Feeling overwhelmed sucks the joy out of our lives. And nobody (that I know, anyway) actually LOVES to live by their to-do list. We do it out of necessity, because we need to be organised, not because the whole “I have a to-do list longer than I can see” concept is fun (and I’m saying this as a type A person – I am super-organised, but I also do it because I have to, not because I find the concept of having every second planned enjoyable).
So how do we make our lists shorter and more manageable? What should we actually do to only do that which matters most and still have time left over? “Free time” for this hobby-like activity called “living our life”?
In part 1 of this article I walked you through the first four strategies for where to start if you’re feeling overwhelmed and like your to-do list grows faster than you can tick things off of it. If you haven’t read it yet, I’d recommend you first go there to catch up on part 1 and then come back for the more advanced strategies here (but do not dismiss the foundations of part 1 – we looked at the problems behind the problem, and dealing with that will be huge if you want a good outcome).
Take this list as something to implement step-by-step, or read through it all and choose the step that resonates with you the most. But above all, make sure you take action, because knowing it all will still do nothing for your overwhelm and stress if you choose to do nothing. (If you need help in that area, here you can watch a video I did on how to implement new habits and make them stick.)
Pick from this list what resonates most and take action – your freedom awaits:
5. Go to sleep early
This might seem counterintuitive if you’re currently trying to hustle to get things done, BUT you NEEEEEED sleep in order to function well. After a good night’s sleep you’ll see solutions, where otherwise you might see problems. You’ll be more optimistic, more energetic, more productive and more efficient. Sometimes you need to take away some time from your task-accomplishing schedule in order to GAIN time a little later down the road.
You have full permission to go to sleep early and sleep in (the first chance you’ll get). This will help you get back on track.
Also, consider this: going to sleep too late is a very common way of self-sabotaging. You might plan to go to sleep early, but then time passes – on you-don’t-know-what – and suddenly it’s late again and you won’t be able to get up early to do that thing you wanted to do. If that ever happened to you, dig deeper and look for the real reason why you’re not going to sleep sooner. And then create a system that will help you make it to bed on time.
(If you have any questions about this part, leave me a comment below. I might do a blog post about how to make going to sleep at the time you want to go to sleep into a system, rather than leaving it to chance. So leave a comment if that sounds like something you want to implement too!)
6. Plan some self-care (before your immune system will do that for you)
Plan a break and rest, or else your body will finally demand that of you in a form of an illness.
We can’t go on at 100% non-stop. And if you try, your body is likely to stop you by making you ill (so that you finally do go to bed), or throwing some other illness or condition your way. So isn’t it better to plan a bath, or go to a sauna, or a massage, rather than later having to go to a doctor?
Take it from me, someone who has in the past said things like “I wish I had taken a day off” on Sunday evening, only to throw out my back and not be able to move on Monday morning. – My body delivered! I just wish I had taken that day off myself before it happened – I would’ve enjoyed it more than lying in bed – immobilised ;)
That’s why it’s important to make some time for free time, even if you don’t feel free yet. (And if you started from implementing steps from part 1, then you should start seeing some openings in your calendar to do that.)
7. Get over procrastination with the 5 second rule
Do you ever procrastinate on tasks that are on your to-do list? This concept comes from a book “The 5 Second Rule” by Mel Robbins and here is how it can help you get over procrastination.
Instead of avoiding a task for hours while thinking about it, when the task comes up on your schedule or list as the next thing to do, countdown from 5 and then GO, before your brain tries to talk you out of it.
So if you have a task to call your accountant, or a mortgage advisor, or schedule an MRI (all real examples from my current list;)) then when it comes up on your schedule or list as the next thing to do, immediately start counting: “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO!” And at “GO!”, you “go”, meaning you take action on it.
The idea is that if you focus on counting, you won’t be focusing on coming up with excuses as to why you should wait and actually do it later. Of course, you’ve got to make sure to schedule those tasks into your day/prioritize it on your to-do list first. But then, when the time comes, you won’t be looking for excuses as to why you shouldn’t do it yet, or what else you’d like to do first. Countdown from 5 and you’ll jump right in!
Give it a try before you dismiss how simple it sounds. I’ve only implemented it recently, so I don’t have a strong habit of doing this every time yet, but when I do this, it works! Thus it saves me time and energy that I otherwise would’ve wasted on procrastination.
8. Manage your energy, not time
This one is SUPER important. If you have 6 tasks and you estimate that each of them will take you half an hour, it does matter which one you’ll start from. Identify the hardest tasks ENERGETICALLY – those are usually things that you might not want to do and would try to avoid the most – and start from those.
Things that carry some bigger meaning behind them, things where we’re perhaps afraid of making a decision, etc. Push yourself to start from those first (using the 5 second rule from point 7 above should help!).
And then, soon enough you’ll see that it’s not about managing tasks like: 6 x 30min. If you identify the task that feels like it’s “hanging over you” the most and get it done first, you’ll actually relieve so much of the pressure from your energy, that you’ll gain momentum, be able to do more, and finish things off quicker.
But if you look at your tasks purely as a list that need to be time-managed, you’ll likely start from the easiest tasks first (those that don’t actually affect your energy), leaving the ones that put pressure on you affecting you for longer, which can end in prolonged procrastination and will affect your overall performance and productivity in every other minute of the day (while that task is still not done yet).
Do you see now how much of a difference it can make to manage your tasks by how much energy they take up from you (by you worrying and thinking about them)? Switching from managing your time to managing your energy alone is a GAME CHANGER.
And, if you focus on managing only time, you can easily end up assessing your day’s accomplishments arbitrarily, by number of productive hours or ticked off boxes in that day. I think that a better way of assessing our day would be to instead look at how much we were being in the flow and how much time we spent on things that make us happy (and all of that is a result of managing your energy over managing your time).
One day will never come if you don’t make it happen now
I used to think (up until VERY recently, and I can still catch myself falling into that trap, so be patient with yourself because unlearning this takes time): “one day, when I’m done with all my tasks on my to-do list, THEN I’ll be able to devote time and attention to …ABC…” “One day, when I tick off the most important things from my list, I will think about my dream and my why more often and what I can do to make my dreams a reality”.
As I’m sure you see when seeing those thoughts in black and white, this isn’t the best way of thinking. It actually can hinder you a lot if you keep repeating them to yourself without realising. And if your to-do list overwhelms you, you can easily start telling yourself similar stories without catching yourself, which in turn will make you believe that you should be postponing your life.
I want to leave you with this one question: how do you want to FEEL in your life? (Bonus points for leaving a comment below with the first answer that comes to your mind!)
I want my life to feel free and spacious, and I am choosing to live that way now. And so those are the steps I took and am taking every day for my list to never hinder me again.
With all the freedom vibes out there coming your way,