Last week I was involved in an automobile accident that wasn’t my fault. While waiting for the powers that be to determine if my car should be repaired or replaced, I was provided with a unique opportunity to examine how I felt about these options. While I would very much like to have a new car, it involves a lot of decisions – decisions I am not prepared to make. I am so overwhelmed at the idea of having to commit to a new car that I would rather continue driving my five-year old vehicle.
Decisions are hard. Some have greater consequences than others but all boil down to being afraid of making the wrong choice. When you feel overwhelmed, try some of these strategies that might help.
Basically, write down everything going on in your head. This can include things you need to do, research, questions to be answered, errands, calls to make, etc. Don’t be too concerned at this point about separating the lists. Just dump it all. It can be sorted later. Just creating a physical or digital list removes some of the stress because you no longer have to keep a mental list or worry about forgetting things. A brain dump gives you a starting point for taking control of your situation and moving forward.
Sort it out
Now that you can see what needs to be done, move it around.
First, look for things that other people can do – this includes your kids, spouse, coworkers, housekeeper, etc. Overwhelm can often come in the form of the belief that we have to DO EVERYTHING. That is not true.
Create a timeline
What is left can now be separated not into categories but into time frames. WHEN is the question here. Create a timeline for the items left on your list.
Identify a reasonable amount of time it will take to complete each action. Think about how long you think the task will take and add 30 minutes. If anything on your list is expected to take more than two hours, break it down into smaller pieces. Nothing on your list should take more than two hours. Put all the to-do items in your schedule so they are to be completed at least two days before they are due.
It is simply a matter of making a decision and going with it. Here is an example of the steps I can take with my car decision:
- Talk to my bank to identify how much I should spend.
- Make a list of cars I like. Prioritize that list.
- Research which car lots have the makes/models I am interested in.
- Visit those lots and test-drive the cars. Best-case scenario, I will make my decision here.
- Make a list of pros/cons for each vehicle.
- Make a decision and buy the car.
This system can be used with almost anything – mail, clutter, photos, collections, etc. Move it all to one place and sort it out. If it seems overwhelming, break it down into bite-size pieces.