Sorry if I’ve been AWOL lately; we are almost to the closing date on our house and we’ve been out of town for a few days. Anyways, I wanted to share with you a few tips for dealing with an extremely stressful week.
1. Write it all down
We all have different ways of doing things, however, I think we can all agree that it is hard to keep juggling multiple to dos and errands in our heads for days. Once I have two or more things to remember I go ahead and write them down. When I am dealing with a particularly busy time I keep a running list of to dos. These are things as simple as “take a shower” and and as complex as “pack the house for the move.” (More on complex list items later.)
Once all the items are on the list you can free yourself from the worry of remembering it all. For me this is extremely therapeutic and actually puts me mentally into a place where I can start to focus on the things on the list.
Note- If you have an especially large item on our list go ahead and pull it into another column on your paper and make another list where you can write down all the tasks associated with completing that list item.
2. Find what clears your head
Once you have everything down on paper you will helpfully already be feeling much better. If not, consider doing something that helps you clear your head and puts you into a productive mood.
For me this is cleaning my office. When my office is clean I can really put the pedal to the metal and get work down. Cleaning also triggers a productivity area of my brain and once I get going I can get a lot done.
Maybe sitting down and reading, exercise, or taking a shower gets you ready to get into the zone. Experiment and see what works best for you and can be completed in a short amount of time. (30 minutes or less is ideal.)
Once you have your list and you’ve cleared your head you are ready to get to work. But where to start? This is where prioritization steps in. Grab a pen and look at your lists (and sublists) and find the 3-5 more time sensitive tasks. These are the items you need done first and foremost. I suggest not picking more than what you can do that day, but other than that how many you choose is up to you. Mark these items with the letter A to the left of the item. This is our first group.
Next mark items that need to get done, but can wait for the A’s to finish. Mark items that need to happen but are not on a big time crunch or as important with a C. You now have your three priority groups.
Within your A’s you may want to star the first one or two tasks to denote that these are the most important and must be done first. Generally with the B’s and C’s you will not need to order the tasks. Also be aware that you are welcome to have four groups (A-D if you feel it works best for you.) The rule of thumb for these groups is that all the A’s must be completed before you can move on to the B’s and so on. Sometimes I add a fun task to the C’s to help motivate myself to push through my tasks and get there.
4. Allow for “me time”
Remember that when you are going 110 miles per hour that you need to take a break and rest. Set aside time each day to relax a little. Everyone needs a break and when life speeds up just taking an hour to sit down and relax can sometimes make it all ok. Consider asking yourself to call it quits an hour before bedtime so that you can sit and read a book or spend quality time with a family member. Have a glass or wine or enjoy a treat. We may have a lot going on right now, but giving the body a break and allowing for a little enjoyment will really go far in promoting a positive mental state.
My husband and I have been busy preparing for the move this week. We’ve set a rule that we quit our tasks by 9:30pm so that we can sit down and watch a show and enjoy each others company before we go to bed. Even though we will not spend a lot of time together, this little bit of quality time really helps center me for the next day.
5. Do what you can
This is something that I cannot stress enough. I feel that I am always reminding stressed out colleagues, family and friends that we can only do what we can do. We are not super-humans nor should we be. We are just regular people who can only meet human expectations. You know you best therefore you know when you have too much on your plate. Know that you can say no when others ask you to take on additional tasks. Explain that you have too many other tasks and that you would not be able to do the task to the level that it needs to be done. I know this is very hard to do, but others will appreciate your honesty.
If you cannot decline additional tasks be aware that you can cut some from your list. If baking that homemade cake for a friend’s birthday means you only will get three hours of sleep, then skip it and pick one up at the grocery store. Those who really care about you would rather you be present and rested than up all night with a beautiful cake.
In college I had a roommate who would say yes to everything. She was always willing to help pick up shifts at work, drive friends to the airport, bake treats for parties, and partake in social gatherings with friends. Often times when we had planned to hang out she was just so exhausted that she was miserable and barely staying awake. I would basically back out myself so that she would just stay home and rest. She was trying to do it all which led to doing everything poorly. Whenever I see someone trying to do it all I remind them of my roommate who just needed to take a nap.
What I want to get across to you with this last point is that you don’t need the weight of the world on your shoulders and if it is, find ways to lessen it. Ask another parent to help with the classroom project, step down from a volunteer position.
Anyways, I hope that these tips can help you when you are struggling with too many tasks and are stressed out about your workload. If you even only use one of these tips I would consider it a success.