It is strange paradox that occurs when you start to feel overwhelmed by your to-do list. The more overwhelmed you feel, the more likely you are to do stuff that keeps you busy, but not productive. Buried under a sea of to-do’s, it can be hard to pinpoint the most important priority. So it becomes tempting to just grab the low-lying fruit – the stuff that is calling for your attention, but not necessarily worthy of it. So, you mindlessly scroll your social media news feeds or answer non-urgent emails. Why? Because it temporarily tricks to your brain’s reward centers into feeling productive. Commenting on a post or replying to an email question is doing something, even if it isn’t the priority thing that needs your focus. But when you finish the faux productivity, you’re left feeling guilty and more overloaded. How do you stop the madness?
- Hit the pause button.
Take a breath. For a specific period of time – 15 minutes, an hour, however long it takes – unplug from the connections that distract you. Put your phone on airplane mode. Turn off the email chime. Disconnect the computer from the internet
- Write down what’s overwhelming you.
Once you stop the flow of distractions, get your frustrations out on paper. What exactly has you feeling overwhelmed? Is it that you don’t know what to do next? Is it that there is too much on your list and not enough time? Is it that you need help, but haven’t asked for it? Pinpoint the source of your overwhelm.
- Focus on what you want, not what you don’t.
It can be easy to write down frustrations and then basically meditate on them. In other words, you focus on the problem without redirecting your energy towards a solution. Put your list of frustrations to the side and make a new list. This list is a “mini-vision” of sorts. It is what you want to feel and have instead of the frustrations. For example, “I want to wake up in the morning knowing exactly what I want to accomplish for the day.”
- Identify a next step.
Once you are clear about what you want, take a step towards it. Start working on the project – even if just for ten minute. Text that friend who knows the answer to get guidance on the question you’ve been pondering. Do something, anything, to move in the direction of what you want.
Often, what we need to jumpstart our productivity is to stop, reset and move forward.
My challenge to you this week:
Hit the pause button and redirect your energy to what matters.
What is your biggest distraction that enables you to procrastinate on the important stuff? What will you do this week to eliminate it and get refocused?