Write lists, she said. Brain dump and you’ll feel better, she said.
One hour later and a to-do list four A4 pages long and I was hyperventilating.
The brain dump had backfired.
As part of my little heart attack episode, I received a few free stress-management sessions with the counsellor. A lot of what she recommended is stuff you all already know, like writing to-do lists, but it’s stuff that falls to the wayside when you’re stressing out.
Of course, my four page to-do list was ridiculous. Consumed by overwhelm, mind in overdrive, I wrote down everything that fired synapses.
Can you see the problem here?
By making concrete everything that came to mind, the to-do list fuelled the feeling of overwhelm instead of fixing it.
There’s a massively important fundamental to keeping a to-do list that I was failing to do.
That important fundamental is prioritising.
Brain dumping is not enough to overcome overwhelm. It just acts as a visual reminder of all the things we haven’t yet done. It reinforces the feeling of overwhelm, making it worse.
So I’ve started using a little mantra that will quieten the multitude of tasks that buzz noisily around your brain.
This one little phrase gives you laser-sharp focus and allows you to de-stress and get more done.
Conquer overwhelm, conquer the to-do list and thrive with this one simple yet powerful habit.
one simple habit that conquers overwhelm
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, and you’re fighting an avalanche of to-dos, pause for a moment and ask yourself:
“what’s the most important thing I need to do right now?”
Close your eyes for a moment. Take a few deep breaths. Quiet the racing thoughts.
I know it sounds a little hocus-pocus, but it works to de-stress and to FOCUS on yourself, your surrounds and the needs of the current moment.
What is the most important thing you need to do right now?
Do you need some extra time out and TLC to get it together? A little rest? A cuppa? Lunch? Some exercise?
Do your kids need some attention, food, sleep, outdoor play?
Does your space need a tidy?
Is there a project at work that needs tackling or an email that needs answering?
Is there something painful you’ve been putting off that will free you if you just eat that frog.
Is there a particular task that needs to be done right now? What’s the most important thing you need to accomplish today?
What’s the ONE AND ONLY thing you need to do right now that will move you towards accomplishing that important task?
Now that you have laser focus, now that you’ve swept all those other demands aside for the time being, do that one thing you need to do right now.
And when it’s done ask yourself again: what’s the most important thing I need to do right now?
And do that.
By the end of the day, you’ll have accomplished far more than if you ran around like a headless chook chasing this task and the next. You’ll be calmer and less stressed.
You’ll take time to prioritise your own needs as well as the needs of others because you’ll pause, breathe and recognise your needs when they arise.
By paying attention to and honouring your personal needs, you’ll be more effective in getting everything else done as well.
Lists and schedules are useful but not on their own.
They need to be coupled with prioritisation otherwise a list is worse than useless. Looking down at an unfinished list can make you feel like a failure. A list should be a tool, not a way to judge yourself!
But by prioritising your list and focusing on what’s important in the moment, you’ll be more effective and less stressed.
Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.