conquer overwhelm – get more done with less stress with this one powerful habit

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conquer overwhelm with this one powerful habit

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.

get more done with less stress with this one powerful habit

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  1. Years ago I used the “Day Timers” Diary system where you write down all the tasks and in no particular order. On the left of the task you assign an A, B, C or D to it. a meaning it had to be done today, B meaning you would like it done today, C meaning tasks to be done and D were things to be done but not a priority. At the end of each day you would re-write all the tasks onto the next days work list and reassign your letters again and these are not necessarily the same letters these tasks were yesterday. It was a great system. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane

    1. Melissa Goodwin says:

      This is an awesome idea! I’m not sure I’d have enough time to do that at the moment, but it sounds great, thanks Kathy.

  2. I used to work with a guy who would let all the paperwork pile up on his desk until you couldn’t see the surface.

    After it got too high he would bring in a garbage bag and throw everything out saying “If it was important they will chase me . . . If it wasn’t important it doesn’t matter!

    1. Melissa Goodwin says:

      LOL, now that’s the best idea I’ve heard!

  3. Eileen Miles says:

    When your doing your ‘One thing right now’ DO’NT get side tracked. Sometimes tasks overlap put the sidetrack to one side or make a note, then continue with the RiGHT NOW.
    Sometimes the tasks look too large – break them down into smaller sections if possible.
    If tidying- do one drawer or shelf or cupboard at a time. Have containers on hand for things like dispose -rag- another room(one of the biggest sidetracks is taking things to other rooms), or storage.
    If its a large area (like the garden) do one section at a time or one task at a time and tick it off when you finish that one task .INSTANT boost one less thing to do!
    If you have a big job and you know it will take all or most of the day plan a slow cook meal (or make something that can be reheated the day before)
    If you use post it notes stack them on top of each other not side by side -then take great pleasure in ripping the finished task off and recylcing the paper (or put it on the bottom of the pile if it is a recurring task).

    1. Melissa Goodwin says:

      Good advice! Wish my kids understood that :).

  4. This is great advice! Hope I can remember it when we finally have an inspection on our house (currently for sale). I was running around like a mad woman making things neat, tidy and clean for agents and photographer. My poor son copped most of my stress :-(

    1. Melissa Goodwin says:

      Isn’t that what family is for? :) Hope you’re feeling better now and you sell your house smoothly.