How long is your list?

Photo courtesy of Carissa GoodNCrazy (Creative Commons)

Ever have one of those weeks where you are so busy, you can’t even keep up with what day it is? Yeah, that was my week last week. I work at a nonprofit, so we are in the thick of the overlap of our Thanksgiving and Christmas programs, had a major project to plan, the server went down … you get the picture.

I struggled mentally, emotionally and physically, and ended the week spent.

This weekend, as I began to regroup and recover, there are a few things that have helped me save my sanity and regain my sense of balance.

  • Brain dump – Make lists. In the quiet with a cup of coffee and pen and paper, I have made lists. Lots of lists. I have just written about everything on my mind that needs to be done, from work to church to personal. Email project plan is right there by iron and clean the litterbox. David Allen, productivity guru and author of Getting Things Done, advocates getting everything out of your head. Free up what he calls “psychic RAM” by getting all of your open loops and commitments on paper (or electronically). You’ll be amazed at how freeing that can be.
  • Prioritize. Once I had everything out of my head, I could start setting priorities. When you are overwhelmed, your brain can make you believe that it’s all critical and must be done at once. It’s firing off reminders of the most random things, making it hard to get anything accomplished. When you can see the whole scope of your open loops, you can figure out how to start closing them. I took my original mish-mash list and started breaking out the work tasks from the home tasks onto different sheets of paper. Then I could number or asterisk the more critical tasks and narrow my focus.
  • Rest. I gave in to my tired body and mind by going to bed very early the last few nights.
  • One thing at a time. I can’t do it all, and I certainly can’t do it all at once. I have to remember to just tackle one thing at a time, but now I can choose wisely.
  • Don’t neglect yourself. Eat well, exercise, rest, and spend time doing something you love with people you love. That’s what we’re really here for anyway, right?

I’m beginning to work through the HUNDREDS of emails, the lengthy list of to-do’s, and the screaming priorities. With each task marked off the list, I breathe a little easier and feel a little more relief. My goal? I am working toward feeling calm and back in control enough to sit and read for me Wednesday.

How do you find relief when you are overwhelmed?