I am FREQUENTLY overwhelmed with all the things I have to do. The house is a mess, I have a to-do list for the blog a mile long, I’m way behind in grading, and the kids have to be driven to Kingdom Come and back three times today. And lately, I have to go to work, too. Can you relate?
Today’s organizing tip is one of the best ways to handle the overwhelmed feeling. And once you’ve used it once or twice, you’ll remember that it is a valuable tool and start to implement it BEFORE the overwhelm happens. That’s when it becomes even more powerful.
I’m talking about a brain dump.
This is when you sit down with your favorite warm beverage and a piece of paper and a pen and just list EVERYTHING that is on your brain that you feel you need to do. There is no order to this; if it comes to mind, you write it down.
What cleaning jobs are undone?
What topics are you wanting to talk to the hubby about?
What homeschooling tasks are you behind on?
Is it time for a haircut?
List WHATEVER is going around in your brain and wearing you down because it hasn’t been accomplished yet. Big and little. Important and unimportant. Time-consuming and non-time-consuming. ALL OF IT.
This may take 5 minutes, or it may take 15. Sit for a little bit and think through all of the corners of your brain to come up with everything that you can remember. You can even take a day or two to add more things that come to mind later, if you like.
After you think you have come to the end of all the stuff swirling in your brain, you will already feel a little bit better. Somehow getting things written down helps you see that it’s not necessarily as bad as you thought it was. And if it is, lol, at least now you can start to make a plan.
Which leads to the next step: start grouping things together. There are many ways to do this — by topic (cleaning vs. homeschool), by geographical location (home vs. out, kitchen vs. bedroom), by complexity (many steps vs. just a quickie) — but one great way to do it is by whether this really needs to be YOU that does it or if it can be delegated.
Make a mark next to all those things that someone else can do, and maybe even write down the name of the person you can ask to do it. Don’t be shy to ask your kids or husband to take on some of these tasks. This whole homeschooling thing, and all the lifestyle aspects that it entails, is a FAMILY endeavor. Everyone has to pitch in to make it work.
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Now your list should be that much shorter! Woot!
The next way to pare down the list is to put a star next to the items that MUST be done TODAY or soon. Be real about this; yes, the cluttered living room is a drag, but it’s not a MUST-DO right now or the world will cease to exist. But some things are, or at least they come close. Those get the star.
All the things that aren’t starred: take a few moments to schedule them for later in the week or month. If you put it on the schedule now, then you will be less likely to get overwhelmed later by taking on too much stuff to do. These will already be there, and you’ll say “no” to more of the things that come along.
The starred items: pick THREE (no more!) that you can do TODAY (or if you’re doing this at night, then pick three to do tomorrow). More about the power of three on Day 23.
Then pick three more to do the next day, and so on until you are done. Hopefully this list of MUST items wasn’t that long to start with, and you can get them done within the next three days or so. If that’s not the case, you may need to re-evaluate and pick a few more to be moved off the priority list.
By the time you have delegated part of your list, scheduled part of your list for later, and planned the remaining priority items for the next three or so days, you will be feeling like you can handle life again.
I use this technique almost daily during really busy times in my life. It becomes part of my morning routine — listing tasks, scheduling what is priority for today into an actual time slot, writing what can wait a day or two into my planner for later in the week. It gives me a plan to work for the day, and then I work the plan. And little by little the overwhelm becomes much more manageable.
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A brain dump is a powerful thing. Go do it now. :-)