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How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed and Accomplish Your Goals

How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed and Accomplish Your Goals

It seems like every day is a struggle between an endless to-do list and a limited amount of time. This struggle can make us feel extremely overwhelmed, triggering us into habits that are less than productive and that keep us from getting things done. When the day ends, we then feel a crushing sense of guilt and anger for not having accomplished what we set out to do.

Sounds familiar? Don’t despair! There is a way to get rid of that nasty sense of being overwhelmed by our list of tasks, to feel better towards our goals and to handle and our to-do lists like a pro! Here’s how:

Pick one thing

Feeling overwhelmed often happens when you feel you have too much to do. But here’s the thing: Regardless of how much you have to do, you can only do one thing at a time, period. Contrary to popular belief, multitasking is not doing more than one thing at a time, but rather stopping one thing and doing another, repeatedly. No matter what, you can only do ONE thing at a time. So pick that one thing and focus on that.

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The idea of only doing one thing at a time may seem stressful because it will feel like you’re ignoring important projects that need to get done. But give it a try! Pick one thing out of your to-do list and tell yourself: I will only focus on this right now until I finish (or until I reach a certain point). Act as if finishing this one thing, and not your entire to-do list at once, is your immediate priority. You will find this raises your productivity because you’ll be able to focus without feeling overwhelmed about everything else you need to do.

Get pumped

If you feel overwhelmed about a certain task, chances are you dread doing it. And even if you were to clear out your entire schedule just to focus on this one task, you may still find yourself procrastinating because you dread it so much.

So here’s what you do. Pump up the happiest, brightest music. Change your physical state to a positive one by sitting up high, pumping your arms, smiling, dancing, singing, whatever. Then imagine yourself doing this task while getting excited about it. Fake the excitement if necessary, but do it. Go through the steps of the task in your mind (quickly, don’t get too crazy with the details) while being excited! Imagine you are Rocky Balboa running up those steps waving your arms around in victory. Picture finishing this task and doing a happy dance, and rewarding yourself somehow. Get pumped up and excited, even if it feels artificial. The more you do it, the more you’ll believe it and the more you’ll want to get it done.

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Break it down

Maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed not because you have too much to do or because you are not excited enough, but because your project just feels too monumental. People who have to accomplish major goals like, say, writing a book, will often experience this.

The trick to make  the pressure off a major project is to break it down into actionable steps in order to make it more manageable. So take out a sheet of paper (or an excel spreadsheet or something of the sort) and break down the steps for your project. If it’s a book, for example, the steps could be: Overview, ideas for chapters, outline, detailed outline, etc. Just make sure it’s not so many steps that the process feels bigger than it should be.

This is a great exercise not only because it helps to curb the dread that comes with being overwhelmed, but also because it helps you see the steps to a project, and aids in planning and execution. You’ll find you’ll do a better job at anything if you break it down into smaller, digestible steps.

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Timebox it

This productivity hack is a favorite of most self-help junkies and there are plenty of different timeboxing methods and even apps to get you going. But the main premise is this: Carve out a reasonable amount of time to focus on a task, just one task. Then set an alarm. Once that alarm goes off, you’re done. Either go take a break or move onto another task.

It is unbelievable how much easier it is to get something done when you tell yourself: I’ll work on this for only 20 minutes and no more. I promise you’ll find that you work harder in those 20 minutes than you would if you had given yourself all day to do this thing. And it takes off so much pressure if you’re going to devote a limited amount of time to a chore! It makes the task feel easier, lighter and even funner. This will be a hack you’ll use for years to come!

Make it smaller in your head (Focus on the next step)

Oftentimes we feel overwhelmed in completing a task because we make that task so monumental, important, huge in our head. Take writing a book for example. Maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed not at writing a book, but because you’re imagining that this book will have to be big, it will have to break records, it will have to be revolutionary. So you’re creating this invisible unattainable goal that goes beyond just writing the book. We do this all the time without noticing it – we create these unspoken and unrealistic goals. And of course we should always aim to do our very best. But when we have what feels like an epic goal to achieve, it is much more likely we’ll quit before we even begin.

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The only fix is to make the task a bit smaller in your head. You do this by focusing on the next step. Instead of thinking: I’m going to write the next Harry Potter series, just focus on brainstorming the best ideas for a fiction book. And then focus on writing the best outline possible, and then focus on achieving excellence in completing another step, etc. If you focus on giving your all on just the next step, you won’t have to give up any lofty goals but will feel like each task you do is reachable instead of impossible.

Think of why

Lastly, a quick way to feel less overwhelmed with what you have to do is to think of why. When we look at the bigger picture, we often find the strength needed to get through a particularly difficult to-do list. When we know why we do what we do, it makes it easier to actually do. When a job feels bigger than us, we put more effort into it, with greater pleasure.

Whether the reason ‘why’ is for your children, or the success of your company, or to impact lives, think of that. Focus on that. Remember that. And you’ll find the last couple of drops of motivation that you needed to get through.

Featured photo credit: flick user Dima Bushkov via flic.kr

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Last Updated on August 16, 2018

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

How about a unique spin on things?

These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives. Learn from these highly successful people, turn these little things they do into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

1. Empty your mind.

It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster

2. Keep certain days clear.

Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

3. Prioritize your work.

Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

4. Chop up your time.

Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

5. Have a thinking position.

Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

6. Pick three to five things you must do that day.

To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

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Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

7. Don’t try to do too much.

OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew. Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

8. Have a daily action plan.

Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

9. Do your most dreaded project first.

Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else. This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule.”

The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then. Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

11. Have a place devoted to work.

If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

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Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

12. Find your golden hour.

You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

13. Pretend you’re on an airplane.

It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

14. Never stop.

Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

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Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

15. Be in tune with your body.

Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it. Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

16. Try different methods.

Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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