Anyone that knows me knows how long it took me to unpack from a recent move. I am the person that gets into only the boxes I need things from on a daily basis…the rest sit, waiting to be tended to. Often, by the time I get around to completely unpacking my new apartment, my lease is up (as I write this, there are two boxes in my living room that I still need to unpack into my kitchen. I’ve lived in this place for a year and a half.)
I always tell myself–and attempt to justify my behavior to others–that I don’t have the time. I’m a busy lady. I’m trying to move up the career ladder, be a good mom to my dogs, maintain a social life, and take on the world. I simply cannot be bothered to decorate a home that I’m not in all that often. If I were to be completely honest with myself, however, it’s not because I don’t have the time. It’s because of how overwhelming it is.
Sometimes, I am the person that stands in a room surrounded by things to put away or organize, or even tasks at my desk and freezes up (my desk is routinely littered with coffee cups, energy drinks, and stacks of paper that lack any discernible organization.) I can’t find a place to start, and if I don’t have a game plan put together, then how can I be successful at any of this? I know I’m not alone–being overwhelmed can be a crippling thing. Often, I hear (and can relate to) stories of people being so overwhelmed by work, school, and other obligations that they end up doing EVERYTHING besides what they’re supposed to do: watching online videos, spending all day on Facebook, doing laundry, the list goes on. How do we regain focus after feeling like we’re drowning in all the things we need to do? In her article “Four Strategies to Help You Feel Less Overwhelmed,“ Jennifer Hughes covers some key things to do in order to regain perspective. Though the article was written with college students in mind, Career Girls have a lot to take away from Hughes’ ideas. A few gems:
Take all of the loose to-dos rolling around your head and write them all down. Categorize them into school, work, family and prioritize. The next step is the key: stop thinking about the items that don’t need to be immediately addressed.
There’s one small step you can take [...]that can help you feel less stressed [...]: creating a Master Calendar.
While it may seem like there aren’t enough hours in the day, if you stop to examine your schedule, you may find there are small time slots that you could be utilizing more efficiently.
One thing that I would like to add to Hughes’ advice: breathe. Taking in deep breaths can help clear your mind for just long enough to get started on your soon-to-be-highly-organized to-do list and master calendar. Once this is all done, pick a starting point and get going. Some people recommend starting with the most urgent and important tasks on your list and working from there, but even that can be difficult to organize. On top of that, you may have several items in each of your urgent/important quadrants. Where do you start then? Here’s a hint: ANYWHERE. Close your eyes and point at one if you have to. The key is to get started once the list has been done. Tell yourself that you’ll do that task until completion, or maybe even just ten minutes–you’ll probably end up finishing it anyway.
Getting overwhelmed can be easy for anyone looking to build a solid career. Next time you feel a panic attack coming on while thinking about your to-do list, take a breath and start implementing Hughes’ advice. I, for one, am going to breathe deeply…and then unpack those boxes before I have to move again.