Four Tips for Escaping Constant Overwhelm – Number Three Is My Favourite

I know I’m not going to shock you when I say that as a society, we’ve never been more stressed — chances are you’re reading this in one of several tabs open on your phone as you commute, on your iPad over lunch, or even in bed! But stress is like our generation’s cigarettes — we know it’s bad for us and it’s making us really ill, but we keep coming back for more.

I’m absolutely as culpable as anyone else.

In fact, I used to be so busy that the thought of me not checking my phone every five minutes was laughable! But it was really taking a toll on my body and on my relationships. I often felt like a hamster, stuck in a wheel, going round and round, but not actually getting anywhere.

Something had to change.

In the process of radically simplifying my life, I’ve found that it’s actually nowhere near as hard as I thought it might be. You don’t need to buy into some complicated system or chant a mantra every day. You just need to do less overall and do more really targeted things.

But how do you actually do that when you’re in the middle of an already stressful day and need to kill the overwhelm FAST?

1. Start by sitting down for 15 minutes. No phone, no notifications, no computer, no TV. Just sit down with a pad and paper. Now for five minutes, do a brain dump — just write down every single thing you “have” to do, personal or work. Don’t go to your phone or your diary to check things; if you forget about it, it can’t be that high a priority!

2. Next, set all that aside and think for five minutes about what you want to accomplish. What’s your overall goal? Do you want to make a lot of money, move to a better neighbourhood, quit your job, get healthier, whatever it is, write it down?

3. Now choose ONE goal to focus on, then spend five minutes figuring out the action that you can take NOW that will have the biggest impact on getting you closer to that goal. You want to think about low hanging fruit;  the fastest, easiest thing you can do that will have the biggest impact. If you’re getting stuck, make two columns: one where you list out things you could do from hardest and slowest to easiest and fastest, and the other listing them out in terms of least impact to most impact. Whatever ends up being easiest with the biggest impact is what you should do.

And as you’re doing this, remember the 80/20 rule — 80% of your productivity, return, or benefit is going to come from about 20% of your action, so don’t get confused and think that you have to do some huge, time consuming thing to get a lot of return. You’ll probably get better results with something smaller and more focused!

4. And now spend your last five minutes ruthlessly going through your to do list and cutting out everything that doesn’t get you towards your ultimate goal. You can outsource it, postpone it, or delete it altogether. You may feel guilty, or like you ‘should’ be able to do everything all the time, or like you’re being lazy if you outsource things, but I can tell you from years of experience, you're not! It’s the most productive, efficient thing you can do and it's the only way to get your life back.

And that’s how you do it — you get laser-focused on what you’re trying to accomplish, and then work your way back from that to figure out the action you can take NOW that will have the most impact.

So have a try and tell me how it goes! And if you've got any great tips or strategies, then share with the rest of us …