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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 October 20, 2020

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future. Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

Bonus: Think Like a Rhino

More Tips for Procrastinators to Start Taking Action

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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