Yall, it is no secret that I am the undisputed queen of overwhelm. I’m wired as an overachiever. And on top of that, I work faster than most people. Combine that with an ingrained childhood belief that if I work harder, do better, be better, my parents would like me, if not love me. (I was wrong about that, by the way).
But, because I am cognizant of the fact that I can work faster and better than most people since that is just how my brain is wired, I’m accustomed to always being given more and more and more and more to do. I mean, because I can do it. Therefore most people, including myself, think I should carry more responsibility.
The problem is that I have things I want to do besides work…but I also enjoy my work and, as yall know, I have a goal of hitting six figures in the near future. Needless to say, the overwhelm can get real. And when I mean real, I mean that I will make myself physically ill from overwhelm. There’s always more to do. Always.
Yet, when the overwhelm begins to manifest as physical symptoms, I am often forced to slow down to take things off my schedule because of a migraine. Or nausea accompanying or precluding a migraine. Or a period of panic that then just makes me feel even more overwhelmed because oh my god did I really just spend three hours worrying about this? Because now I am short three fucking hours of my day. You know, time in my day that I could have used to make money or to just enjoy my damn self.
It can quickly become a catch-22. This is crazy because I know how to handle overwhelm. I do. The issue is that upon occasion, when things are rolling smoothly along, I have this habit of just not taking the 15 minutes a day to prevent it from happening to begin with. So, that’s where I actually am: realizing that I fell wayyyy off my routine for managing and preventing overwhelm. I noticed it yesterday when I was working on my loom and my mind start racing about everything I needed to do both around the house and for the business this week. And I barely made it to the bathroom before I threw up everywhere. By the way, this is directly after almost two straight weeks of a migraine and nausea.
Do as I say and apparently not as I do…and use this 15 minute routine for managing and preventing overwhelm. You can do this routine either in the morning before your day starts or in the evening. I actually recommend you do it in the evening so that you can be prepared for the next day. It really is up to you, though. Before we get started, you need to do one thing…
Admit to Yourself You Cannot Do Everything
It’s a hard truth, I know. Yet, we all know it is the truth. We can’t do it all because even if we get near the end of our to-do list, we find more shit to add to it. Before we know it, we’re losing out on quality time with our family, quality focused work time, and who knows what else. Managing and preventing overwhelm, whether you work from home or not, is all about priorities.
Pick a Calendar You Like – And Make Sure It Syncs to Everything You Love
I have a love / hate relationship with calendars. I really do. On one hand, I am a planner by nature. I love project management. I love lists. I love organization. However, I can get tied down into the minutia of creating the perfect plan. I, personally, must be extremely careful to only use my calendar for things I really must accomplish. And, yes, that includes open spaces. I limit myself to 15 minutes of planning.
I use Google Calendar. You can use whatever online calendar you like. Sure, you could use a paper calendar or planner (I have several planners – because I’ve loved planners since before they were cool. I bought my first DayRunner in the very early 90s as a pre-teen. That probably tells you everything you need to know about me).
For everything you need to add, it all goes on ONE calendar and ONE calendar only.
Schedule a Time to Create & Manage Your Schedule
I have two specific times scheduled. I have one set for Sunday evening to review my calendar for the week to see if I need to change anything. Then, I have a notification for every day around 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday, to look at my schedule for the next day. To keep things interesting, my title for that particular time slot is: How will I make tomorrow my bitch?
Make a recurring day / day and time to review your schedule and make updates. Set notifications. Mine are set for five minutes before I need to work on it.
First Things First: You
I am, by nature, a nurturer and caretaker. I’ve had people take advantage of my nature. But really, that’s my fault and not theirs. The older I get, the more I am convinced that you really cannot pour from an empty vessel. And, no, this isn’t about to turn into some diatribe on self-love. This isn’t about self-love. This is about taking care of you so that you can do all of the things you need to do and that you want to do. Because you can’t do any of it well or enjoy it if you feel burned out.
I don’t know what that looks like for you. I get up around 5 am most days (no, you don’t have to do that unless you want to do that). I like having most of my day done by 3 pm. It makes me feel like I have time to do shit I want to do. My first appointment set on my calendar is for yoga. That notification is 5:15 am. I do between 45 min and 1 hour of yoga. It’s set for one hour. Then, there’s a 15 min break so I can change my clothes…into my workout clothes. From 6:15 to 6:45 am, I workout. By the way, I do both of these things from home.
Let me say this: what you call your appointments is the magic dust for getting it done.
My yoga appointment for myself: GET LIT FOR SUCCESS: YOGA.
My workout appointment for myself: GET THOSE HAPPY HORMONES FLOWING YOU BEAUTIFUL BITCH: WORKOUT.
I’m sure you’re either rolling your eyes or laughing, but let me tell you…you gotta learn how to be on Team You.
Those are recurring appointments without an end date. They are set Monday through Friday.
Add the Major Projects for the Week
This includes home, personal, and work related. And make them interesting for yourself to read. I don’t just write: CLIENT NAME – SEO MAIN PAGES. Oh no. That’s far too dull. It reads: Make CLIENT SITE FUCKING AMAZING: SEO MAIN PAGES.
And since that one is something I plan to complete in the next couple of weeks, it has a set time (7:15 am to 8:15 am) and repeats on weekdays for the next two weeks. Then it disappears.
So, I’m not just putting in what must be done…I am naming the results. Other examples I have:
- Educate the legal field about AI!
- Share examples of ethics no-nos!
- Deliver AWESOME landing pages!
- Help CLIENT deliver an AMAZING learning experience!
Some of those are recurring and some aren’t. I give myself five minutes between each task, with the exception of a lunch break.
Yes, You Need to Schedule Your Fucking Break
So, when I worked in a more traditional environment, I had a few employers who allowed me to flex by working earlier or working some or all of my lunch so that I could leave early. For the most part, I always lived at least 45 minutes away from where I worked. And I had young sons. Factor in church stuff (I taught Sunday School), sports practices, quality kid time, dinner, my first podcast, and finishing my degree (online)…and that flex time became a necessity.
But…it reaffirmed another bad habit that I picked up from my childhood.
I could rest when I’m dead. Now, to some degree, I still work straight through if I am in the zone or something comes up and I want to try and get shit done so I don’t feel behind. Let me tell you that for the most part, that is no way to live. It is a great road to fucking burnout.
So, after I look carefully at my schedule and I add in a one hour break every day. It is essential for my brain and to help prevent migraines. It is really hard for me to not end my break early and go back to work. I can’t nap. No, really, I can’t. If I tell you I’m taking a nap during the day, you can rest assured I’ll wake up and be sick. I’ve never been much of a napper. Not even when my kids were babies. So, really, it’s a one hour eyeball break. (And, yes, I already wear the blue light reduction glasses pretty much all the fucking time and I use comfort view on my phone and Fire tablet.)
Like my other activities, I make it say something great. This week, my break says things like:
- Take a fucking break – you deserve it.
- Take a break you rockstar!
- You deserve a metal – but instead you can take a break!
- Take a break, you animal!
I don’t have one for Friday because I’m brunching with a friend. So, I have that on my calendar instead.
You Do Not and Should Not Schedule Every Fucking Minute
Busy is not a badge of honor. You need to be productive and happy, not busy. You do not and should not schedule every fucking minute of every fucking day.
Monday is by far my busiest day…but it is still over by 4 pm and that includes an hour break.
Same with Tuesday.
On Wednesday, my shit ends technically around 3 pm and then I have time set aside to record a podcast.
On Thursday, I have an hour free after my lunch and before I work on some academic writing. And then at 3 pm, I am done.
On Friday, I have nothing between my brunch and 11:30 am. And nothing from noon to 2 pm. And at 3:30, I set aside time to record a podcast for this blog.
There is no need for me to schedule things into those blank spots unless absolutely necessary. Busy is not a badge of honor.
And the following week? Who the fuck knows? I haven’t gotten far enough into the coming week to see next week take shape outside of some constant things such as social media for clients.
Having a Plan Helps Manage and Prevent Overwhelm
When you create a plan, it’s way easier to manage and prevent the feeling of overwhelm. You cannot do it all in a day. And laying out a plan helps you better manage your time and your emotions.