How To Be Productive When You Are Overwhelmed
Learn A Few Simple Tricks To Manage Your Stress & Get More Done!
It's nearly impossible to be productive when you feel overwhelmed. Time seems to simultaneously speed up and stop completely as you think you will never finish everything on your list, yet somehow the day will never end. You can't stop the clock, but fortunately for you, there are some things you can do to help ease your stress and increase your productivity.
We’ve all been there. You have ten different things that need to be done by 5 PM, haven’t finished a single thing, and every time you look at the clock, it appears to have skipped forward another 30 minutes. You are trying your hardest, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. In fact, the harder you try, the more time skips forward. Eventually, you end up sitting at your desk, watching the clock go by, feeling more and more overwhelmed by the second. It might feel like all hope is lost, but I’m here to tell you that with a few simple tricks, you can learn how to be productive when you are overwhelmed.
Disclaimer: I am not a magician. These are not magic tricks. They are simple techniques that I use to hit that invisible reset button and get back on track.
Take A Break and Walk Away
It might sound counterproductive, but the best thing you can possibly do is stop working. Give yourself 5 minutes to get your **** together, literally and figuratively.
Seriously, when is the last time you stepped away to go to the bathroom?!
It’s time to take a quick break. Stop what you are doing, put everything down, get up, and walk away. If you’re working from home, go take out the trash or wipe off the counters. If you’re in an office, go get a fresh cup of coffee. Better yet, skip the coffee and grab some water and a healthy snack.
I know what you’re probably thinking right now. Seriously? That’s your advice. I don’t have time for that!
You probably have more time than you realize, or at least you will if you can stop wasting it. You have spent the last 20 minutes scrolling through your email or staring blankly at your computer screen. Why spend another 5 minutes the same way when you can give yourself this time to clear your mind and get ready for a fresh start?
The fact is, you cannot truly be productive when you are overwhelmed. So, the only way to guarantee that you can get anything done is by spending the time to clear your head and reduce or eliminate those negative feelings. Stepping away gives you a chance to cool down and return with a fresh perspective.
Once you are away from your desk, try to clear your mind of any work activities. This may be difficult to do, but you should at least try. Spend a moment with your eyes closed, focusing on your breathing. Ignore any thoughts about how much you have left to do. Instead, breathe in and focus on the way it feels – every tiny sensation. As you breathe out, focus on the air leaving your lungs.
Don’t worry if this all seems a little weird to you. Breathing to clear your mind isn’t the same as breathing for survival. If you’re not quite used to breathing exercises, you might find it helpful to use an app to help guide you through it. My personal recommendation is Calm, but you can use anything that works for you.
Ease Back Into It
Now that you are hopefully feeling a little more relaxed (or at least a little more oxygenated), you can ease back into work-mode. However, before you try picking up exactly where you left off, ask yourself a very important question – am I trying to do too much?
If you are trying to do 30 hours of work in a 5-hour span, you have to know that’s not going to work out for you. So, before you get back to trying to tackle everything on your list, consider rethinking your plan for today. Is there anything that you can hold off on until tomorrow? How about delegating some of the work to a co-worker or your significant other?
Remember that it’s okay to say NO if you don’t have time for something. Don’t try to do it all just to please everyone else.
Build Up Momentum
Being an adult generally means having to do things that we don’t always like. For some of us, that’s cleaning. For others, it’s filling out long complicated forms or doing menial tasks that bore us half to death. You might not be able to avoid these tasks forever, but it might be worth considering if there is something else that you can focus on for now, just to get your momentum going.
If you can, pick an easier task or something that you know you can finish in a short period of time. Just make sure it’s something that actually needs be done and that you aren’t just using it as an excuse to not do the important things.
As you begin to complete tasks, you should start to feel less and less overwhelmed. After all, you’re doing it! There is no argument that you are getting things done. Time might not be sitting still, but neither are you. That’s something you should always be proud of.
Work your way back to your original task once you feel like you can finally take it on and give it the attention it deserves. Now you will probably be able to finish it with time to spare. But also, just in case you don’t, know that it is okay to change your plans. Sometimes things change. Work at it. Learn from it. Grow with it. After all, you never know when you’ll have to interrupt your afternoon to catch and save a tiny mouse in your living room.
Monday Morning Put It All To The Test
Monday mornings are typically the latest that I try to write and schedule my blog post for Tuesday. If at all possible, I prefer to try to have them done the week before, unless it is more of a real-time topic like my Summer of Code updates. Now, I usually don’t mind saving things like this for Monday morning because I tend to be a “new week, fresh perspective” type of person, meaning Mondays are extremely productive and positive for me.
However, this week was entirely different. I started Monday morning thinking about how much I needed to get done and how far behind schedule I had fallen the week before. Within less than an hour, I was anxious, overwhelmed, unmotivated, and feeling extremely unproductive. That’s not exactly the type of positive, creative headspace that I need to be in to write, especially when the post is supposed to be about decorating and creating your own artwork.
Despite knowing that I wasn’t in a great place, I decided to try to get the post done anyway. I spent over an hour typing (and subsequently deleting) my post title. That’s how far I got. The only words to be typed and actually submitted were the ones on Twitter as I vented my frustrations.
It was time to walk away.
Once I realized how much time I was wasting, I took a step back. I got up from the computer, went into the kitchen, and began putting the clean dishes away.
You know it’s bad when this is what I resort to. Seriously, I hate putting the dishes away. There is nothing enjoyable about finding a place for all those containers and their stupid, slightly warped, no-longer-stackable lids. Still, that was my escape, and it turned out to be a pretty good one.
Then I was ready to clear my head with some deep breathing exercises.
After a few minutes, I was able to come back to my desk. I took several deep breaths and tried to get my head back into the game. After a moment, I decided to stop wasting my time trying to write a blog post that just wasn’t going to happen right then. So, I looked at my to do list to see what else I had to do today.
I built up momentum with smaller, simpler tasks.
45 minutes later, I confirmed my online grocery order. My first task of the day was officially complete. And I have to tell you, it felt good. I was still feeling a little overwhelmed, but at least I could mark something important off my list.
Now that I was feeling a bit of momentum, I decided to capitalize on that while simultaneously working on my bad mood.
So, I turned on some trash TV — there is no better description for Love Island — and grabbed my iPad to start working on my Color My Life project.
Then I finally finished strong.
Within a few hours, I felt like my entire day had somehow reset. I had found a way to be productive, despite feeling so overwhelmed. still didn’t have my blog post done, but that was OK. Actually, it was probably for the best. I accepted the fact that I would either have to write at the last minute or skip the post entirely. And that was fine.
Then something kind of amazing happened. Somewhere between my second or third episode of Love Island, my mind started wandering back to my blog. I wasn’t thinking about the creative post I’d originally planned, but I was inspired to write.
Without waiting for the episode to finish, I closed Hulu, logged into my WordPress dashboard, created a new post, and started typing.
Title: How To Be Productive When You Are Overwhelmed
The rest is history for me, and a present for you.
Do you have any other advice on what to do when you are overwhelmed and need to be productive? Please let me know. And if you enjoy reading content like this, be sure to subscribe below to get alerts in your inbox when I post something new. ❤