We’ve all been there—you have a million things on your mind and it seems like half of them need your attention right now. You feel pulled in many different directions, unable to focus on any one thing at a time. You’re anxious and bogged down with stress. How are you going to get through this while getting things done on time?
1. Make a Short List
The first step is to put away the massive to-do list and start with what is most important. I like to limit my short list to just three high-priority items at a time. Try making your own list of three, then focus only on the top item on your list until it’s completed. If your high-priority items are too complex to complete in a day, then you probably need to break them down further into more manageable bite-size tasks.
2. Call in Reinforcements
Overwhelming moments are the perfect time to lean on your support network. You may have a partner or team member who can take some work off of your plate. Maybe reinforcements for you are best in the form of people who can take on some of your non-work responsibilities (childcare, cleaning, running errands) so you can focus on your work. The key is to ask for help when you need it.
3. Take a Breather
When things get especially tense, sometimes the best thing you can do is walk away. Give yourself a 30-minute break (or longer, if needed) to reset your psyche and get yourself centered. A break can do wonders for perspective, too. Maybe you’re getting stressed out about things that aren’t all that important.
4. Turn Up the Music
Music can boost productivity, so pick some of your favorite tunes to play in the background while you focus on your three high-priority items. I find that the louder the music, the more motivated I become. The “psyching up” period usually happens in just a song or two, so you don’t need to necessarily blast the tunes all day long (thankfully!).
5. Say No to Potential New Stress Sources
If your stress is stemming from simply having too much to do, it may be time to start saying no. As much as you may want to do everything and be there for everyone, it’s not always realistic. When you reach the critical point when something has to give, saying no is the only option.
6. Go for a Run
A good sweat can be the perfect way to reset the overwhelm and get yourself motivated to work. Try going for a run, or a walk, or to the gym, anything that gets your blood flowing. You can burn off some of the anxiety and come back to work calmer and more focused.
7. Wait Until Tomorrow
If all else fails, the answer may be in just leaving it all to tomorrow. This is especially true if you’re tired and burnt out. When you reach that point, sleep can help solve the problem. Get a good night’s sleep and come back to your list in the morning when you’re fresh and ready to go.
Once you recognize the signs of overwhelming stress approaching, any of these tips should help you rein it in and take back control. As you discover more tricks that work for you, create an emergency checklist to keep on your desk so you know exactly what to do next.
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