Always busy? Always in a mode of crisis? Your to-do lists are never ending and most don’t get resolved?
Looking back at the day you realized that most of the day was spent dwelling in your inbox responding to streams of email? Now, if checking email prevents you from getting other tasks done you are confusing important and urgent and draining away your energy.
“What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.” – Dwight Eisenhower
In simple terms, an urgent task demands immediate action and an important task contributes to long-term goals like reaching career goals, having financial security and staying fit.
The distinction seems simple enough, and many confuse the two, The Eisenhower box maps out the main quadrants that seem like an easy enough distinction, however, we’re quick to muddle all up.
Let us analyze this model with a few examples in each quadrant:
If we have not worked out our list of ‘to do’s’ within this quadrant, the tasks can evolve into a looping mired circle and any enterprising projects will not get completed. You know the feeling when looking at the list and realize nothing was accomplished.
Many will infer that if you are always busy with ‘urgent’ matters you crowd out’ important but not urgent future goals. If you are working seventy hours a week, you might be withering away friendships, close family and decreasing your personal health.
Successful people with demanding jobs schedule important but not urgent tasks on their daily routine. Your number one on the ‘to-do’ list for today? 1. Take time to work on your personal urgent and important schedule.
Everywhere you turn are articles and books about how to be more productive, how to squeeze 27 hours of work out of every 24, how to double your work pace, how to do more and more all in the name of someday getting out of the rat race. Well this is about the side effects of those ideas. If we aren’t multitasking, we feel lazy. If we aren’t doing everything, we feel like we’re slacking. We compare ourselves to others who we think are doing more, having more, getting more and achieving more, and it’s driving us crazy. We feel overwhelmed when we think we have too much to do, too much is expected of us, or that a stressor is too much for us to handle. And we respond by lashing out with emotions of anger, irritability, anxiety, doubt and helplessness.
This season especially is the most stressful time of year. Between the holidays, final exams, family gatherings and general feelings of guilt that it’s the end of the year, it’s easy to get overwhelmed thinking of all the things you still need to get done. But if you use these tips, not only will you get the important stuff done, you’ll keep your sanity while doing it!
Change your thought pattern-stop thinking negatively
When you feel overwhelmed, the first thing you do is start thinking negatively or begin to resent why it’s your responsibility in the first place! The first thing you have to do is to stop! Stop thinking negatively immediately. Instead, focus on the positive. If you’re stuck in traffic, think of how great it is to have some time to yourself. If you’re rushing trying to get things done by a deadline, think how lucky you are to have a purpose and to be working towards it. If you’re stressing about a final exam, think of how fortunate you are to be given the opportunity of higher education. After you’ve changed your thought patterns, you must then say to yourself “I can do this.” Keep saying it until you believe it and you’re more than halfway to ending feeling overwhelmed.
Take a deep breath/change your body posture
When you’re stressed certain things happen to your body. You start to breath shallowly, you hunch over, you immediately tense up and all that tension drives your feelings of stress even more. Relax! Straighten your posture and take at least ten deep, cleansing, breaths. Force yourself to smile and do something to change your state. It could be as simple as giving yourself a hug or as silly as clapping your hands three times, throwing them up in the air and shouting “I GOT THIS!” Think to yourself, how would I sit/stand if I had perfect confidence and control of the situation?
Focus on right now
Now that you are in a better state of mind and are no longer thinking negatively, you need to focus on the here and now. Ask yourself this question: What is the most important thing I have control of and can act on right now? Keep asking yourself this until you have a concrete next step.
Now that you know what’s most important and what to do about it, do it! Start with the first step and focus on getting that done. Don’t worry about anything else right now, just on what your first step is and how to get it done. Once that’s done with, determine the next most important step and get that done.
Let go of what you can’t control (the gambler’s theory)
Seasoned gamblers understand the importance of due diligence and knowing when to let go. The Gambler’s Theory is that once your bet is placed there is nothing you can do, so you might as well relax and enjoy the process. The time to worry is when you’re figuring out the best odds and making the decision of what to bet when you can actually take action. I used this one a lot in college. After an exam, there is absolutely no point in stressing about it. There’s nothing you can do. And the same goes for feeling overwhelmed. If you can do something about your situation, do it, focus and take action. But if you’ve done what you could and now are just waiting, or if you’re worried about something you have no control over, realize that there’s no point. You might as well relax and enjoy the moment.
Stop feeling guilty
Finally, stop comparing yourself to others. If you are at your wits end trying to keep up with what you think you should be doing, you aren’t being fair to yourself. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t strive for improvement, just don’t go overboard because you feel like you have to. Only you know what’s really important to you, and your personal success journey so focus on what your top priorities are, not someone else’s.
Everyone feels overwhelmed sometimes. The important thing is to realize it’s normal and that you can do something about it by taking focused and deliberate action. Happy Holidays!