I sat down the other day and felt totally overwhelmed by the tasks in front of me. But I got OUT of that overwhelm, and today I want to walk you through exactly what I did—so you can feel the same sense of relief.
We have a video to go with this, so you can either watch the video, listen to the podcast, or read the written version below. (Or all three—we just want to make this easy for you.)
Why I Felt Overwhelmed
There’s a lot going on in life for all of us. You get it. When I sat down to record this specific experience, Eric and I had just returned from a couple of weeks of on-and-off travel, and things at home and in the business had piled up. I had dozens of emails, projects that were waiting on me, “emergencies” in the family and in some of our community roles, and just lots of little details swirling around in my head.
When I sat down at my desk and computer, I felt like there was WAY too much to manage. Information was coming in from every part of my life (even Slack messages were popping up while I was filming), and I think it felt even heavier because while we were traveling, I was reading, imagining, and thinking about new goals, and I had all these great ideas I wanted to implement once I got home. Have you been there? (I’ve often called this “Post-Retreat Let-Down Syndrome”….) To be honest, as I looked at my email, my to-do list, my planner, my phone, and the pile on my desk, I thought, “I would so much rather watch Netflix right now.”
But because of the system I’ve been using for more than a decade (what we call the STEP Command Central), I simply got to work. That’s what I’m going to explain today.
The Schedule I Created
Looking at the things on my plate and the time and energy I had available, I decided to do the following:
- 1 1/2 hours getting my emails to zero, working through the notifications and tasks inside Asana, and organizing my paper planner (extracting notes, cleaning up the pages, filing receipts, etc.).
- 1 hour of a break so I could eat lunch, take a little walk, and make some phone calls (orthodontist, home maintenance).
- 2 hours of solid project work, when I would shut myself into a room and have uninterrupted thinking time to really focus on the projects that needed my full attention.
- Family activities (time with daughter, library with son, walk with Eric and Sunny, reading)
By creating this little schedule, I immediately felt like I had more control and focus, and I could see the path to getting out of the overwhelm. THAT is one of the most important parts of this system. It’s knowing that the angst and worry and frustration you feel isn’t going to last forever.
You likely have a lot going on inside your head, as well, but we don’t wallow in the pain or complain about it to our friends or find ways to avoid it. We SOLVE it and show ourselves that we have the ability to accomplish what is necessary for our homes, families, professional work, and personal lives.
What Worked Really Well
My first block of time ended up taking a little longer than I’d planned, but I got my emails to zero (LOVELY!), got my Asana projects and tasks organized, cleared my desk, and got my planner all cleaned out and up to date. My immediate thought was “Okay! I can breathe! Everything is feeling better.”
Here are a few tools/tips that made this work:
- Evernote – I LOVE this app. I literally use it 10-20 times each day. I took photos of things in my planner that I knew I wanted to reference later, added screen shots of texts, social media notes, project details, etc. that I wanted to keep (my Evernote is organized into a simple set of notebooks and notebook stacks so things are easily findable), and even forwarded emails to my Evernote account that had important details or attachments I wanted to use later. If you were a fly on the wall during my processing parties, you would see a LOT of Evernote engagement going on. You can totally use OneNote or another piece of software you love, but the reason Evernote is so great is because it syncs beautifully with my computer and phone, it holds photos, written notes, PDFs, videos, forwarded emails, etc. And you can search any word—even one that is handwritten, on a piece of paper that you photographed. Imagine how awesome that is. I can take notes in my paper planner, take a photo of that page, upload it to Evernote, and search for it by keyword whenever I want. 🙂
- Google Calendar – Eric laughs at me because I’m really bad at using a digital calendar. My paper one was always on point, but for some reason, I constantly mess up my digital version. (Grocery shopping is randomly scheduled at 3am on a Monday or something like that…) But I am still committed to a digital calendar because it works really well when it comes to communicating my schedule with Eric, and it’s easy to edit, add notes, etc. As I was processing, I scheduled meetings and events into the calendar and added reminders or “calendar triggers” to help me track tasks that need to be done in the future. Asana is also linked to my Google Calendar, so tasks I schedule in Asana for certain days show up as “All-day events” on my Google Calendar. It’s super helpful to have everything in one place. One quick example of how I used the calendar trigger…. I need to hold a Zoom meeting with a couple of team members next week, but I need more information about their schedules before setting up the final details. I added a calendar trigger for Friday that said, “Zoom meeting scheduled for (project x)?” That way, my brain can rest because I know I’ll be reminded—even if I haven’t yet heard back from my team…which I do 99.9% of the time. It’s just that we need to tell ourselves, “Nothing is slipping through the cracks. Not on my watch.” 🙂
- More on Asana – I have fallen in love with this piece of software, and I use it every day for my personal, family, and team projects, routines, and tasks. It is a lifesaver, and it’s super fun to use! I get a little giddy about it. You can add links and photos, work with team members on collaborative projects, get daily email updates, and easily move projects around to meet your needs. SOOOOOO fun!! During this specific processing time, I went into my Asana projects (Current/In Progress/Next in Line/Someday) and made sure the priorities made sense for my current goals, energy level, personal/family/business needs, etc. I’ll link at the bottom to a separate podcast I have all about organizing Asana.
- 2-Minute Rule – I talk about this all the time. David Allen teaches it in his books, and it works EVERY DAY for me. If you can do something in two minutes or less, you do it. You don’t write it down. Now, sometimes when you’re returning from a vacation or catching up on backlog, you have like 20 2-minute tasks. I get it. But it saves time in the long run and helps build that momentum!
What I Would Have Improved
One of my biggest challenges is getting caught up in the DOING of tasks when I’m really supposed to be organizing/managing them. For example, one of my emails was a test version of our LearnDoBecome newsletter that was scheduled to go out the following day. I thought, “Oh! I could do this quickly.” So I opened up our email manager and started working on it, and instead of taking 2 minutes, it took more than 20. I did this headline analyzer, overthought the way I introduced the podcast, and ultimately took too long.
What I ought to have done was written the task, “Edit LearnDoBecome newsletter” on my daily planner page (or you could put it as a flexible task on a digital calendar) and made time to work on it later. The job of a review is to organize the tasks in our brains—but we don’t want to get sidetracked. We want the big picture organized so we know our priorities, what’s on our calendar, and what we actually want to accomplish. Getting stuck on 15-, 20-, or 30-minute tasks is what halts your momentum, so if I could go back and do it over again, I would have had more respect for the 2-minute rule and recognized that the newsletter edit was not going to fit in the time I had allotted.
How It Feels to Close Up for the Day Once a Processing Session is Complete
Oh my goodness. I know this probably sounds crazy, but I feel sooooo great once my brain is in order. Here’s how I described it in the video.
- I knew everything was safe… Emails that had been coming in during my processing session could wait until the next day.
- All important deadlines were met.
- I even got ahead and ran some errands during the lunch break, which felt so great!
- Meetings and appointments were scheduled to move projects forward.
- Important things got entered appropriately into the calendar.
- Everything was put into places where I could find them easily and quickly in the future (which means NO wasted time looking for things!).
- I also knew that I worked on the most important tasks for the day. My purpose, self care, marriage and family, our broader community, etc. were taken care of. I didn’t feel that I’d let anyone down (though I’m trying not to be a people pleaser…) The things I identified as most important were completed.
It isn’t that I love organizing. Sometimes it feels like a necessary evil. 🙂 But it’s what organizing allows me to DO!! Enjoy the family, get outside, rest without stress, build relationships….
I know that you might often feel alone. Overwhelmed. Concerned about where to start or how to move forward on your many responsibilities.
You want to do a great job. You want to feel excited about your work. You want to feel proud of yourself and know that you are living your purpose with strength and diligence and power.
After years of feeling like you’ve always been falling behind, it might be difficult to believe that there is even a possibility for hope.
I just want to share my belief that you have the capacity to completely get out of the overwhelm, but YOU need to believe that it’s possible.
You have a unique role in your life that only you can fulfill. It’s not an accident that you are living at this time—with your current responsibilities—alongside the people who are in your life, on whom you can have a tremendous influence.
There is power in you to do so much good, and I believe there is power from above (call it what you’d like) that will lift you and help you and enable you to work far outside your current capacities. During the day, when I do my best to access that power, I feel so much love.
The overwhelm can often stretch us, but when we see the challenges around us as opportunities to grow—and perhaps even increase our faith in our Higher Power, miracles begin to happen.
We are cheering you on and feel grateful to be a part of this work with you.
If you ever find yourself feeling stressed out—with your stomach in knots or your head spinning with details—we want to help you. You need a STEP Command Central, and you need time each week for a processing party/Weekly Review, but when you find yourself consistently waking up excited and going to bed content, you’ll know that the effort was worth it.
If you don’t yet have a STEP Command Central, and you’re thinking, “April! I want to get started! Show me how to do this!” Then click on the link below for our introductory class and sign up for STEP. The Mastery version is the best because you get to be in the Facebook group (more than 13,000 friends!), and you get coaching and bonuses that are awesome.
But either way—if you’re part of our paid programs or simply here in our community loving the podcasts and videos—we are so happy to serve you, and we know you can do this!
April (and Eric and the Team at LearnDoBecome!)
Our free training gets you started—showing you 4 steps you can apply today to start creating YOUR Command Central. Sign up here (or share it with a friend!): LearnDoBecome.com/STEP