It’s 9:33am. I currently have eight tabs, five documents, three email accounts, two browsers, two clouds and one diary open. I'm feeling paralyzed by information overwhelm and anxiety.
Stacks of notepads, papers and random stuff that seem to breed and grow overnight surround me.
Amongst the stuff, I’m staring at my screen doing absolutely nothing. A strange paralysis has gripped me.
The light from the screen is making everything blurry.
I’m compulsively looking at the clock on my phone.
I have no idea why I’ve done this ten times.
Experience tells me that in a few hours time I will be beating myself up for not accomplishing much in the precious time I had today to work.
I'm surrounded by books, notepads and photocopied journal articles looking at the clock (there was no phone, because I’m that old people)
I know the theory:
- Write your list of priorities the night before (tick)
- Start with the hardest thing first (tick)
- Have a working environment with limited distractions (tick)
So why am I being so unproductive? Fear? Possibly, I’ve started some new creative projects. Tired? Yes, but I have a toddler so hey I’m always tired. Procrastination? Definitely. Maybe?
Below are the five things I’m working on every day, take a look as with practice they may be your solutions too…
My Five Top Tips For Preventing Overwhelm and Anxiety
ONE. Just Start Small
You are one person and you do not have limitless brain capacity. So, just do that really small thing to push things along. When I say small, I mean tiny. Send an email, open a new folder titled ‘The UK Constitution’, sketch down some sub-headings or order a pack of flashcards. These small steps will propel you to feel like you’ve started. This is especially important if you find something hard (hands up for political theory - anyone? OK, it can’t be just me.)
For weeks I was afraid to do my first post on Instagram. It was new, I was in the images, I didn’t understand the rules, would Britpolitics (and me) look like amateurs if I used the wrong hashtags?
Then I thought ‘**** it, just post something.’ I did one post the best I could. I’m not saying I went viral, but I did it. The relief from my procrastination was fantastic.
TWO. Just Prepare
What does the first 100 seconds of what you need to do look like? Packing a bag and sticking it at the bottom of your bed? Leaving a book open on the right page? Booking marking a website? Getting a desk ready with a cup and teabag in it?
THREE: Just Step Away from the To-Do List
But saying that, don’t be ruled by a to-do-list. It helps but also stifles creativity.
FOUR. Use the ‘Just in Time’ Principle
I don’t know where this originated but credit to you because it has been a real game-changer for me.
Developing Britpolitics is 90% self-taught but I was getting way too far ahead of myself.
I was listening to podcast after podcast, watching YouTube video after YouTube video, SkillShare class after SkillShare class. I was doing it because there are so many great learning tools out there and it excites me, but it’s the wrong thing to do.
The just in time principle makes you ask yourself what do I need to know right now? And then you just focus on that. So powerful, right.
So, I needed to know all about Instagram and Pinterest, all about blogs and about email marketing. I kept my focus there and saw massive results on progress and my sanity levels. So, ask yourself what do you need to know right now and what can wait?
FIVE. Just Switch Off Those Notifications
I spend 5% of my time actually phoning anyone on my phone.
The whole theory of ‘leave your phone in a drawer and look at it once a day’ is unthinkable. My phone is my work; how I organize myself, connect with people and in part my entertainment. But what I have done is:
Turn off notifications, no pings, no alerts and no sliding messages. It’s a distraction and a major cause of overwhelm. I also went crazy retro. I got a watch and used it for telling the time. Looking at my phone for the time was too tempting.
Also, someone once told me ‘email is sent at their convenience to be opened at yours.’ I try to not let emails and messages control my actions, my time and me. It’s great to hear from people but by not replying instantly I take back control and lessen the distraction on things that need to be done. I also give a more considered and thoughtful reply.
So there are my five tips. Hey, I don’t do this all the time. It’s a challenge but I’m working on it. I hope it can help you too.
I’d love to hear your top tips for managing feelings of overwhelm. Leave a comment below or drop me an email.