How do you reset when you feel overwhelmed?
Stressed because your to-do list seems longer everyday even though you’re working as fast as you possibly can?
Let me walk you through one of these days that I had recently. A day when my world seemed to be crashing down around me.
My business partner Robert was on vacation. That means I automatically double my to-do list.
I take on all our coaching appointments for the week…
Direct every meeting…
Record our podcast…
The list goes on and on…
Not only that but we were doing a major product launch and preparing for our first big live event this fall at the same time.
If you're overwhelmed by your to-do list, try this.
Don’t get me wrong; I love doing all of those things. And the rest of my to-do list that I didn’t bother to tell you about.
But I—the productivity guy some have called “guru”—was still at a complete loss for how to prioritize my time.
I felt anxious. Down in the dumps. Unmotivated.
In fact, I felt almost like my entire business was about to crash down around me. My entire life, even.
And I teach prioritization and time management almost every day.
The unimportance of everything
Before I tell you how I resolved my personal nightmare, let me tell you about a client’s recent experience.
Out of the blue, I texted this Lion of a man to see how he was doing. He said things weren’t going well.
He had recently cut short a yearlong international trip because of unexpected health problems. That meant he had to expedite the process of returning stateside, finding a good doctor, figuring out how to pay a good doctor, securing a place to live, nailing down a job, etc.
His life was a mess. He was in a bad funk because everything seemed to be important and nothing seemed to stand out.
I’m sure you’ve felt that way too.
Even men who know how to make the most of their time can sometimes falter in a big way when everything seems so dire and daunting.
But let me share with you the quote that helped nudge my client forward when he felt so overwhelmed. So overloaded. With so many high priorities.
“You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.” – author John Maxwell
This is a quote I personally had to remind myself of when my business partner was on vacation, too.
No one likes to feel like they have so many important things on their plate that they don’t know where to begin, but knowing how unimportant most of those “important” things are can be the start of making headway.
And the process I’m about to share can take you from “chaos and confusion” to “clarity and control” just like it did for my overwhelmed client and for myself.
From ‘chaos and confusion’ to ‘clarity and control’ in 8 steps
Most of these steps are quick and easy, so stick with me.
1. Analyze your to-do list system
If you have a simple, yet sophisticated time management system, your to-do list will seem much less daunting. Most men, though, rate themselves a 3 or 4 on a scale of 1 to 10 in this category. Often, the feeling of not knowing where to begin stems from lack of a sophisticated system or poor implementation of your system.
2. Set a schedule for your to-dos
If you don’t know where to start, you haven’t prioritized or scheduled yourself well enough. Write your weekly to-dos out on Friday for the next week. Schedule each to-do on to a daily task list. Sure, this will change some over the course of the week, but having it blocked in is a major step forward.
3. Never schedule more than you can handle
Your to-do list will beat you down if you overschedule yourself. Never schedule more than about 60 percent of your day. Allow unexpected things to fill in the remaining 40 percent of your workdays.
4. If you’re still overwhelmed and discouraged, break away
We recommend to all our clients to keep a gratitude and nurturing list. That’s a list of things that make you feel better when you’re down on yourself, overwhelmed or just need a spike of energy. For me, when Robert was on vacation and I felt overwhelmed, I consulted my list and broke away for a quick power hike. I even skipped an important team meeting to do so, because I knew the mental recharge would be more important than a glum version of myself at the meeting. That’s prioritizing, believe it or not.
5. Get support
My client got help from me when he was down. Me? I called an old friend I know can lift me up. You don’t have to go it alone, even if you feel like you should.
6. Stay calm and carry on
Going with the flow isn’t wimpy. It’s just a different mental framework: Controlling what you can and getting over what you can’t. It’s all about proper prioritization in this step. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other on the most important of the important tasks.
7. Don’t beat yourself up
Even productivity ninjas have their off days. Sometimes you simply won’t be able to make it through your to-do list. When that happens to you, you can analyze how much was on your list and adjust for the next day. If you’ve scheduled your days right, one day with less than optimal productivity won’t sink your whole week. Or you can analyze what took you out of your workflow (interruptions, working too long on a project, meetings going over, etc.) so you can develop strategies to minimize the problems.
8. Keep a “to-done list”
Some things take over as your top priority whether you like it or not. Maybe it’s an irate customer. Maybe it’s someone who needs a 5-minute meeting right now. Don’t be ashamed to add that to your to-do list after the fact and check it off immediately so you can feel that sense of accomplishment and have a record of what you got done. Robert and I both use Trello to archive our “to-done lists” as far back as our digital records do. I can literally look back on my Trello boards to see what I did on any day two years ago. That shows me that I am getting things done even if it’s hard to feel that way working each day.
If you stick with this list and repeat steps four through seven as needed, you’ll be able to get back to your normal, functional self. For my client who was dealing with such massive problems, it took about a week to start seeing results. For me, it took about 24 hours.
But it happened for both of us as we prioritized effectively. Now go to it, Lion!
And let me know how it goes.
Another critical thing for my hard reset process is to get support from someone you know will make you feel better. You can’t overload your wife with the things that drag you down, so it’s important to have someone that can help bear your load and nudge you out of a bad place.
That’s partly why we started The Huddle, a place where men can get support for the problems they don’t know who to talk to about. With access to a private Facebook group and monthly coaching from world-class coaches, you’ll get the support you need for your hard resets when you’re beating yourself up.