Do you ever feel overwhelmed by a project? Do you ever get stuck staring at the task at hand, contemplating its enormity and wonder how in the world you will even be able to take a first step towards tackling it?
Nothing screams overwhelming like a gigantic, looming task with no end in sight and no obvious place to start. The natural response when facing an insurmountable mountain like this is to run the other way and hope for something easier.
But, as much as you might want to toss that monster, stress-inducing idea aside and tackle something less intimidating and immediate, the fighter in you stands her ground. You want to accomplish this goal. You want to stand on the other side of that mountain and say, I didn’t let you get in my way because I’m stronger than that!
You realize, you just need a plan. You need a strategy. You need to take that first step, then another, until you’ve taken enough to transport you from overwhelmed to victorious. If a dream is too big to grasp, it’s hard to view it in any immediate terms. So, here is where you can play a productive card in your hand and turn that enormous, scary mountain into something more digestible.
In my book, Productivity: 15 Simple Tips to Get Things Done, I shared some ways to get past the feeling of being overwhelmed by chunking a project down into small, digestible steps.
Stop feeling overwhelmed one bite at a time
Imagine you’re staring at a plate of macaroni. If you attempted to clear your plate in one move, you’d choke. So, instead, you’d dig your fork into it and conquer one bite at a time, allowing yourself the time, space, and ability to accomplish the task at hand.
Before you know it, you will start to see the plate’s surface. One by one, that pile of macaroni disappears and digests, offering you more productive fuel to power your journey to the ultimate goal.
View your dreams like that macaroni. Break the enormous dream (clearing your plate) into tasks (one bite at a time), and devour them until you’ve succeeded.
As you start to work on your tasks, one digestible step at a time, celebrate your successes. Treat yourself when you complete a portion. You’ll be amazed when you look back and realize how much progress you made!
Stop feeling overwhelmed: Take a step back
Don’t be afraid to take a few steps backwards if you run into obstacles. Many believe that productivity means pushing forward no matter what. That can sometimes be counterproductive if you’re facing a brick wall. Often times, these brick walls offer opportunity to step back and take a look at your path to make sure it’s still right for you.
If a brick wall stands in your way, instead of limiting yourself to the planned route, allow for flexibility. In fact, plan on it. You need to be flexible. Being flexible sometimes takes us off the structured path, and that’s good. We often find solutions on that ground that has never seen a footprint.
To get to where you’re going, you may have to take several steps backwards, giving yourself time to consider things with more creativity. Being productive has nothing to do with speed or time, but progress. Progress sometimes requires stepping back, taking in a wider view, and then getting back to the task at hand with a clearer plan of action.
Leave a Task Incomplete
If you’re stuck on a task, in addition to taking in a wider view, you can also take another approach. Select the biggest tasks to complete your ultimate goal. These will become your anchors.
Here’s how. Leave these incomplete, on purpose.
Yes. When you leave tasks incomplete, your mind won’t forget them. You create a cliffhanger that begs for you to go back and settle the intrigue. Not only will the cliffhanger beg for your continued attention, but it’ll do something very productive. It will create opportunity for freshness to flow in because you will be figuring out how to tackle the cliffhanger in a new setting, which will allow for new perspectives.
Most of my creative ideas flow to me when I’m not in front of my computer. I love leaving a cliffhanger sentence at the end of a writing session because I contemplate how I will resolve or build upon it while I’m not in front of a blank computer screen.
Over to you: Do you have ways that help you to stop feeling overwhelmed?