Having too much to do or a feeling that you are overwhelmed is the most common form of stress in today’s world. I call it time poverty. There are not enough hours in the day to do all the things we need to do. This lack of time can be a hard one to crack because it feels like you have no control over it. There are only a certain number of hours in a day and we can’t change that.
Recently, I’ve had a few hypnotherapy clients that have been experiencing this problem. I really wanted to help them. And I want to help you as well if you feel overwhelmed because of having too much to do.
Most probably, there are many things that you think you should be doing. For example, exercising, eating healthily, doing yoga, or working on your self-improvement. Maybe you think you should be spending more time with your children, friends, or family. The pressure can also come from your work.
Technology can make that feeling even worse. Nowadays, thanks to technology, we can do so much more quickly and efficiently. Consequently, we have more to think about. There is more mental noise in our minds. That noise creates additional pressure.
How do you know when you have too much to do or that you are overwhelmed? Usually, it’s pretty obvious. Sometimes it’s not so easy to tell. Think about the tasks that are generally rewarding and enjoyable. If you stop enjoying them and all you can see is a long list of things you need to do, then this is a key sign that you’ve got too much on.
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Now I’m going to cover the 10 ways to effectively deal with having too much to do.
1. Write Everything Down
It is essential to write everything down on a piece of paper or on your computer. I used to keep all the things I had to do in my head. One evening, I came home, looking busy and stressed. My wife asked what are all the things you need to do? Even though I had all these things in my mind, I struggled to answer her question. I couldn’t recall most of the things that I needed to do.
What helped me was writing all my tasks down. When you write them down, you get a clear visual picture of what you need to do. This gives you a sense of perspective, and often you can find the cause of your stress. The overwhelming feeling usually reduces. You may also feel an emotional release. Just the act of writing all these things down can help release that stress emotion.
Once you write your tasks down, it’s time to prioritize. You’ve got to put them into an order. First, focus on what’s urgent and what needs to be done immediately. After that, add tasks that you want to do and are important to you. These are the tasks that give you a sense of fulfillment and happiness. They help you achieve your long-term goals. When you feel happy and fulfilled, you’re more likely to get those other tasks done.
Next, there are tasks that you don’t want to do. See if you can get some help. Or, find a way to delegate them to somebody else.
Some tasks are of low priority. I’d almost call them the don’t do’s. Maybe, it’s not necessary to do them. If they’re not adding much value to your business or your life, perhaps you could skip them. This might go against your work ethic. However, the reality is that you’ve got too much to do. So you have to prioritize in a way that ensures that the most important things get done.
3. Change Your Self-Talk
This one comes from a video by Bernadette (known as “B”) at the Daily Positive. She says that when you have too much to do and feel overwhelmed, don’t say things like, I’m so busy, I’m so stressed out, or I don’t have enough time. Why? Because your unconscious mind gets that message loud and clear. And it will put you into fight or flight mode. This creates a vicious cycle, where you’re more stressed and less productive. Your work begins to pile up even more.
Remember that your unconscious mind can’t make choices. It just imprints whatever you regularly say to yourself. So if you keep saying to yourself, I’m so busy, I’m so stressed out, I don’t have enough time, your unconscious mind is going to believe it. Instead, you want to say the direct opposite. Tell yourself things like:
- I am calm,
- I am in control.
- I am focused.
- I am effective.
- There is more than enough time to do everything I need to do.
Even if you don’t believe these, when you say them, your body will begin to feel calmer. You’ll feel more in control. You’ll be able to think more clearly, and you’ll be more productive.
4. Banish the Words Should, Must, and Have To
The vast majority of us live in a free society. We have freedom of thinking and freedom of speech. We also have freedom of choice. We can choose what to do or what not to do. So rather than saying I should go to the gym today, say I choose to go to the gym today. Or I can go to the gym today. And in the same manner, I choose to stick to this diet, I can stick to this diet, or I want to stick to this diet.
Can you see that you now have a choice? It might seem like a play on words, but again, your unconscious mind will pick up on the harsher feelings behind words such as should, must or have to. So use softer words, such as want to, choose to, and could do. When you do this, you’ll see a difference. You’ll feel more in control.
5. Make Time for What Matters Most
Think about the things that are very important to you, the things that you would regret if you didn’t do them. When you get older and look back on your life, what are you going to care about? What are you going to regret not doing? Probably not many things that are on your current to-do list!
You must make time in the day to do what’s super important. The things that you value. Maybe it’s exercise because you want to have a great body and long-term sustainable health. Maybe, it’s meditation so you could feel more focused as life goes on. Perhaps, it’s self-improvement – becoming the best person you can be. It could also be learning new skills or setting up a part-time business.
If you can find a way to make time to fit those into your day, you will feel much better about yourself. And when you feel better about yourself, you tend to get more of those other things done as well.
6. Watch Out for Perfectionism
Quite a few of my clients that have wanted help with stress and overwhelm have one thing in common. They are perfectionists. They want to do things to a very high standard. And that requires much more time.
It helps to know the difference between something being perfect and good enough. You might spend 20% of your time and effort to get something to be good enough, and then the remaining 80% to get it to be perfect. So we have the 80/20 rule here. When you strive to make something perfect, think about what else you could do with that time? What are the tasks that you’re not going to do at all if you do this one task perfectly?
It’s not easy to let go of perfectionism. I know that because I have perfectionism tendencies myself. I believe that there is an underlying fear of not being good enough behind perfectionism. Everything has to be perfect so that I can feel I’m good enough.
It is helpful to think about when it’s important to be a perfectionist and when it isn’t. If you are performing brain surgery, then you must do your best because it’s a life or death situation. But if you’re at home preparing a salad, maybe that doesn’t need to be completely perfect. Some things may need to be perfect, but there are others where it’s fine to be good enough. Make sure you can distinguish between the two. Don’t try being a perfectionist at everything.
7. Don’t Take on New Activities
When you have too much to do, it’s essential not to take on any more activities. It could be a new project at work or maybe joining a committee with a meaningful cause. Perhaps it’s buying a new course, doing a new exercise program, or a new diet. It feels good doing new things. You get a dopamine hit! But remember, that it is another thing to do.
When it comes to new courses, there are always 2 questions I ask myself. Firstly, is this course going to be of good value to me? And secondly, have I got the time to do it? Quite often, the answer to the second question is no. Make sure that you ask yourself these two questions when you consider buying a course or paying for something that will take more of your time. It’s vital to balance that reward and dopamine hit with having some space in your life. Create space to relax and take some time out.
8. Learn to Say No
When you’ve got too much to do, the last thing you want is to take on more. When people ask us to do something, we often say yes without thinking about the consequences. We don’t think about what that work is going to involve. Then we begin to regret it later. Here are a few tips for saying no.
Firstly, be direct and keep it simple. Say things like, no, I can’t do that or no, I don’t want to do that right now. Always be polite. Say thanks for asking, but I can’t do this at the moment. Practice saying no in your imagination.
Next, buy time. Sometimes rather than saying no, say, can I get back to you. That gives you time to think about how much time you would need, and if you can really fit it in. If you cannot do it, you have enough time to think about the best way to say no. Remember that when you say no to someone, you’re rejecting their request. You’re not rejecting the person. That’s very important.
Bear in mind that if you get into the habit of saying yes to everything, people will start asking you to do more and more. They will expect that of you. They’ll see you as a person who’s always going to say yes. They might take advantage of you because of that.
It’s always better to say no now than be resentful later for saying yes. Remember, your self-worth is not dependent on pleasing others.
9. Have a Mindful Moment
I learned this from Leo at Zen Habits. When you have too much to do, and you feel overwhelmed, use it as an opportunity to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness means being completely in the here and now. Not thinking about the past, not worrying about the future, just being completely in the present.
There are 2 ways you can practice this. The first is to focus completely on the one thing you’re doing right now without thinking about anything else. If you find this hard to do, you can try what Leo calls Mind Jumps.
Take 1 or 2 minutes out. Notice how your body feels while your mind is spinning. You’re going to feel the stress. And that’s not going to be a pleasant feeling. However, it’s not going to be the end of the world either. It’s just going to be a little bit uncomfortable.
As you do that, observe how you feel. Then, start observing your surroundings. What can you see? What can you hear? What can you feel? Notice the thoughts that are coming up in your mind. How are they affecting your feelings? Maybe you’ll notice words like should or must or some negative phrases. Start becoming more and more aware of these.
10. Let It Go
The last one is to practice letting go. This also comes from Leo at Zen Habits.
When you have a big to-do list, and you have a high desire to get it all done, this desire can get in the way of actually doing it. This desire can affect your concentration and focus. Leo recommends letting go of the idea that you’re going to get it all done and accepting the reality. The reality is that you can do only one thing at a time. He also says, be grateful for the moment that you have right now instead of wishing for the moment that you don’t have. I believe this is very important.
Many people go through life just thinking about the future. They never really think about this actual moment. Practice being grateful for where you are right now. The only thing we can be certain of in life is that there’s always going to be more things on our to-do list! That’s the only constant. Taking time to be grateful for where you are right now is extremely important.
I found these 10 ways to deal with too much to do to be very effective, both for myself and my clients. I hope you will put them into practice and realize how powerful and helpful they can be for you too.
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