It has been a whirlwind of a week, one that has followed a stressful, chaotic, and incredibly busy whirlwind of a month. To be honest, I have felt like I am being pulled in a hundred different directions all at once, wanting to be there for all the people who need me right now, and still take care of all the normal responsibilities that come with being a wife and a mom and a small business owner.
And I don’t know if you have ever felt this way, but for the past week or so I have been struggling with this overwhelming feeling that I just can’t catch my breath.
The ironic thing is that productivity and time management is something that I think about and write about a LOT. It is truly one of my passions, and I am constantly looking for ways to do things just a little more efficiently, ways to get more done in less time, and to stay focused on the things that matter most. It’s why I developed the Living Well Planner®, and it’s why the mission of our company is to eliminate overwhelm in the lives of women everywhere.
But I also know that knowing what to do and actually implementing it are often two different things, and that the reality of life is that no matter how productive we intend to be, there will always be seasons of crazy.
Your mom or your child or your husband gets sick. You move cross country, or even just cross town. You lose a key member of your team at work and suddenly have to take on a whole new set of responsibilities. You get asked to help out at church or your child’s school and although you don’t really have time, you feel like you just can’t say no. You get blindsided by a legal battle or stressful conflict with a friend or family member.
Sometimes all at the same time.
Ironically, in the midst of all this chaos, I received a request to share my 3 favorite tips for better managing your time. The tips I shared are all techniques that I have been writing about and using in my own life for a long time. And yet, as I was sharing them, I was realizing just how badly I needed to take some of my own advice!
And so, after I was done, I sat down and did just that. Immediately it felt like a load had been lifted off my shoulders, and I slept better than I had in weeks. Everything that felt so overwhelming just yesterday now feels manageable again.
I guess I just needed the reminder!
If you are feeling the same way right now, like you just can’t catch your breath, here is a quick summary of what I shared (and the advice I then followed for myself!):
When you are busy & overwhelmed, it is hard to even know what to focus on first, and that’s when we end up spinning around in circles. The last thing we FEEL like doing is stepping back and assessing where we are at and where we need to go, but hat is exactly the moment when you MOST need to take a step back!
Set the timer for 20 minutes and do a brain dump of everything in your head. It’s amazing how getting it out of your head and onto paper will help create more clarity.
Then, once it is out there, it’s time to evaluate—give every single thing on your brain dump sheet a number in order of priority. The reality is that not everything can be important so you have to choose. Give EVERY SINGLE ITEM a number. There can be no ties.
Once you are clear on your priorities, it’s time to start planning. The first thing I would do is rewrite your list so that it is in order and then draw a line between the top 20% and the bottom 80%. So if there are 20 things on your list, you would draw a solid line between the top 4 and the bottom 16.
And then (and this is the important part) make your plan for just those four things! The rule of 80/20—also known as Pareto’s principle—says that 80% of our results will come from only 20% of our actions. This means that if you can cross off the top 4 things on your list, so you will solve 80% of your stress. So block out time on your schedule as soon as possible to get those top 4 things done.
This is where the rubber meets the road! Once you’ve blocked out your time and created your plan, you need to implement it. That means buckling down and getting serious and reminding yourself, sometimes over and over WHY this is important.
When you execute, try to work in focused time blocks of 60-90 minutes. Set the timer if you have to, and give yourself a break. But while you are focused, BE FOCUSED! Turn off your phone, messaging, etc. Turn off the Internet. Get off Facebook. Give yourself the gift of no distractions, and then give yourself a time limit to get it done.
Mother Theresa once said “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”
Along those same lines, Ashley Ormon once pointed out that “You can’t make up for lost time. You can only do better in the future.”
In other words, no matter how stressful or busy our week or month has been, we have the opportunity to turn things around, starting right now.
My challenge for you, if you’ve been feeling busy and overwhelmed, is to take some time TODAY to follow these three steps. Get all those tornadoes out of your head and onto a piece of paper, where you can prioritize them and create a concrete plan of action. I promise you’ll feel much better!
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