How do I get stuff done without feeling stressed and overwhelmed all the time? This is a question that I often get asked by my coaching and psychology clients. I absolutely love this topic because lets face it, in a society that’s obsessed with ‘doing’ we all find ourselves taking on too much at times. We rush between appointments, rarely taking time out to eat or breathe, and having mini panic attacks whenever we look at that never ending to do list. For most of us with busy lives it’s a relentless and vicious cycle that fries our nervous system and makes us feel like we’re robotic versions of ourselves; merely existing rather than enjoying life.
I’ve outlined what I’ve found to be some useful and easy tips to put into place that not only helps to reduce stress and overwhelm but gives you more space to get stuff done. Being efficient in your actions and taking ownership of your time are the keys to this.
- Activity Scheduling
This is my favorite time management tool. You get a blank activity planning sheet (there are plenty that are free on the internet) and you write in the activities/chores/appointments that you must do at a specific time (e.g., dentist appointment, meeting, work). Then you add in the remaining things that you want to get done on that day. Remember to leave enough ‘white space’ in the day for unexpected things that might come up or designated self-care time (I like to leave 90 minutes a day). I recommend doing one for the week ahead and review it the night before so that you are locked and loaded for the day ahead and before your head hits the pillow. Anything you don’t get done you can carry over to the next day. Having a visual of your week with all the times and days laid out is an effective way to gain more control over your time and clear mental space in your mind.
- Keep things together:
Using an in tray or shoe box to put all the receipts, notes, letters, trinkets from the day is a great way to stay organised and keep track of things. I used to write down notes and reminders in my diary, phone, napkins, receipts in my wallet and pockets, and it started to feel chaotic and disorganized in my head because I still had to remember where I’d written everything. At the end of the day, set 10 minutes aside to organize the in tray and allocate a spot for everything. That way you go to bed feeling more organised and less cluttered.
- The 5-minute rule:
If there’s a task that can take 5 minutes or less to do on the spot than do it, rather than leaving it till later. Those piddly tasks stack up and can take hours.
- De-clutter your space everyday:
This only needs to be a quick spruce up of your office before you clock off for the night. It’s said that our external environment reflects our state of mind, which I wholeheartedly agree with. There’s nothing worse than having to face a cluttered office the next morning so taking an extra few minutes to organize your space for the next day is worth it.
- Get clear on your bigger vision:
We can get so bogged down in the nitty gritty to do’s that we can easily lose sense of why we’re doing it all. If you find yourself prioritizing lower level tasks over life goals than this is a good time to take a moment to reconnect with what’s important to you. Basic life tasks, like shopping and paying bills all need to be done but if you find your always doing them first over your personal goals than set the intention to switch it up. E.g., if you love writing but never seem to get around to it after all the piddly stuff than make a commitment once or twice a week to wake up and write for an hour before you start the day. Giving priority to doing what we love is a great way to increase motivation and feel positive for the rest of the day.
Instead of writing a big to do list, jot down each task on a separate piece of paper (and place in your in tray). Look at each task separately and identify what the task is for. This step is about connecting the task to something bigger, like your vision or goal. If it doesn’t have a deeper purpose than you can place it lower on your priorities. Once you’ve identified the WHY than you can choose the next step and what action is needed to achieve it. I got this idea from the book Getting Things Done by David Allen and I love it because it forces us to be more conscious of what we’re doing and how we’re spending our time.
- Pick 3 Things:
“But Amelia there’s always something to be done, it never seems to stop”. Agree. The mind will never be satisfied, which is why we need to take control of our mind and set some boundaries. I got this exercise from the book The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey. Choosing just three things to achieve during the day (based on both immediacy and your larger vision) is a great way to keep stress levels at bay because it reduces overwhelm. Choosing three larger vision-based tasks for the week is also effective to prioritize, yet still meet your goals.
- Do one thing at a time:
As much as we all like to think that we can effectively multitask we cannot. In fact, research has found that when we multitask, we get less done because it takes more time and energy to switch between tasks. Try to stick to one task at a time (no checking emails or phone) for a maximum of 90 minutes (that’s when our attention tends to become impaired) and then have a break before resuming or moving onto another task.
- Chunk chores:
Set aside a designated time each week to do the bigger chores, like school lunches, dinners, and cleaning. If you can’t outsource this to other people than this is a time effective and much less chaotic way to live.
- Sleep early, rise early:
For some of you this might seem like a crazy idea, particularly if you tend to be night owls. If you find yourself more productive late at night than ignore this one but I’ve found that a lot people get more done in the morning. There’s something so beautiful and peaceful about rising early before the sun has risen and everyone is still asleep. It can be such a productive time, particularly if you have kids or work 9-5 and feel depleted at the end of the day.
- Pick one and go for it:
For those perfectionists out there, this is for you. There’s no need to implement all these tools at once. Pick one that resonates and see how you go. Add another one into your routine when you’ve nailed the first one.
I hope these helps and if you have other tried and true ways to do more and reduce overwhelm than I’d love for you to share.