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My 8-Step Process for Conquering Overwhelm with an 'Overwhelm To-Do List'

Updated: May 25, 2023

Last week, we talked about the perils of overwhelm and shared some hacks to shift your mindset and get back into action. If you missed it, don't worry – You can watch it here or read it here.

Today, we're diving into my personal process for conquering overwhelm with the 'Overwhelm To-Do List'.

This easy-peasy 8 step process will help you cut through the noise, stop the spinning, and get back into high-functioning productivity mode in no time. So, grab a pen and paper and let's dive into my to-do list strategy!

If you want to watch the video of me going through this process just click on the image above.

Why This Process Works

Your deep mind is always scanning for danger and alerting you to risk. One of the scariest things for your mind is when it doesn’t know what’s coming or how you are going to handle it. This process gives your mind a clear picture of both which means it can settle back down and let you do your thing.

Step 1: The Braindump

Our minds can only hold 5-9 things in active memory at once, which means everything else is in the dark, which keeps your mind worrying, stressing and spinning. By doing a braindump, we bring everything into the light, reassuring our minds that we have the tools to handle it. Write down everything on your mind: worries, nagging thoughts, to-dos, commitments – you name it.

Step 2. Chunk up

If your list is a mile long, it's time to "chunk up" by grouping tasks into categories.

This helps make things feel less chaotic, bringing order to your list and reassuring your mind that there's a structure in place.

Choose whatever categories work best for you. In my case, it aligns with areas of my life like Home, Relationship, Work, Kids, Health, Spirit, and Fun.

You might prefer categories like 'Things I want to do', 'Things I dread', or even Covey's system with Urgent/Important, Not Urgent/Important, Urgent/Unimportant, and Not Urgent/Not Important.

Step 3. Mark ‘high energy’ Items

Now, mark the items that carry the most charge for you, like those that cause stress, excitement, or resistance.

This is important because it’s these items that are most likely the ones causing your overwhelm.

Overwhelm is an emotional state. So you want to notice what triggers emotion for you including any feelings of resistance.

Step 4. Make a Reduced List

Create a priority list with the marked items and add any other urgent tasks. This helps your mind focus on what's most important, giving you a clear path to follow and reducing feelings of chaos.

This is now your 'Overwhelm To-Do List'

Step 5. Chunk Down

Now, break down the tasks into smaller, doable steps. ]

Remember, your deep mind wants to know you can handle what’s coming, and it thinks in pictures and what it can’t picture is adding stress. Breaking tasks into smaller steps helps your mind visualize what needs to be done.

Step 6: Chunk Down Again if Blocked

So what if you don’t know how to do something or are stuck in indecision? Here you want to chunk it down even further until you can create a plan of action.

The key here is to build the PROCESS by which you will get unstuck.

Let’s take the example of a difficult decision. For me it’s whether to stay in the Bay Area. The challenge isn't the decision itself, but figuring out HOW to make it with so many variables.

To help, I'll create a decision-making process:

  • List what's important about where I live

  • Discuss with my family

  • Weigh pros and cons

  • Use ChatGPT for location suggestions

  • Consult our financial advisor

  • Visit our top 3 places

  • Set a decision date

So what’s my next step? It’s actually NOT the first step in the process. For something this big, it’s actually just scheduling these steps. Now my mind knows I have a plan to follow.

Step 7: Prioritize

The next step is simple. Just prioritize your list by importance, urgency and energy. Put anything with a deadline at the top, then look for the things that are going to give you an energy boost. Often those are finishing the last details of closing a project and the things that you are most dreading. Once they are closed, you are going to feel a sense of satisfaction or relief or both.

Step 8: Schedule

Finally, schedule when you'll complete each task and pick at least one thing you can do today. This helps your mind see the path forward, making the overwhelming feel more manageable and as soon as you take start taking action, your mind will settle right down. And if you don’t have time to schedule it all right now, schedule time to schedule it!

Are there lots of things on your to do list that routinely drain you? It does not have to be this way. I promise!

Too many things on your To Do List that drain you?

Check out my busy to balanced masterclass and offload those energy drains. You’ll get hours of your week back while getting to real reasons life can feel so freakin’ stressful.

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