How to Get Things Done When You’re Overwhelmed
If you work in a creative field, it’s hard to know how to get things done when you’re overwhelmed, and everything is on fire. From coming up with new creative and meeting deadlines to being bombarded with interruptions, deciding what fire to put out first can be difficult. And let’s face it, sometimes it’s so overwhelming you might feel like letting the whole damn thing burn to the ground.
Before you give up, try these five tips on how to get things done when you’re overwhelmed:
1. Identify and Prioritize The Work
- On a sheet of paper or a Word doc, write down everything you need to get done.
- Next, prioritize and number them in order of importance.
- Finally, write out all the mini-tasks that need to be completed to achieve each task and the due date for completion. For a big goal like launching a new website, that could look like approving the design concept by Friday, finalizing the copy by next Tuesday and choosing photos from the photoshoot by next Friday.
Seems simlpe enough, right? But until you can see everything that’s on your plate and know what’s due when you won’t be able to juggle things around. Which leads us to tip #2:
2. Use the 4D method
If the lists seem daunting and you’re not sure how to get all the things done, use the 4D method (delegate, drop, defer and do):
Delegate: First, what tasks can you delegate? If you feel some resistance at the thought, consider this. Do you want to be a jack of all trades and a master of none in your career, or do you want to be a go-to expert? When you spread yourself thin, you can get a lot done, but it won’t be done well. When you focus on what you’re good at, however, your quality of work will increase, and as a result, your business and customers will benefit. Where are you wasting time on low-value work, or work that others on your team could or should be doing? What can you delegate so you can focus on what you do best – where you bring unique value?
Drop: Second, what can you drop from the list? Is there anything that isn’t important? Think of tasks that won’t add value to your work and don’t need to be on the list at all. If it’s not integral to big-picture, drop it.
Delay: Third, is there anything on the list that can be done at a later date? When we’re overwhelmed, we tend to see ALL the work that needs to be done, creating more overwhelm? Since you’ve identified all your tasks and their order of importance, focus on getting the necessary work done now, and put everything else on the “do it later” list.
Do: Finally, AFTER you’ve delegated, dropped and deferred, you should find yourself with a small, focused list of tasks that you can do (and do well), prioritized by importance and due date.
3. Eliminate Distractions
You prioritized and created a focused to-do list. You’re finally ready to get things done, and you’re almost in the productivity zone…then a client calls. And you respond to a quick email. Then another email. Then a team member stops by for a quick chat. And you decide to check your Instagram and BOOM! It’s 4 PM, and despite putting in “busy” hours, you didn’t get any productive work done.
A recent study shows that it takes 25 minutes to get our focus back every time we’re interrupted. You read that right. To get things done when you’re overwhelmed, schedule your workday in 90-120 minute, uninterrupted time chunks with 5-15 minute breaks in-between. Close your door, turn off your notifications and your email and give yourself the gift of focus.
4. Set Boundaries around personal time
Boundaries protect your energy when you have a lot going on. Having consistent, non-work downtime and breaks every day is critical to your self-care and will help you manage your overwhelm. Here are some examples:
- Saying no to work after you leave the office
- Turning off social media notifications
- Only checking emails a few times a day
- Keeping your phone in another room at night
- Taking regular breaks throughout the day
- Saying no to request for your time during especially busy times
5. Pick Three
If you have a long to-do list, it can be hard to decide when you’ve done enough each day. If you struggle with shutting off and setting boundaries, try this trick.
At the end of each day, write down one to three tasks to work on tomorrow. If you don’t finish them, put them on the next day’s list. If you do, even if you’ve finished at noon, give yourself permission to take a break.
Drowning in overwhelm and need an extra level of support? Reach out and schedule a free discovery session with me here. Coffee on me!