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Overcoming the Overwhelm AND Getting It All Done

I was inspired by something a client shared on a coaching call this morning. He called it "Ode to My List" ...


List, Oh List. You clever weasel. Just when I think I can trust you
to organize my thoughts you sweep in and drive me to madness.

But, lest you forget, I am the one with the brain and the spirit.
The spirit you will not break, bend and lead me to sadness.

My client is incredibly adept at identifying everything that needs to be done, and setting priorities. A complete, prioritized To-Do List ... the hard part's done, right? Not so fast.

Without structure for the execution, your list can become a trap in 2 different ways.

First, you can get overwhelmed by the enormity of the list. Second, you can get so absorbed in execution mode that you lose track of time, priorities and balance.

The Magic Formula (for Getting it All Done)

There's a 3 step process that will help you overcome the overwhelm of a large To-Do list, while staying on track once you get absorbed in tasks at hand. Here's how to use activity lists and calendar blocks:

  1. It helps to start with a master list in a format that works for you (ironically enough, mine master list is on paper while Elaine's is on excel).

  2. Then segment your list by category (e.g.: sales, marketing, personal, planning, research, kids, etc.) to create separate activity lists. This simple step alone is incredibly effective at lessening the overwhelm.

  3. Block out your days. Look at your week and block out times day-by-day, for each category of activity. For example, Monday might look like:
    • 6-7:30am exercise,
    • 8:30-9am email round 1,
    • 9-10am for marketing,
    • 10-12 client follow-up,
    • 2-2:30pm email round 2,
    • 3-4pm research,
    • and so on ...
  4. Put structures in place to keep you aware of time and help you transition from block to block. For example, if you start Monday morning at 9 a.m. with the priorities on your marketing activity list, set a timer for an hour to help you stop at 10 a.m. (For those of us with ADHD, the stop is the hardest part. The timer really helps.)

You get the idea. Just get started. Play around with the duration of your blocks: usually 30 minutes to 2 hours. Experiment with different times of day for different activities. Over time you'll get a better sense of the patterns that work for you. The details will work themselves out.

The key to overcoming the overwhelm and getting it all done is knowing:

  1. what you need to do, 
  2. when you will do it, 
  3. when you will stop doing it, and 
  4. when you will pick it back up the next time.

There's nothing like the buzz you get scribbling things off your list.I get it. I think I get an endorphin rush every time I cross something off of mine (my client and I both use hand-written lists for that very reason). You may even get the same rush from hitting the "delete" key. You'll have to ask Elaine about that.

Ready to get that rush of success? Go play with your blocks!

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