not being as productive with your time as you should be because you do not know what the first step to take is.
This one is a no brainer. If you don’t know exactly what to do – and I don’t mean just some vague idea of the direction you’re going – I mean knowing exactly the next action step you must take – then the chances are, you ain’t gonna take it. You’re gonna waste your time doing the less important tasks because the next action step might be more obvious. You’re gonna call a friend. You’re gonna talk about how you are feeling so overwhelmed in your life. You’re gonna spend hours on facebook.
I know the story.
So, let’s fix it!
You have a lot of unfinished business – you’re making a mess.
Yeah. This is life. Welcome.
First of all, get rid of any unrealistic expectations you have about how “Finished” your business should be. There will always be something to do. Fact.Your inbox will never be fully empty. Maybe for a few moments. This is the dynamic nature of life. It’s a cool thing, really.
Our unhappiness doesn’t come from the fact that we have a lot to do (infact, we can derive a sense of purpose and drive from feeling that we have steps to take forward), but it is the fact that we are not efficiently dealing with the things in our inbox.
Try to see it like this: everytime a new incoming tasks comes to your attention, a new box opens up. Every single thing that you need to “do”, delegate, or simply attend to in some way- you’re opening a new box. And note that you’re not labelling these boxes. You’re just bringing in these half opened boxes into your brand new apartment. And you’re making a mess! Using this analogy, it seems obvious to work through the boxes, and start labeling them, and then figure out where to put them. You keep em’, or you get rid of em’. It’s simple. If only we could do this with our mental tasks.
Well, hey, you can!
So, let’s begin.
Remember that as the number of half opened boxes increases in your mind-apartment, the more stress you feel. Thre more stress you are under, the higher your chances are of feeling overwhelmed.
1. Collect all information
I want you to take 5 minutes out of your life right know to brainstorm everything you need to do today, tomorrow, this week, in life, in general.
Don’t worry about putting things into any order or even making sense. Just write. go. go. go!
Trust me, this is going to feel real good!
Your cute little head can’t handle any more information!
This is good for your soul.
My physics professor would say “Even if you don’t have to, Solve quadratic equations – it’s good for your soul.”
I’m not convinced. Yet.
(You can even put in random important dates etc. Whatever “information” is in your mind that you need to remember and do something about)
2. Split up these tasks into categories.
So now let’s make sense of this mess.
This is equivelent to labelling the boxes “cutlery” and “books”. School? Work? Relationships? House stuff? Hobbies? Extra curricular ? Sport? Spirituality?
3. Go through each one and ask yourself these questions:
Now that you’ve organized everything, you need to decide what to do.Go through each task that comes up on your list:
Can I take action on this within the next five minutes?
If Yes - do it! There’s no time like the present, y’all!
If No – Here you can either:
a) Delegate it (is there someone else who can do it for you?)
b) Or you can defer it (put it on your calender for later date. Schedule it in.)
For example – if you really need to study physics (Ummmm personal example) like BADLY, but you can’t do it within the next five minutes, then I would schedule it in for tomorrow at 6:00-9:00pm at the library. Now it is no longer on my mind and causing me stress, because in my soul, I feel like I have done something about it. I’ve taken care of an important matter. I’m going to fix it. Don’t worry about it.
c) Or trash it! Do you really really have to do it?
There are many times we take on menial tasks in our life that we just can’t afford to spend our time, energy and money on. Why is this on your list? Maybe out of your good will and good heart, but is this the best thing for you? Perhaps not. Get comfortable with saying no, and not feeling like a failure. If there is something that has been on your to-do list for days, weeks, and months, you really need to ask yourself these questions. Is there a reason you keep putting it off? Why? Do you really need to do it? If you don’t, then be gone with it! Hasta la vista, baby.
Now go through your calender, with all your new scheduled tasks in.
It must feel good. Dance classes, assignment deadlines, library study parties, dinner dates, family outings, things to do.
You should feel a big weight off your shoulders.A big cause of stress is not all the things we have to do but our disorganization of it.
Having everything written down on your calender- a place that will be effective in reminding you of where and when you need to be somewhere doing something that eneds to be done, will feel great!
Now start doing the things on your list!
Have will power.
Keep your word.
Get things done.