Recently we talked about the need to power down and reboot when you are feeling overwhelmed, an approach that works for all areas of your life. Taking the time to step back and focus on the issue helps everyone to see clearly.

What usually comes from this is a more realistic view of everything going on. While this allows you to identify the source of the overwhelm, what do you do when your problem is simply too much to do?

First, you need to determine what needs to get done. The tasks at hand may seem obvious to you, but now you need to get them out of your head and onto paper or into a project/task management system. It’s time for an old-fashioned brain dump. There are no rules when it comes to a brain dump, the purpose is simply to get everything out of your head. Set a timer for 15 minutes with 5-minute breaks. This simple timer can help. Write down everything from the blog post you need to write to the milk you need to pick up at the store. Write it all down. This simple process of getting everything out of your head and onto paper is often all it takes to ease the feeling of overload and jump start productivity. You might even find you want to add more time as you get into the “zone” and make progress!

ACTION STEP: Use this worksheet to document your brain dump and decide what to Delegate, Defer or Do.  

Once you finish your brain dump, you need to take action. I like to stick with these three actions when tackling my to-do list:

Delegate

Learning to delegate could be one of the most important skills you learn in your business. The truth is that we can’t do it alone and we shouldn’t try to. It’s important to recognize that there are some tasks that others can do more efficiently than you can. A good example of this, which seems to be a common struggle for entrepreneurs, is the newsletter. Many people struggle with getting their newsletter produced and distributed when they could simply outsource that part of their business, saving time and energy for more important tasks. Otherwise, they often avoid doing their newsletter entirely or waste a lot of time over thinking it or getting stuck. This is a great time to delegate to someone who enjoys the task and can help move it forward for you.

So how do you know when to delegate a task? Personally, if it’s going to take me 3 minutes to do it myself, I just get it done. If it is time-consuming or outside of my areas of strength, I delegate that task to someone else.

Defer

Often we busy ourselves with tasks that we think need to be done right away, overly simple tasks or even just tasks we enjoy. When you hit overload, you need to prioritize. Don’t spend your time and energy focusing on things that aren’t vitally important right now. Schedule them out for a later date using a project management tool. This will keep you on track by getting those tasks off your plate while you address more pressing issues. Additionally, scheduling them prevents those tasks from unintentionally falling off your radar.

Do

I am a visual person so, although I love technology, I still love to write in a planner. There is just something about physically placing my tasks/ ideas/ goals onto paper that feels more tangible to me.  I like to use the planner pad for my paper planner to create lists according to categories. Lined notebook paper divided into columns works great as well. This allows me to break a large list into more manageable pieces and be able to see where my attention is most needed.

If you struggle to identify where to start here, decide which tasks will make the biggest impact toward your goals and focus on getting them done.  Since we like to work in three’s around here, pick the top 3 and work to complete those tasks first. Remember to schedule time on your calendar for these tasks to keep you on track and moving forward. Continue to do this until you get through your list and continue to follow these 3 actions to prevent overload from reoccurring.

Once you’re out of overload, shift your focus to reestablishing the boundaries in your business and setting systems in place to avoid the cycle of overload going forward.