Are you constantly feeling overwhelmed? Stressed out? Do you feel like your to-do list is now endless and you have no idea where to start. After feeling the same way- for years- and trying out multiple solutions, I finally found one.
A permanent solution for feeling overwhelmed.No, I’m not going to list a bunch of stuff like “take a walk.” Yes, taking a walk helps. Temporarily. But that endless to-do list and feeling of being overwhelmed are both still there when you get back from that walk.
The solution: Apply 80/20 to Your Life. We’re going to do this two ways:
• Focus on 20% of your to-do list (Did you know 80% of your results come from 20% of your actions?)
• Accept 80% effort/stop striving for perfection
While discussing this, I’m going to give to actual, concrete steps you can take so you stop feeling overwhelmed. Consistently apply and you’ll not only be more relaxed, but your productivity will take a boost also.
Focus on 20% of your to-do list:
Called the Pareto Principle (named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto), this is the theory that top 80% of effects coming from 20% of the causes. Originally applied to land ownership, it has been applied (successfully) to business. Forbes reports multiple business leaders applying this principal to their lives and businesses…and crediting this solution with their success.
I was skeptical that I could do it. For one thing, I hate letting anything not getting done on my to-do list. Another thing? I strive for perfection. One of the hardest things to learn when I started writing professionally was that I would never finish if I insisted on perfection. However, I started applying it. And was amazed with the results.
The 80/20 solution (I’ll do the concrete steps below) calls for you to figure out your to-do list. Prioritize it. Then attack the most important.
Allow 80% to be enough:
When we look at the concrete steps below, you’ll notice one theme emerging time and time again. That we have to- absolutely have to– let go of the idea of perfection.
This is a problem for a lot of people.
• If we don’t have time to eat perfectly and exercise, we don’t start. Or if we mess up part way through the day, we toss in the towel and give up for the day. Or week.
• Our budget is a mess and our bills are overwhelming us? If we don’t have time to set up the perfect budget, track every penny, and fix our problems now, we don’t even start.
• If we can’t clean the house from top to bottom- or even a room perfectly- we don’t even start. After all, why attack the clutter if you can’t clean the floor too?
• I can’t release the perfect digital product for sale for my website…so I don’t even start to develop one.
Do any of these sound familiar to you? If so, you might be focusing on perfection and forgetting that something done, even if not perfect, is better than nothing done.
Concrete steps to stop feeling overwhelmed:
First, figure out your priorities. Seriously take a few minutes to figure out what is most important to you. Don’t worry about the to-do list or things that you think need done right now; instead focus on what you think is important in your life.
If you’re having trouble figuring out your priorities, this is completely normal. Check out my post “Finding Your Way: Guide to Focusing on the Important Things.”
If you’re not sure what your goals are- or where you even want to be- check out my free 2018 Planner. In the planner, there is a section on setting goals. The instructions and worksheets can also help you decide what your priorities are. Or help you determine concrete steps to take to reach said goals.
If you already have your priorities in order, don’t worry about this step.
You have your priorities and goals clear. Now to look at that endless feeling that “this needs done.”
Brain dump and write down everything you need to do. Before you can stop feeling overwhelmed, you need to stop and figure out what needs done. Take 15-30 minutes. Write down everything that comes to mind. Literally. From “most important work related task” right down to “clean the litter box.”
For me with my website, it included the following (this is just a few items on a very, very long list):
Mop the floor
Fold the laundry
Make the grocery list
Cross-stitch (I’m working on a gift for my Dad for Christmas)
Next is to prioritize your to-do list. There are two ways to do this:
1) Simply number by importance.- I don’t recommend this method, but it is one that many people use.
2) [The method I use]. • Categorize tasks. Looking over my list, some clear categories emerged. I ended up having about 15 to-do items in my blogging category. 10 in household category. Another 5 in a general “getting organized” (such as receipts put into Quicken) category.
• Prioritize each category. In the website category, getting my e-mail newsletter out was top priority. I’m launching a product later this year and want to be in touch with my readers regularly. For household, getting dinner made was vital! For organizing, I needed to get money in. Making a dentist appointment could definitely wait until tomorrow. As for that cross-stitching? Well, spending some time with husband was on the list. So I sat in the living room and chatted with him while we watched TV. And I cross-stitched while I was doing that.
While you’re doing this, focus on what will have real results. Remember, 80% of your results generally come from 20% of your effort. (One example: I’ve noticed that I get most of my traffic from Pinterest. And I was spending maybe a quarter of my marketing time there. So I started focusing more marketing time there and letting the other marketing venues go. My traffic has skyrocketed.)
Now, today, attack your number 1 items on each of your category lists. (Or if you just numbered instead of categorizing, attack #1-3). Forget about the rest. If you have time to work on them, great. If not, let it go. This is where the 80/20 comes in- let 80% be enough. Stop worrying that you can’t get everything done.
And keep in mind it will get done. If you utilize this method everyday, you’ll be amazed how much less time you spend worrying and figuring out what to do and more time you spend getting important things done.
I, personally, use a planner. (My own planner I developed, in fact). On the weekly and daily planner, my top to-do list items are listed. Those #1 items are the most important each day. Once they’re done, I can get on to the rest of the list. And since they are in order of priority, I end up with a lot of important stuff accomplished and the stuff at the bottom- well, if I don’t get there, they weren’t actually that important anyways!