Feeling Overwhelmed? 5 Steps to Gain Control and Get Things Done

Steps to Gain Control and Get Things Done
Lorie Kleiner Eckert

By Lorie Kleiner Eckert | Mar 15th, 2020

Some days, when my Keurig coffee maker’s water reservoir blinks at me because it needs to be filled, I feel like I’m being pushed over the edge. I want to shout, “I have too many things to do! I don’t have time to fill you!” It makes no difference that in my heart I know how much easier my life is because of that Keurig (I no longer have to wash a coffee pot), there are days when it’s just too much to fill the darn reservoir.

Yesterday morning was like that. What had me so frazzled at only 8:00 in the morning was the fact that my Fitbit needed to be charged. So, I plugged it into the USB port on my laptop. When I did that I realized that my laptop needed to be charged, so I plugged that in as well. Then I noticed that my iPhone had mysteriously gone from 50% power to 6% power (what?!) so into the same electrical outlet went a second charging device to handle the phone. With all of those cords coming in and out of my devices, it looked like they were on life-support. I felt like I needed it too.

If this sounds overly dramatic, I should add that my phone was at 100% power at 6 AM. Then, after reading emails for 10 minutes it went down to 90%. A one hour walk – with the phone in my pocket but never used – brought the power down to 50%. Clearly, end of life scenarios were appropriate – at least for my battery – and a visit to my Apple store needed to be fit into my already-too-busy day! How dare the Keurig need water on such a stressful morning?!

Obviously, the Keurig situation is no big deal. Even needing a new battery – or a new phone – is not a major life issue. I know this! Yet on mornings like this, I feel like my blood pressure is skyrocketing, as my pounding heart taps out the real problem: I have too much to do! Fortunately, I have a solution. When I am juggling too many balls, I must put some of them down. Here is a game plan that includes subtraction.

Step One: Make a list of everything you need to do.

If you are the kind of person who writes notes to yourself, consolidating your twenty little pieces of paper into one list will be gratifying in itself. If, on the other hand, you are the kind of person who keeps a running to-do list in your mind, this will clear space in your brain in the same manner that deleting email frees memory in your computer.

Step Two: Subtract from this list anything that can be put off until another day.

Move these items to a second list: The Parking Lot. These tasks are not gone. They are not forgotten. They are just waiting to move higher up on the priority scale.

Step Three: Your slimmed down Everything List is now your Urgent List. Let’s subtract more from it!

Clearly, there are some things on the list that can be done quickly. Set a timer for sixty minutes and knock out as many of these tasks as possible, such as calling the plumber and dentist. You will love your sense of accomplishment plus you will kick-start your day!

Step Four: Prioritize the remaining tasks and get going on the most important ones.

It is sometimes helpful to have more than one big task in progress on the same day. For instance, I am always on a deadline to write blogs, but I only write two hours a day. I find that getting away from a task gives me perspective on it. So, after my two-hour timer rings (yes, I set it for this too, it keeps me focused) I move on to the next important project.

Step Five: Join the Just Say No Club.

It will only take a few days on this regimen to get things under control. But then you have to keep things under control. Sure, you want to chair the bake sale at your church but will that fit into your life? Instead, volunteer to bake one pan of brownies. Bottom line: be very selective in taking on new tasks. Subtraction is your goal, not addition.

I’d wish you luck on getting things under control but since subtraction is a second-grade skill, I know you can do it. Step One awaits you. Create your list now!

Lorie Kleiner Eckert

Lorie Kleiner Eckert

Lorie Kleiner Eckert thinks of herself as a cheerleader with the message: Life is difficult, but you can do it! Her new book, Love, Loss, and Moving On is available on Amazon.


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