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!)
[VIDEO]: Optimizing Asana–Using Boards to Manage Projects
[PODCAST 15]: How Asana Can Manage Your Projects and Routines (Without Stress!)
How to Finally Stop Drowning in Piles
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
Great video! I’m feeling inspired to get things done. Thanks!
April Perry says
So glad to hear! Keep up the great work, Sara!
Thank you for the videos! Question:
I have trouble deciding WHERE to write things down because almost everything feels important to me. For instance, right now I want to listen to the podcast and watch the video about Asana listed above under related resources. I don’t have time to do it right now. Here is my thought process (in questions):
Do I write this in my planner (I have still not found one I love, by the way), if so, where do I write it down? I am not sure what day it will suit me best, so I will not write it on the calendar. Should this be part of a routine somewhere (time for personal growth)? If so, should I have a daily or a weekly routine for personal care? Personal care is always the thing that gets bumped when I am busy until I literally HAVE to stop because I can’t keep going? Back to the purpose of this comment… Is this a personal task or a business task? To me if feels like both personal and business. Do you keep separate lists for both personal and business?
Do I record this task in Asana under Next-In-Line which is an insanely long list already, and I will likely not get back to this topic for a long time (learning how to use Asana better). Maybe I should just do it now, but it feels like I should move on to other important things.
I tend to do things on my Next-In-Line list without ever officially scheduling them anywhere (even the tasks that take longer than two minutes) because life is moving way too fast. I hope you understand my question. I understand the concepts you are presenting but I still have trouble with the *flow* because I struggle to decide where to record everything (like now), so I end up not recording anything and just intuitively doing the most urgent and the things that are most important to me always get procrastinate. There is SO MUCH that is important to me.
April Perry says
Beth, I LOVE this question! When I see something awesome that I want to look at “Someday” or “Soon,” I go through the 8 questions from the STEP flow chart/processing. There isn’t one “right” answer, but here are a few options:
(1) Next-in-Line project to get Asana set up. Then in the project notes, reference this video. You can just write the url of the podcast as a reference, or you could reference the email and date/put it in your @Tickler folder.
(2) Weekly Routine of personal development–maybe put it on your calendar as a 1-hour block once a week or something, if you keep squeezing it out of your life. Then have a digital note or paper note in your Support Cubbies under personal development where you list the things you want to review. I keep these things in Asana. I have a routine to participate in digital courses each day (even 15 min a day), and in the sub-tasks for that inside Asana, I list all the courses I have access to–and direct links/login credentials.
The key is to put the link/note about the link in a place where you can find it/search it if you want to get to it sooner–but ALSO have it connected to a calendar trigger, project, or routine that you WILL see when the time is right. The video isn’t going anywhere. If it was going to expire, I would definitely put it on my calendar.
Hopefully that makes sense? Are you in STEP Mastery’s Facebook group? These kinds of questions are PERFECT for the group. 🙂 Keep up the great work!
Jovita Georgia says
Totally appreciate this podcast. It’s very encouraging to know it’s going to be okay. I’m still struggle with making good habits and routines. Thank you again for not giving up and praying that God will continue to bless y’all in whatever needs y’all might have. 💜
April Perry says
Thank you for your prayers! We are so grateful you’re here with us and send a huge hug. 🙂
Delora Crawford says
I am new to STEP and have a question. Can you clarify what you use Asana for vs. what you use EverNote for? It seems redundant to me and I think I might be missing something.
April Perry says
Hi Delora! Welcome to STEP! Okay, yes–Evernote and Asana are complementary, but serve very different purposes. Asana is task management. Evernote is like a digital filing cabinet. I think both are game changers. 🙂 We have lots of information on the site about both, if you use the search bar at the top of LearnDoBecome.com. Hope that helps!!
Kathleen Flarry says
Thanks, April, for your encouragement and gentle example of keeping what’s most important always in mind and for showing me ways to simplify and organize this brain in order to have the freedom to love my family and keep the rest of it in perspective! I’m so grateful that I found you guys!! By the way I’m trying to find this on video and to learn Evernote and Asana. How do I locate this podcast on video? Again, thank you!
April Perry says
Hi Kathleen! So happy you’re here with us! We embedded the video version on the Show Notes page, but that’s more just me talking about the process. Inside our STEP program, we have lots of step-by-step resources for Evernote and Asana, or you can go to the search bar at the top of LearnDoBecome.com and type in “Asana” or “Evernote” to see all the resources we have for you there! 🙂
Tom Sikorski says
Thank you so much for posting this message. I can totally relate. We have been out of town for several days for my niece’s wedding and the chores and errands, plus getting back on track with major projects has left me binge watching YouTube videos.
It is good to know I am not alone! I don’t want to spend more time rewriting my to do list than getting tasks handled.
I appreciate your insights and encouragement. I like your goal of waking up excited and going to bed content. I have lived most of my life trying to get to the horizon and finding that when I get there, it is just as far away. As Tony Robbins says, “Rather than achieving so we can be happy, why not happily achieve?”
My admiration to all who are reading this because they are making a conscious effort to grow in this direction!
April Perry says
Such great thoughts, Tom! Love where you’re heading, and we’re SO happy you’re here!!
Hi April! I love your information and want to watch it completely, but is there any way you can keep the camera still while you’re filming your videos? I’m not trying to being critical, but it’s distracting…think sea sickness…sorry.
April Perry says
Thank you Diane!! And yes–I can totally use a tripod in the future. (Sorry for the seasickness!!) I didn’t have my tripod handy and thought I would never get to the video recording if I tried to make it perfect. 🙂 But I could set it on books or something, if needed. Thanks for being with us!!
Becky Davies says
I live how you present multiple ways to listen/read the podcast. It is so easy for me to read the info and absorb. (My style of learning!😉) Do you offer one on one coaching slots for specific questions pertaining to our needs?
Charissa Godwin says
Thank you for your uplifting podcast. I can totally identify!!!
I noticed you talked a lot about using Asana…I currently using Trello and I’ve been getting targetted by Monday.com. Do you have any thoughts about each of these?
April Perry says
Hi Charissa! I used Trello for awhile, but I like the “List View” on Asana. And I have many friends who LOVE Monday.com, but I haven’t seen any features there that are must-haves. I have a free version of Asana and keep it pretty simple. 😀 Hope that helps!
Thank you so much for this. I’ve been feeling like this for about 2 weeks…I feel so behind on everything…Your encouragement and honesty are a blessing!
It’s funny that you find yourself doing tasks when you should be organizing. I often find myself organizing tasks instead of completing them; I guess it’s a form of procrastination
Taryn Wood says
Carmen, there’s truth to that! Part of what we teach is how to organize your decisions (and the tasks) so that you can move forward with clarity. We’d love to share more with you in our free class if it would be of interest to you! You can follow this link to learn more, http://www.LearnDoBecome.com/STEP. Hope you can join us!
April, I loved, loved, loved this episode!!! Thank you for sharing your real life and how you personally manage it with us!! Like others who commented, I will be looking to learn how to use Asana effectively due to your encouragement here. I use Evernote (thank you for introducing me to that), but it sounds like Asana might help me to look more clearly at the big picture of goals and projects.
Andrew Eisen says
I signed up and paid for the course…. I am not making much headway at all despite listening to the videos…. my office is full of my tools, architecture and art materials and a large flat top set on sawhorses – I thrive on organized spaces but since having a wife and 4 boys (married 32 years now) my capacity to stay organized and to limit my belongings is less than I want for myself and I feel it is both taking its toll – both in inefficiency and avoidable stress but also that it seems that it keeps me from doing my best work and the self judgement is sometimes overwhelming.
I’m not sure how to get myself on track with this project – what can you recommend? Thoughts?
April Perry says
Hi there, Andrew! As the daughter of an architect—and as someone who grew up with clutter, I can SO relate! I am thrilled that you are inside the STEP program. I would recommend you jump into the FB group and then quickly review module 1.
Then start at Module 2 and IMPLEMENT everything as you go. If you have questions, share them in the group. It sounds like you have a heavy cognitive load in your office—as well as in your mind—and we are here to help you ease that tremendously! The Command Central in an Hour video (Module 1) is also a great quick start. Once you build the system, Module 5 will get things processed. Welcome!! Don’t give up!!
Holly Decker says
this has changed my life! thank you. i can’t even remember how i functioned before this program.
April Perry says
I am SO happy for you, Holly!! Thank you for sharing your success! 😀
Suzi Tasker says
April, each morning I start my day with one of your podcasts. I find it sets my day in a productive motion but, honestly, your voice is soothing and you have a way of making me feel like it’s all going to be OK (giggles and all!) Thank you for what you are doing and thank you for the transparency you model as you work through the topic of the day.
This podcast spoke directly to my heart! I have worked through the STEPS program (actually working through it for a second time) and what you spoke with here was really important. I appreciated you walking us through what it actually looks like to process in the face of overwhelm! Having you take us on the journey with you is helpful.
I have a quick question – you mentioned getting into a task that ended up being 20 minutes. When you begin what you think is a two-minute task and realize it is far more than that do you stop, put everything away, and schedule it or put in on as a Next-in-line project? I find this is often one of those rabbit-trail issues that consumes far too much time!
Thanks for always putting so many words to the feelings I experience 🙂
Taryn Wood says
Suzi, thank you for your kind words! We’re so glad to hear that this podcast was helpful for you. To answer your question, when a two-minute task is taking longer than two minutes you have a couple of options.
Before you begin, you want to first decide if you are using this time to organize/manage tasks or to accomplish the tasks. During a Weekly Review, or a post-retreat catch up session as April was doing here, you’ll want to focus on organizing and managing rather than doing.
Either way, when you discover that the two-minute task will take longer than two minutes you’ll want to think back to what you’re doing–managing vs doing.
If you’re managing tasks then you’ll stop “doing” and schedule it for later. Scheduling for later could be putting it on your Context-Based Next Action List if it needs to be handled this week, or it could be putting it on the next-in-line list for the future. You could also look ahead in the week and schedule the time to do it right then
If you are doing/accomplishing tasks then you can ask yourself if this is a good use of your time at the moment, or if it would be better to set it aside and finish it later.
It will take time to develop the habit of making this distinction but it will get easier over time. We’re so glad you’re here and we’re cheering for you!
Jen k says
This one was perfect for this last week too. I had just listened to the one about returning from a trip and then got to this one. I got my work email back down to zero and did the two minute tasks and felt like I had accomplished what I needed to. So refreshing!
April Perry says
Lovely!! So excited for you, Jen! Thanks so much for sharing!