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Published on September 28, 2020

Too Much On Your Plate? 7 Ways to Tackle It

Too Much On Your Plate? 7 Ways to Tackle It

Do you ever feel like you’re crossing off tasks from your never-ending “to-do” list and yet get to the end of your day feeling like you didn’t make significant progress?

Your new marketing plan takes a backseat. The much needed “you time” is put off until next week. The exciting new idea you’ve been working on can wait until life gets less hectic.

You have too much on your plate but unsure of what to do. In a world where we value the pursuit of more—ideas, tasks, actions—what if you were able to shift to valuing less, putting your energy towards what really matters?

There is a way, one where you take control back. Here, you identify what matters most. You make deletion a habit. You leave the cult of busy and value priorities instead of random actions.

In this article, you’re going to learn how to manage the feeling that you always have too much on your plate. Most importantly, you’ll get your mental sanity back while being able to make progress on what matters to you.

1. Delete the Clutter—Literally

As you read this, there is physical, mental, and emotional clutter that is robbing you of precious energy from what really matters. This manifests itself in myriad ways.

Your workspace makes it impossible to focus. Your calendar has recurring meetings that expired months ago. You haven’t had that one conversation that keeps you anxious. In other words, your next level of growth starts with subtraction.

We tend to overestimate how much we can get done while underestimating the amount of time and energy things will take. Researchers call this the “planning” fallacy.[1] The result is that in trying to do too much, we fall short every time.

Instead, start by deleting something today:

  • Donate old clothes.
  • Clear the clutter in your home office.
  • Tell your college friends in the text message thread that you’re going to be away for a while.
  • Scan your calendar for any worn-out obligations that are consuming your precious time, energy, and attention.

While many productivity experts will stack new actions, habits, and routines to your schedule, you’re going to do the opposite. By deleting things out of your life, you create some much-needed breathing room. With this newfound perspective, you can now identify what matters.

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2. Identify Your “Big 3” Priorities

We tend to overvalue new ideas, projects, and initiatives because they provide a tantalizing dopamine hit of possibility. Not being able to set your priorities straight results in having too much on your plate.

  • The new marketing campaign is a can’t miss for doubling profits.
  • The collaboration with someone we admire has unlimited potential.
  • The new podcast we’re launching will turn us into our industry’s top expert.

Right?

Well, not always. Due to the planning fallacy we mentioned above, we often say yes to way too much at once, which means we scatter our limited energy and focus across too many domains.

Instead, take a minimalist approach to your life, career, and business. In any given quarter or “season,” pick one, two, or three main priorities.  These are typically not urgent, yet vitally important projects that move the needle in a significant way. They are not half-hearted tasks, random initiatives, or “fake work”. They are connected to your bigger goals and matter to you.

If you’re having trouble identifying your “Big 3,” write down at least 15-20 possibilities that could be one. Then, take a step back, and highlight the most important ones.

Going forward, you’ll now be able to filter your decision-making by asking a question—will this next task, meeting, action serve one of those priorities?

Granted, not everything you do all day will. But this alone will help you with making better and faster decisions, establishing boundaries, and taking control back of what matters. When you do, you’ll start winning your day with daily, consistent action.

3. Win the Day With 1% Progress

The conventional wisdom of personal growth and self-help have sold you a false myth—the illusion that every day must be a rousing success. Hopped up on motivation, it’s easy to buy into this narrative and yet, sustained success is about consistent action steps compounded over long periods of time.

Enter the 1% rule, which operates under the Japanese philosophy of Kaizen—defined as steady, continuous improvement. Using this rule, you’ll make daily progress a habit and tap into the number one human motivator.

Research by Harvard professor Teresa Amabile and psychologist Steven Kramer dove into why people stay motivated at work. In analyzing 12,000 diary entries where they tracked their emotional state various times a day, they came to one conclusion—it’s not money, it’s not security, and it’s not approval. Progress is more important than anything else.[2]

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To harness what is called the progress principle’, break down the priorities from step two into the smallest possible action.

For example:

  • Instead of “create a marketing plan”, start with the first step—brainstorm marketing ideas for twenty minutes.
  • Instead of “launch website”, choose to complete a draft of your About Me page.
  • Instead of “grow the business”, choose to make three extra sales calls on any given week.

Progress triggers dopamine in the brain, which makes motivation surge, and the cycle repeats itself. One percent today and tomorrow start to accumulate, and incremental growth turns into exponential. To make this a consistent practice, you’re going to lower the bar to get started.

4. Lower the Bar to Get Started

We’ve all found ourselves staring at a blank cursor at the local coffee shop, primed to do important work, and then realized that 55 minutes went by and we got nothing done.

Why? Getting started is always the hardest part, and it’s much harder when you have too much on your plate. Whether that’s your workout routine or working on your priorities, resistance is always highest right before you start.

Borrowing the term from how chemical compounds change at different thresholds, psychologists call this term “activation energy”.[3]

This is a fancy way of saying the energy it takes for you to go from thinking about doing something to doing it. The higher the volume of the task, the longer the wait to get started or, in many cases, we put it off entirely.

Instead, you’re going to play a trick on yourself:

  • Instead of a 45-minute time-block, commit to doing 10 minutes.
  • Instead of a 3-mile run, commit to two loops around the block.
  • Instead of cleaning your home, commit to getting the closet done.

By lowering the bar, you’ll take the pressure off yourself. And, as you’ll notice, once you’ve started, it’s much easy to keep going.

5. Double Your Rate of Saying No

No decision you make is ever in a vacuum. The coffee meeting you agreed to early in the morning means you said “no” to your morning workout. We tend to say yes freely without thinking about the consequences until we’re stuck at a networking mixer or Zoom catch-up we don’t want to be in.

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However, the most important word you can use in the pursuit of taking stuff off your plate is “no.”

Here are two questions to ask yourself when receiving a request or opportunity are:

  • If this was tomorrow morning, would I still say yes? We tend to say yes to anything that is a few weeks or months out.
  • If I say yes to this, what am I saying no to, and is it worth it? This simple question allows you to be aware of the cost.

Saying no creates instant clarity. It deletes “open loops” in our heads and honors some much-needed boundaries. Most importantly, it gives you the time, energy, and bandwidth to pour yourself into your priorities.

Of course, this does not mean you will neglect parts of your life you enjoy. Rather, you will do so with discernment. Otherwise, you will say “yes” to anyone and everyone at your expense.

Instead, say “yes” to yourself first. Say yes to your goals. Say yes to your priorities. Say yes to your creative time before you agree to someone else’s needs and agendas.

6. Leave the Cult of Busy

The cult of busy consumes your precious energy and thrives on making you a card-carrying member who pays their dues with exhaustion, scattered progress, and burnout. Busyness has become a societal badge of honor—a ‘tell’ to let others know you’re important. It’s as if having too much on your plate is a good thing.

However, is busy actually working? On a long enough timeline, busy leads to overwhelm, distraction, and a lot of social media scrolling. To leave the cult of busyness is a courageous act, and it starts with your language.

Research has shown that language provides a look into our beliefs. If we believe we are always busy and don’t have enough time, it’s easy to procrastinate and self-sabotage on what matters.

Next time you want to tell the world how busy you are and how hectic life seems to be, catch yourself. Shift your language, use words like prioritized, focused, committed—and watch how these shift your emotional state.

7. Celebrate Wins Every Day

You’re the worst person in the world to recognize your growth. It’s a bold statement, but I can say that with confidence because I am, too. We all are. We are masters at focusing on what’s not working and the “gap” between today’s reality and our future selves.

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Furthermore, we often discount the goals we worked hard to attain. We brush them off once we’ve achieved them and quickly move onto the next.

It’s time to take control back and celebrate at least three wins every day. These are not about grand moments, it’s about the small ways you showed up. This is essential to helping yourself when you have too much on your plate.

If you want to unlock this even further, identify the ‘ingredient of success’ for your win.

For example:

  • Your win was to show up for your early morning workout, the ingredient is discipline.
  • Your win was to have a tough conversation with someone, the ingredient is honesty.
  • Your win was to publish something before you felt ready, the ingredient is courage.

Why does this matter?

Celebrating small wins has been shown to amplify motivation in our personal and professional lives.[4] By writing these down, you’ll recognize the places where you are growing and are already accumulating the ingredients of your next success.

It’s Time to Take Stuff Off Your Plate

We’ve all felt like we have too much on our plate at some point—and things seem to be getting worse, not better. There are more tasks to do. There are more social media platforms to post and comment on. More inputs are competing for our attention that never seem to end.

The reality is that unless you take control of this now, it will only get worse. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

  • You can delete clutter every day.
  • You can get clear on your priorities.
  • You can choose to leave the cult of busy.

Once you do, you’ll start to value less, not more. You’ll accumulate winning days more often. You’ll learn how to set boundaries and recognize a distraction disguised as a shiny opportunity.

Best of all, you’ll get to the end of your days knowing you are moving forward in your life and business. During these times, nothing could be more important or relevant.

More Tips to Help You End Overwhelm

Featured photo credit: Tetiana SHYSHKINA via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Exploring the “Planning Fallacy”: Why People Underestimate Their Task Completion Times
[2] Harvard Business Review: The Power of Small Wins
[3] Psychology Today: Activation Energy: How It Keeps Happiness at a Distance
[4] Harvard Business Review: The Power of Small Wins

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Tommy Baker

Expert on human potential and reverse engineering success.

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Last Updated on October 28, 2020

How to Take Time for Yourself and Restore Your Energy

How to Take Time for Yourself and Restore Your Energy

Do you ever find yourself longing to take time for yourself? Many of us are so busy with work, school, and home life that often there is no time left over to do something that you enjoy. What follows are some ways to carve out that essential time you need to slow down, enjoy life, and rejuvenate your mental and physical health.

The Importance of Self-Care

In today’s on-the-go society, taking time for yourself is often looked upon as being selfish or unproductive. You have a job to do, kids to take care of, meals to cook, bills to pay, and the list goes on. How can you possibly justify taking time out for self-care without feeling guilty[1]?

The truth is that without self-care, you’re not giving yourself a fighting chance to give your best to each aspect of your life. If you don’t take care of your own needs first, you’ll find yourself burnt out and struggling in everyday life before you know it[2].

Take time for yourself with self-care

    Shift your perspective and accept that taking time for self-care is key if you truly want to live a productive, happy, and successful life.

    Simple Ways to Take Time for Yourself

    Finding time to focus on self-care can be difficult, especially with the demands of work and family life. Often, scheduling time before you need it can be a great to way to ensure you don’t skimp on the all-important personal time. Here are a few simple ways to take time for yourself.

    Evenings With Yourself

    Try to save certain weeknights just for you. If others ask you to do things those nights, just tell them you have plans. Use the time for gardening, reading, exercise, thinking, or the ultimate luxury of doing nothing!

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    Monthly Treat

    Schedule a treat for yourself once a month. It could be on your lunch break, a weekend, or it could be leaving work early. Maybe you get a spa treatment, go see a movie, a haircut, play golf, or whatever treat you’re always thinking about but rarely get to do.

    Schedule it in at least a month before to ensure that nothing gets in the way of that time.

    Buy Tickets in Advance

    Buy tickets for a baseball game, theater production, concert, or any other event you would enjoy. Having the tickets already in hand will force you to make it happen!

    Leave Work on Time

    This is one of the simplest things you can do when you’re craving personal time. Many of us stay at work late on a regular basis. If this is you, make it a point to leave work exactly on time at least once a week, if not more[3]. And then enjoy that time by participating in your favorite hobby or spending time with a friend you rarely see.

    Join a Group

    Joining a group can be a great way to include socializing when you take time for yourself. Find a group or club that revolves around an interest or passion of yours or something you’ve been wanting to try. You can find a book club, photography club, or bird watching group. It can be anything that helps you feel rejuvenated.

    Take an Adult Education Class

    Have you been wanting to learn something new or brush up on something you learned a while back? There are tons of free online classes, and many community colleges also offer free or cheap classes.

    You can learn a foreign language, try yoga, or brush up on your painting skills.

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    Exercise

    For busy people it can be difficult to make time for this, but it’s important to do so. A new habit is started with just one step.

    For example, you can walk for 20 minutes in the morning, and then build on that success daily. Vary how you spend that time. On some days use the time for thinking and daydreaming. Other days you can listen to motivational audio, and on days you want a real boost, listen to your favorite music!

    However, if you’ve been exercising for a while and usually listen to music, try go without any input for a change. Instead, let your mind wander and expand.

    Here are some ways to find time for exercise in your busy life.

    Taking Time for Yourself on the Go

    Some of us spend hours commuting to and from work. This can be a great chance to take time for yourself!

    Commute Via Public Transportation

    If you can, ditch your car and let someone else do the driving. Use that time to plan your day or do some reading, writing, creative thinking, or even meditation.

    Driving in Your Car

    Make the most of this time, and vary how you spend it. If you always listen to music, perhaps also try educational radio (NPR), audio books, or even quiet time.

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    Use that quiet time for brainstorming. Either think in your head or even talk your ideas out loud. Bring a voice recorder. You could write a book via voice recorder over time.

    Waiting in the Car

    If you find that you have a certain amount of “waiting time” in your life, change how you perceive it. Instead of “waiting time,” you can instantly change it into “free time” by reading a book, writing a to-do list, or practicing meditation.

    Two Birds With One Stone

    Look for ideas where you can fit in time for you within things you need to do already or that will have multiple benefits. See the ideas below to give you an idea.

    Walk to Work

    This is a a great one because you’re accomplishing many things at once. You’re getting exercise, you have time to think or enjoy music/audio, and you’re helping to save the environment.

    Arrive Early

    Any appointment that you have, plan to arrive 15-30 minutes early. Then use this time to sit back and relax with a book or magazine.

    Volunteer

    There are so many benefits with this. You make a difference for others, escape work and personal worries, and grow as a person. This about what kind of volunteering interests you and find a group to join. It could be environmental, educational, or anything that brings you a sense of purpose.

    Eat Lunch Alone

    Try sneaking away for a quiet lunch alone on a park bench or even in your car. Enjoy some quiet time with no one to talk to and no distracting noises.

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    Time Away From Kids

    You love your kids, but sometimes you just need a break from parent life. Here are some ideas to help you step away from that role for a bit.

    Organize a “Mom’s/Dad’s Morning Out” Circle

    If you have a friend or group of friends, you could arrange to share babysitting services a few times a month so that others in the group get some time alone.

    Hire a Babysitter

    Make a plan to have a babysitter that you trust watch your children once a month or once a week so that you can take time for yourself. Take it a step further and make that a date night or a night you participate in a class or hobby.

    Find a Gym With a Babysitting Service

    Find a gym that offers childcare so that you can take a yoga class, do some strength training, or even work out with a personal trainer. Make sure you fully research the safety of their childcare program first, though, and get some references if possible.

    The Bottom Line

    If you feel like you need to take time for yourself and relieve stress, there are many ways to do it. Even if you have a chaotic life where there seems to be only seconds to spare on any given day, it’s possible to carve out time for yourself by simply planning ahead. Make this a monthly occurrence to begin a healthy self-care habit.

    More Tips on Self-Care

    Featured photo credit: Erwann Letue via unsplash.com

    Reference

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