Do you wonder why you never seem to get anything substantial done, even though you feel like you are go-go-going all the time? Do you often wonder how you will ever get through your to-do list? Do you feel frustrated? Maybe even stuck?
If this sounds familiar, chances are you are suffering from a case of overwhelm. I have written frequently about overwhelm and how to work through it. I suppose I have written so frequently about it because it continues to be a huge issue for people
As a professional organizer and productivity consultant, I am predisposed to seeing people in a state of overwhelm, often accompanied by a level of paralysis. My clients usually have so much to do that they just flat out get stuck in a place of go nowhere busyness. Sounds a little contradictory, doesn’t it? How can you go nowhere if you are busy?
It’s actually quite easy – being busy doesn’t mean you’re being productive. Overwhelmed people may be busy, but their efforts won’t be rewarded because they aren’t producing results.
They often jump from task to task, never actually taking action, just pondering all they have to do. They may pick up the same piece of paper several times, never really processing what action is needed, just looking at it glazed eyed and weary.
They usually come to me saying something like this: ‘I just don’t have enough time to do all I need to. If only I had more time, then I could get it done for sure.’I love it when they say that, because I get to deliver the good news: It’s not time that’s lacking, it’s the prudent use of available time that’s missing.
Truth be told, my clients don’t see this as good news. Some actually get annoyed. It’s hard for them to understand that they are contributing to the overwhelm and blocking their own productivity. But once I explain that by using one simple trick they can actually get more done in less time, they become interested in hearing what I have to say.
Here’s the simple trick – work in fifteen minute blocks. That’s it. How simple is that? Sound too easy to work? It’s not, it produces real and immediate results.
Here’s all you have to do:
1. Choose a project. (What’s burning up your to-do list?)
2. Choose a task related to the project. (What’s the very first step you need to take?)
3. Set a timer for fifteen minutes. (Anyone can do anything for fifteen minutes.)
4. Work on the task. (For real. You can totally do it!)
When the timer goes off you have two choices. Continue working on the same task or switch to a new task. Then just reset the timer and go at it again.
What I really like about this time block process is that I can see improvement after just one fifteen minute period. I use this method all the time. Knowing I am only committed to fifteen minutes makes focusing on the task at hand easy.
Plus I know that soon I will get a mini break, even it’s only to rest the clock. But what really works well for me is this – I work for three fifteen minute blocks, then when I set the timer for the fourth block I take a real break.
I can check email, grab a snack, stretch or whatever feels good. When break time is up, I am almost always ready to get back to work and start the cycle again. Why? Because I am seeing progress and getting stuff done – and that’s plenty motivating. I feel like I am kicking ass and I like that!
This time blocking method can take you from overwhelmed to in control in just fifteen minutes.
If you are struggling so much so that you don’t even have a clue what task to start on, check out this post on how to reach your goals. It outlines a technique that will help you narrow your focus; end result you will know where to put your effort. Plus there is a fun goal setting worksheet (yes, it really is a fun!). It will help you break a large goal into bite sized pieces.
But maybe you’re having trouble figuring out how to set goals? In that case I have something much meatier that will have you clarifying your vision and setting meaningful goals – basically setting you up for success! There’s even a guide to setting SMART goals, including a worksheet to download.