This post is contributed.
Image via Pixabay
You might pride yourself on being really “on top of things” in general, but it’s just part of the human condition that from time to time you will find yourself with too much on your plate, and will struggle to figure out how to deal with all the responsibilities that you have to deal with.
Think about all the responsibilities that you’re likely to have in your life – work obligations, personal obligations to your friend circle and family, the obligations you might have as a parent, towards your kids, financial obligations, etc.
It’s hardly surprising that people sometimes get “snowed under.” And it’s even less surprising when you consider the fact that today, we’re permanently “plugged in” and distracted, with our bosses having our WhatsApp details, our social media profiles perpetually reminding us of all the great things we’re missing out on, and an endless stream of web-based entertainment and trivia drawing our attention this way and that.
If you’ve got too much on your plate, you need to have a system and a structure in place that allows you to take a deep breath, step back a bit, and regain some perspective.
Here are a few tips for dealing with things when you’re trying to juggle a million different tasks and obligations at once.
Chunk things down – focus on one small step at a time
If the roof on your home is falling apart, that’s a big issue, with big implications. It might mean that your life is at risk – at the very least, it means that your home is certainly at risk, and that structural damage may occur that will have a massively negative impact on the value of your home, and your comfort as an inhabitant there.
Confronted with an issue like this, it would be pretty easy to freak out, panic, and throw your hands up in the air in despair.
The key isn’t to face the whole problem head-on, at once. The key is to chunk things down, and to focus on one small step at a time. Call for some experts to conduct a roof inspection, first off.
There is a well-known saying that “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and that message has clear carry-over to just about anything you might be dealing with in your life.
If you want to achieve something, you don’t try and do it all at once. Instead, you put one foot in front of the other and focus on making incremental progress.
Likewise, by the same token, if you’ve got a big issue – or a lot of issues – to deal with, don’t try and tackle everything all at once, or you’ll go crazy, and probably fail to make a meaningful impact as well.
Narrowing your focus and picking a manageable “next action” is always the best idea when it comes to getting out from under the mountain of responsibilities that have snowed you under.
And the “manageable” part of this equation is critical. If your next tasks are areso big and daunting that you feel the immense urge to procrastinate and put them off, you’re not doing yourself any favours, and you’re properly not going to make much progress.
Take care of yourself – sleep enough, eat properly, et cetera
When we are dealing with a lot of tasks and obligations, it’s pretty common for us to stop taking proper care of ourselves.
We start getting by on far too few hours of sleep a night, chugging mug after mug of coffee to keep us vaguely awake enough to work, neglect our nutrition, give ourselves no comfort or satisfaction at all, and just generally tyrannise ourselves.
The thing is – when you fail to take care of yourself properly, you don’t just feel bad, you also become far less adept at managing the situations at hand, and you dramatically ramp up the stress that you are under as a result of the situation. That, in turn, only enhances the chaos you’re facing, and makes you less able to cope.
Of course, it’s easier said than done, but you should really do what you can to take care of yourself during busy and stressful periods in your life. Eat well. Get as much sleep as you can manage. Try and find some time – even just a few minutes here or there – to have a bit of fun, crack a smile, and unwind.
Identify which actions are actual priorities, and drop or minimise the ones which aren’t
There is a concept known as the 80/20 rule, and also known as the Pareto principle, that suggests that in any given instance, about 80% of the benefit you obtain will come from about 20% of the actions you take.
This principle has become something of a golden standard in many business circles, and many professional coaches have a lot to say about it.
Whether or not you believe the ratios are perfectly right, just about everyone can agree that at any given moment there are things you are doing that aren’t yielding many results. At the same time, there are certain things you are likely to be taking that will be disproportionately responsible for the positive results you enjoy.
One fundamental step to dealing with the phenomenon of having “too much on your plate,” is to take the time to identify which actions are actual priorities, and yield the most benefit, and to then drop or minimise the ones which aren’t.
If you spend a couple of hours every day processing your email inbox, you’ve got to imagine that that time could be better spent on something else.
Structure your days, and don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by the chaos
Life naturally tends to get chaotic from time to time – or at least, it threatens to get chaotic from time to time.
If you’re snowed under and are trying to juggle an almost inconceivable number of different tasks and responsibilities at once, you simply can’t afford to be too lax about the way you structure your time.
Adopting something like an “I’ll go with the flower” attitude is only bound to ensure that you never make significant headway on the situations confronting you, and also that you are pretty much helpless – and feel pretty much helpless, as a result.
When you’ve got a more-than-normal amount of stuff to deal with, you also need to have a more-than-normal degree of structure, focus, and discipline, in order to even the balance, and sort things out.
Wake up at a set time each day. Set out your daily schedule beforehand, and “time block” each task. In other words, Assign a good chunk of time to dealing with each task you have to deal with, and that task alone. No multitasking or procrastination here.
What’s more, don’t just try and handle the various tasks that you have to handle, off the top of your head. Use project and task management systems – whether those be apps and online services, or a traditional Filofax or Bullet Journal.
With your projects and tasks recorded in an external format, figure out what the required steps are for resolution or success, and try to minimise or cut out anything that is mostly going to be a waste of time.
The more structured you can be, the better you’ll feel as you’re dealing with your obligations. The less structured you are, the more stressed and out-of-control you’ll feel.