How I Take Action When I’m Overwhelmed

How I Take Action When I’m Overwhelmed

I love the feeling of dominating my to do list. When I am organised, taking action and achiveing consistently I feel unstoppable. I know I’m not the only one who’s heart flutters when a tick box is able to be ticked, or a task can be crossed off, and I’m sure I’m not alone when I say “productive” is not and has never been permenant state of being for me.

So the question for me has always been, why is motivation inconsistent? Why do we conquer some days and hesistate and procrasitinate on others? How can we manage the indecisvness and the paralyses when they quickly blind side us so easily? When we’re overwhelmed, how do we still do the things and tick the boxes and cross of the tasks?

I have no idea (anticlimactic I know, I’m sorry), but I have found a way to trick myself into taking action when I am feeling this way. When the youtube video below popped up on my explore page, it was a game changer.

The method Jessica describes in the video is below:

Step one:

Write down everything you need to do. This part is easy. It’s your classic to do list. Get everything that’s poking around in your head onto a peice of paper. Don’t leave anything out.

  1. Walk the dog
  2. Call mom back
  3. Finish first edit of research paper
  4. Finish passport renewal application
  5. Mail passport renewal application
  6. Fold laundry
  7. Buy friend birthday present
  8. Look into hotels for holiday this summer
  9. Go grocery shopping
  10. Go through closet and discard old clothes

Step two:

Grab 3 markers (or coloured pencils, crayons, etc.) and colour code the tasks on your list in terms of urgency.

Red tasks are the priority. These tasks cannot wait and must be done today.

Yellow tasks need to be done within the next three days. You may want to get them done today, because they are important, but it’s vital to be realistic about the deadline. Could you delay this to a few days from now if you had to? If yes, it’s a yellow.

Green tasks do not need to be done within the next couple of days. Maybe these need to be done next week, the week after, or next month, but they don’t have a real urgency at this moment.

  1. Walk the dog
  2. Call mom back
  3. Finish first edit of research paper
  4. Finish passport renewal application
  5. Mail passport renewal application
  6. Fold laundry
  7. Buy friend birthday present
  8. Look into hotels for holiday this summer
  9. Go grocery shopping
  10. Go through closet and discard old clothes

Step three:

Rate each of your tasks in terms of the effort it’s going to take you to complete them. I like to think of effort as a combination of time and concentration.

5/4 stars are the hard ones. These are likely to ones you procrastinate the most. It’s the stuff that will take at least a couple of hours of your time and your concentration.

3 stars will take either less time or less concentration, but will be heavy on the other. (For example, going to the store to get get some food probably doesn’t need a lot of concentration, but may take a fair amount of time.)

2/1 stars are the things you could do in your sleep. For me this looks like mindless activities that are boring: folding laundry, doing dishes, etc. (If I can do it while watching tv, it’s probably a 1 or 2 star. If it will take me less that 5 mintues to do, it’s probably at 1/2 star.)

  1. Walk the dog (* * * 2 Stars)
  2. Call mom back (* * 2 Stars)
  3. Finish first edit of research paper (* * * * 5 Stars)
  4. Finish passport renewal application (* * * * 4 Stars)
  5. Mail passport renewal application (* * * 3 Stars)
  6. Fold laundry (* 1 Star)
  7. Buy friend birthday present (* * * 3 Stars)
  8. Look into hotels for holiday this summer (* * * * 4 Stars)
  9. Go grocery shopping (* * * 3 Stars)
  10. Go through closet and discard old clothes (* * * * 4 Stars)

Step four:

Now that you’ve got some more information on what you need to do, how urgent each task is and how much effort is required for each task, you can decide on a plan of action.

There’s no right or wrong way to tackle this. If you have a lot of red items on your list, then you know you need to do these things today, so it might be easiest to start with the one that’s going to require the least amount of effort to start building momentum. Or maybe you want to start with the task that’s going to take the most amount of effort to get it out of the way, and then you’ll know everything gets easier from there.

The point of this is to clarify what you need to do, acknowledge the urgency of each of the tasks, and being reasonable with your efforts. I’ve used this exercise through periods of depression when it can be really difficult to do even the smallest things, like taking a shower or calling someone back. It also helps me to be realistic about the timelines of tasks I might be worried about. As soon as I write it down and color code it, I realise that actually none of the things I was worried about were urgent, and the anxiety lifts allows me to be present in the day. This is also how I keep the small, mindless tasks at bay and not allow them to overload us by consistently checking in.

Whatever you think will work best for you, probably will, as long as you decide on a plan and then take action.

I’m Courtney and I write about Leadership and Self-Awareness. Thank you for taking the time to read post.

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Your Priorities vs. Your Actions

Your Priorities vs. Your Actions

During lockdown, I feel like I’ve gone through every emotion under the sun. Every feeling, every thought, and ambition has washed over me as I continue to ride this roller coaster that is “the world being paused for who knows how long”. During the first lockdown, I was determined to use this time to my benefit. I’ll finally be able to do all of the things I want to do, but don’t have time to do. Very quickly I realised that no matter how much time was available to me, I did not want to clean, or do life admin, or be productive every second of every day. 

Now, on my third lockdown, it is still tempting to plunge myself into a pool of expectations. My brain goes there naturally, especially when I’m feeling out of control, but I’m learning how to balance this. I’m learning how to be kind to myself, and realistic with what I am going to be capable of, regardless of the amount of time I have available to me. 

This time has also allowed for a lot of reflection.  I’ve been contemplating my priorities recently, and not only is it interesting to observe what I instinctively say is a priority, but then how I act because of or despite these ideas. 

There’s an exercise I’ve tried recently which has helped me to make more sense of my priorities vs. my actions. 

To start, name the top 5 priorities in your life right now

These should be as specific as possible. Instead of saying “family”, for example, you might say “to nurture my relationship with my children” or “to contribute to my family by being a supportive wife”. You might say “to be able to do 50 pushups in a row” or “to stop drinking soda” instead of saying “to get healthier”. The more specific you make your priorities, the better. 

If you’re having trouble pinpointing what your priorities are, think about what goals you currently have, what you want to accomplish in the future, or what is good in your life right now that is important for you to maintain. 

An example would look like this:

My Priorities:

  1. To save money in order to move house
  2. To run a marathon in 2022
  3. Spend more quality time with my husband
  4. Finish my L & D qualification
  5. Spend less time on devices and more time being creative

Now, think about how you spent your day yesterday. 

What did you do for the first hour after you opened your eyes? What did you do after that? And after that?

Start from the beginning and write down exactly or as much as you can remember of how you spent your day. 

An example:

My Actions:

08:00 – 09:00 woke up, made coffee, watched the news

10:00 – 11:00 scrolled through instagram, called a friend, made breakfast

11:00 – 12:00 worked out, took a shower, answered emails

12:00 – 13:00 got dressed, went to the post office, picked up groceries 

13:00 – 18:00 did some work, made and ate lunch

18:00 – 19:00 watched tv, spent time with my husband

19:00 – 20:00 cooked and ate dinner, watched more tv

20:00 – 21:00 finished up more work, cleaned the kitchen

21:00 – 23:00 got ready for bed, scrolled through my phone, went to bed

Now compare the two. 

How much of your time yesterday was put towards the things you say are a priority in your life? 

In the examples above, “spending less time on my devices and being more creative” was a priority, but what is reflected is there are no actions backing that up. “Run a marathon in 2022” is also listed as a priority, but there aren’t any actions showing that is more important than watching tv, for example. 

If you have found an inconsistency with your priorities and actions, what needs to be questioned is whether or not the things you wrote down are actually a priority. What I love about this exercise is that our actions do not lie and ultimately, how we spend our time will show us what our futures look like.

If your priorities and actions are not aligned, you have two choices: You can either get realistic about your priorities, maybe dropping or swapping a few, or you can start putting more action in towards them.

Let it go or make it work.

Maybe you really want to make something a priority, but you’re struggling with making time for it. I get it, but what I would suggest is finding 15 minutes a day to put towards it. If something is actually a priority in your life, surely you can find 15 minutes per day to focus on it. If you can’t find 15 minutes, I’m sorry to say, you need to take it off your priority list until you have time to focus on it consistently.

(Don’t think 15 minutes per day is enough time? After one year, that’s 5, 475 minutes – which adds up to about 91 hours, almost four whole days of focus on a single priority!) 

Allow this exercise to give you room for some gentle, honest, adjustment and reflection. 

If you are consistently in a place where your time is spent in alignment to your priorities, you will undoubtedly be making progress on them or maintaining them. With discipline, there is freedom.

I do want to stress that the point of this exercise is not to berate yourself but instead to open yourself up to your truth. It may require a frankness with yourself that you are not used to, but alignment between your thoughts, beliefs and actions are an important step for living an authentic and successful life. 

Try this exercise, and let me know how it goes in the comments below! 

Did you find any inconsistencies between your priorities and your actions? 

What adjustments do you need to make and what will you continue to work towards?

x

Do not work more than you live.

Do not work more than you live.

Yes, I’m talking to you.

You’re ambitious. I know. You have the desire to create. The desire to inspire. The desire to improve. And you’re doing it. You’re finally where you’ve always dreamed you would be. Or maybe just on the horizon. You can see it. You can taste it. You feel and hear it. You’re here.

But you’re tired, and deep down, you can feel it’s not enough.

You don’t want to admit it. You don’t want to say the thing out loud that you know deep inside of you. You don’t want to surrender to the quiet voice in the back of your mind. You can’t bear it – the truth that this life, this dream, this job is not what you thought it was going to be, and something is wrong. You don’t feel grateful to have the things you worked so hard for. You don’t feel inspired to keep going. You wonder if it will always feel this way. You wonder if it was worth it, or if it will ever be.

I’ve experienced this. It’s called burnout. 

One day, I had a job that I loved and was passionate about. I felt like I had to grip it so tightly, take such good care of it, or it would slip out of my hands and I would lose it forever. Two years later, I woke up and realised it was consuming my entire identity. It happened so subtly, and so quickly, that I didn’t have a chance. It disguised itself to me as ambition and achievement, but looking back, I can see it was actually obligation, compulsion and a lack of self awareness which brought me to my knees one morning. 

I was tired, and deep down, I could feel that it was not enough.

When you’re underneath the water, it’s hard to recognise that you’re soaking wet.

If you can identify with any of this, you may need what I needed, and that was to realise that my relationship with work was taking over my life. It wasn’t easy (surrendering rarely is), but once I let go, I finally had the strength to pull myself out of the water and dry myself off.

Three things you can do to start your journey to fighting burnout today:

  1. Realising you need help is the first step. Take a deep breath and know that you’re going to be okay. It’s not the actual work which is the issue, but your relationship to it. The good news is there are plenty of groups, programs, and people that can help you uncover the root of where your burnout might be coming from. All you need to do is ask for the help that you need.
  2. Make time every day for the things that bring you joy and only joy. This is important – it is not the things that bring you money, not the things that bring you titles, not the things that bring you physical results, but instead the things that fill your heart up in a way only you would know.
  3. Start setting small boundaries at work and keep them. Leave on time. Don’t answer emails after 6pm. Don’t volunteer to do more work than you need to. Even if it’s just once a week for now, pick one of these and stick to it. Any progress you begin to make is a win, so don’t worry about going big. Small steps are all it takes to get to where you want to be.

Eventually, your life will start to take shape into something that you have control over again, but even better – your life will start to feel like your life, and you’ll be safe and dry on the shore.

More on the Live Well, Lead Well Blog:

This is why you’re afraid to lead.

This is why you’re afraid to lead.

You love leadership because you love the combination of helping others and managing yourself in a way that inspires results.

You love the giddy feeling you get when an idea you’ve been expressing finally lands with someone else, or vice versa. Or that moment when you realise a team’s impact has become greater than their individual strengths, and together, they reach a goal. You love that sweet combination of feeling of accomplishment and belonging.

But you’re afraid to lead because you’re unsure of how to do it.

You’re afraid to lead because you don’t trust your abilities to build relationships or to produce results.

You’re afraid because you don’t think you’re good enough. You’re afraid because you think you’re too good. You’re afraid because you won’t be able to control anything. You’re afraid of other people’s expectations. You’re afraid you’re unlikable. You’re afraid you’re too shy. You’re afraid the industry isn’t right for your style. You’re afraid there already is a leader.

You’re afraid of being misunderstood. You’re afraid you won’t be able to relate to others. You’re afraid to put in the work. You’re afraid to show people who you are. You’re afraid of being rejected. You’re afraid of not getting results. You’re afraid of change. You’re afraid of what will happen to your relationships. You’re afraid you will be judged. You’re afraid if you do. You’re afraid if you don’t.

But what if your fear is wrong?

What if it all works out?

What if a year from now, you look at this list of fears and smile, grateful you did not let it hold you back?

What if the small voice inside of you and the feeling deep in your tummy is right?

What if you do know exactly what you should be doing and you for once decided to go for it?

What if those scary thoughts, screaming of fear, eventually became quieter, and visions or joy and transformation became louder?

What if, because you decided to do it, you made a difference in one person’s life?

What if, because you decided to do it, you made a difference in ten people’s lives?

What if the impact you make because you chose to step up reaches farther and wider than you even could have hoped for?

What if you listened to the voice that said “You Can, and You Should”?

What if you started today?

And what if today, you focused on what you can control?

What if today, you took the first step?

What if you were so much more powerful, loving, creative, productive, and enchanting than you realised?

Read More On The Live Well, Lead Well Blog

Getting Clear: When Purpose Gets Foggy

Getting Clear: When Purpose Gets Foggy

You’ve done it. You’ve sent in your resume, researched the company, made it through the interviews, and landed yourself the job. You feel excited but also completely terrified. Now what? I’ve been there. It’s normal to be overwhelmed during times of change. There are probably a lot of expectations involved too. Maybe you’re not starting from scratch at a new job, but you’ve been promoted, or maybe your workload is being added to. Maybe you’re finally stepping into the leadership position you’ve hoped for, but why does it feel so scary?

Don’t worry.

You’re not alone.

What you need is to give yourself the chance to reconnect with what your purpose is in this role. We can get caught up with the nitty gritty details of our day to day that we forget to zoom out. We forget to see the big picture, and we forget to recognise it’s not just the individual pieces we pick up that makes the puzzle work, but the picture itself, as a whole – that’s what we’re working towards.

This guide was designed to remind you of the big picture.

As leaders, it’s important for us to consistently reflect on our whys. Without inspiration, purpose, and motivation, our daily intent will lack authenticity, and our effectiveness in our roles (personal and professional) will suffer.

Are you ready to get clear?

All you need is 15 – 20 minutes to answer 10 simple questions. Let the clarity begin.

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Keep It Simple. Keep It Selfless.

Keep It Simple. Keep It Selfless.

It’s Sunday night and I’ve got my eye on the clock. In ten hours, I’ll be walking back into work. Dread and anxiety used to follow a realisation like this. I love my job, but the pressure and expectations can become heavy, and the weight can feel impossible to ignore. The resentment and fear would get big, and usually there wouldn’t be a clear explanation of where it was coming from. I can recognize now that this is when I’m usually tip toeing around the “ME” trap, and the best way I’ve found to avoid this is to reframe my thoughts and zoom out. 

So, what am I going to do in ten hours when I walk into work? Instead of focusing on the meetings I have, tasks I need to get done, or problems that don’t have solutions yet, I keep it simple and break it down. Tomorrow, I’m going to go to work and help people. The complicated details about what makes the Sunday Scaries seem so real – the endless who, what, where, when, whys – all fall into place when I can focus on a bigger picture. Obviously, I’m still going to be in the meetings, get the tasks done, and try to solve the problems, but if I reframe this all in a way that’s less about me, and more about others, it feels easier. It feels simple.

However, if you’re stuck in the “ME” trap, it might not feel so simple.

The “ME” trap might sound like: “What is going to serve me?” “How does this task make me feel?” “I’m going to have so much to do tomorrow, how could I possibly have time to help anyone else.” “Why can’t everyone else think like me?” “I’m going to be so busy tomorrow.” “I don’t have time for this.” “But, who is helping me?” 

Sound familiar? The “ME” trap is deep and can leave you feeling resentful, stressed, and overwhelmed. Paradoxically, when looking from this point of view, your needs will never be met, and you will never be fulfilled. The trap is governed by your ego, and your ego can never get enough. Your ego’s job is to keep you separated, and as long as you stay in the “ME” trap, you’ll feel slighted, ungrateful, and you’ll forever be wondering when it will get better. 

To escape the “ME” trap, you need to turn your focus towards Selfless Support. That might sound like: “How can I help my team?” “What support does my coworker need right now?” “How does my colleague feel about this?” “What does my boss need from me today?” “What would make this customer’s day better?” 

Thinking of others, and acting on those thoughts, builds connection. When we are connected, we feel positive, and we feel useful, which will help to build self-esteem and improve relationships. 

It’s important to note that there’s a difference between Selfless Support and People Pleasing. There should be a solid understanding of what you’re capable of doing for others without taking on too much. Boundaries need to be in place, and it’s also important that you’re not doing work which steals an opportunity for challenge, growth, or empowerment for someone else. If a coworker asks for support, and you don’t feel like realistically you could help, be honest, and ask if there’s anything else you might be able to support with. 

Selfless support means supporting others without expecting anything in return. You are taking the self (or the ME) out of it, so keep an eye out for your ego when offering help, or looking for opportunities to support. If you notice any deeper expectations for a thank you, credit, or recognition, the act is not entirely selfless, and you may be dancing around the “ME” trap again which will leave you feeling disappointed. 

What about in your role? Are you not sure how to do that? Try to show up and see what happens. Make helping other people your main focus, and see what opportunities present themselves. 

Is it easy? No! But practicing Selfless Support daily has brought me closer to my team, my coworkers, and brought me more clarity, emotional intelligence, connection, and self esteem. I find that the less I think about myself, the better I feel. So, make it your mission to find ways that you can be useful. Look for opportunities to help others. You’ll sidestep the “ME” trap and walk straight into Selfless Support. 

Three things to try this week:

  1. Speak to others with kindness (regardless of the situation).
  2. Ask a co-worker how you can help support them this week. 
  3. Keep track of the “ME” thoughts you have. When you notice them, try to direct your thinking to supporting others and see if you notice a difference.