As adults, we often put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get things done. As we can all agree, there are times when we have a LOT to get done. In those times, just THINKING about everything we need to do can feel majorly overwhelming.
That overwhelm (especially when coupled with anxiety) can make you feel like you’re not doing these things called life and adulting right.
We have this idea in our heads that once you become an adult, you’re supposed to magically have things all figured out. If and when you realize that maybe you don’t, it can make you feel like you’re failing.
To add insult to injury, sometimes not having everything figured out makes it hard for us to move forward.
So, what can you do to overcome this feeling of overwhelm and get things done — even if you don’t have everything figured out?
Here are a few tips I live by that help me to get focused, take action, and alleviate stress in the process.
How to Overcome Overwhelm and Get Things Done
1. Manage Expectations
When I feel overwhelmed by my to-do list, the first thing I do is make an assessment of what’s on the list.
Then, for each item, I ask myself “Is this essential?” In other words, does this thing absolutely have to be done or is it something that can be removed from the list. This step requires me to be 100% honest and to let go of any ideas of perfection or “must do all the things”.
If you’re unable to let go of perfectionist tendencies, it helps to have someone else take a look at the list and give you insight from an outside perspective. Sometimes the things we feel are absolutely critical really aren’t.
I also ask myself “Is this something I have to do right away?” There are some tasks that are definitely important, but it’s not immediately necessary. If something can wait until later (without throwing other things into disarray), it might be a good idea to shelve it for a little bit and come back to it when you can devote your attention to it from a space of more calm.
Answering these two questions can go a long way toward helping you manage expectations. Not just for yourself, but for other people who may be involved in your to-do list (such as employers, coworkers, spouses/partners, children, family, and friends). The goal is for everyone involved to be on the same page about whether the tasks you’ve been (self) assigned are necessary and manageable.
When you take off any tasks that don’t fit the bill, that can help to reduce overwhelm — and make it easier for you to get things done.
When looking at my to-do list, I also ask myself whether I have to be the person to complete each task. As adults, we often feel like we have to do everything ourselves. In reality, though, sometimes it’s impossible to do everything on your own (without compromising your health, your sanity, or your big goals).
Plus, sometimes, it just doesn’t make sense to try to do everything on your own. I’m a firm believer in getting help when you can so you can focus on the things you enjoy and are good at. If there’s something that needs to be done that you either dread or aren’t good at, but you know someone who will happily (and skillfully) do it, why not reach out and have them do just that?
This can mean assigning chores to people in your household, getting a friend or family to do you a favor, or reassigning the task to someone on your team who can get it done.
That way, the task is taken care of and you have more time (and energy) to focus on the things YOU enjoy and are good at.
3. Work at Your Own Pace
Last, but not least, work at your own pace. Don’t let society or any other external entity force you to complete tasks in a timing that doesn’t feel aligned.
Of course, some tasks will be time-sensitive (especially with work), so sometimes you do have to work with a deadline in mind. However, that’s where managing expectations comes into play again. Ask yourself whether the deadline that is set is a reasonable one. If you feel like there’s no way you can get it done in that time frame without a lot of undue stress, communicate with anyone else involved with that task to see if there is any leeway. If not, focus on getting that task done first so you get one of your biggest stressors off your plate quicker.
The key is to create a pace that allows you to get things done without feeling overwhelmed and stressed out.
4. Get Your Mind Right
Another really important tip is to focus on developing the kind of mindset that enables you to let go of worry more easily so you’re not feeling this constant flow of anxiety coursing through your body. I highly recommend listening to some guided meditations to help you practice getting into the right mindset.
In fact, I created the Let Go of Worry meditation precisely for situations like this. You can find it as part of my Breathwork for Anxiety program. Click here to check it out!