This last week (or rather last couple of weeks) have been the crazy busiest weeks I've had in a good while. One of those weeks that started with a huge to-do list that somehow seemed to get longer instead of shorter as the week went on. It wasn't just my day job. We're in the process of prepping the house for the new baby (which involves a lot of furniture assembly:)), attending classes, going to more frequent doctor visits (the hour is near y'all) and getting other things fixed around the house.
In addition, I was in a small wreck last week. Nothing major but just incovenient enough spending extra time staying on the phone with insurance companies and scheduling appointments with body shops and car rental places to get everything squared away to hopefully be done pre-baby.
It's just a busy season. We all have them. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Going into the week, I wasn't sure how I would get everything done. After complaining a bit about the coming week Sunday to my wife (who is pregnant...so who am I really to complain to her right now??), I took a deep breath and got organized. Slowly but surely, I'm chipping away at the week.
How do you navigate a potentially overwhelming season?
The same way you eat an elephant. One bite at a time.
**Disclaimer: I've never actually eaten an elephant. Nor do I know anyone who has. I just assumed that if one was going to eat an elephant, this would be the approach to take given that eating an entire elephant would be quite a large undertaking.
Todoist is my lifeline
I'm a huge fan of Todoist and have basically lived and died by their Outlook plugin. As tasks rolled in via email, I've clipped them to my Todoist account with either due dates or "follow up with so-and-so" reminders that auto pull up those emails. I've kept personal and work tasks in there, making sure I make all the outside-of-work calls I need to make during the day.
Setting push notifications to remind me to things at specific times of day has been huge. I'll set a reminder giving me a nudge on a task that I should probably drop everything and do if I haven't touched it that day. I can even use an IFTTT recipe with Alexa to add things to my Todoist list at home as they pop in my head.
I'll also use Todoist to break up large tasks into a lot of smaller ones. Getting those small milestone tasks is a nice mental trick to let my brain know I can succeed at getting things done and be motivated to keep moving onto the next thing. The prioritization feature on Todoist makes this considerably easier.
Long story short, I. Love. Todoist.
Find quick win tasks
Out of my long task list, there are several on there that likely take maybe 15-20 minutes. Using the color coding feature on Todoist, I mark ones "yellow" that are quick tasks. That way, if a meeting ends early or I'm in between times where I don't have time to really jump into a big or time consuming task, I'll pick out one of those yellow items and knock it out quickly.
The easier thing to do would be to throw in the towel and just use those random in between times as built in breaks. However, making the most of small gap times on quick and easier tasks helps that to-do list shrink a lot quicker. It's almost like applying Dave Ramsey's debt snowball methodology to your task list.
Push back - but with alternatives
Realize that you aren't superhuman. We all have limits. If you plan out your day ahead of time, you should have a decent gauge on your personal capacity. You may have to say no and push back on some tasks or due dates that come up after the fact.
It's not enough to just push back. When you do push back, offer up an alternative. Things like offering a different (yet soon) due date or presenting a different approach to accomplishing what that person needs goes a long way. It shows that you are willing to help them, that their needs are important, without burning yourself out in the process.
Prioritizing when and how to do this is tricky, takes time to learn, but goes a long way.
Be prepped for curveballs
Even if you spend a few minutes each night or each morning planning for the day ahead, be ready for those plans to shift....because it will happen. At least in real life it does. If you're mentally prepped to have to shift things around last minute before it actually happens, it's less overwhelming and much easier to take in stride. Things happen!
Make time for quiet
Even if you don't feel like you have time for this, find some way to make time for it. Take some time to just sit and let your mind drift for a bit, even if it's just for 15 minute increments. It could be something like getting up earlier in the morning in the quiet, keeping laptops and TVs off for a bit when you get home, or just simply taking your commute home without the radio going. That tiny bit of quiet time is like giving your brain a huge breath of fresh air.
Megan and I get up and walk the dog early in the mornings. We'll kind of talk about the day but most of the time we just use the walk and take in the outside. It's a great quiet way to kick off the day on a non-frantic note. At night instead of TV, sometimes we'll spend the last 30 minutes or so reading a book to wind down. Both things really help us sleep better at night!
How about yourself?
When you're in a season of doing a million things at once, how do you manage it? What tricks keep you going?