5 Productive Steps to Overcome Overwhelm

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Last week was one of those weeks where I had so much I wanted to accomplish that I didn’t even know where to start. I hadn’t written a to-do list or made any sort of plan for actually getting all (or any) of it done, so I frittered the days away without actually achieving much of anything.

Ever been there?

Before I knew it, it was Thursday night, and I had precious little to show for it. I woke up with my mind racing around 3:30 Friday morning, and I knew it was high time I actually made a plan for managing my to-do anxiety. I always keep a to-do list in the Notes section of my phone, so I grabbed it off my nightstand and started filling it up.


Last week’s jumbly mess aside, I’ve discovered some methods over the years for increasing my productivity when I feel overwhelmed. After all, it just feels really good to get stuff done!

Write It Down:

Have you been hearing the phrase ‘Brain Dump’ lately? I don’t love how sort of… gross that phrase sounds, but it’s exactly what we need to free our minds. Take a notebook (or the Notes section of your phone) and simply write everything that is swirling around your brain. Don’t worry about categorizing it or writing neatly. The idea is just to clear your head, so you can actually focus and make a plan.

Now that your brain has been… ahem, emptied, start grouping your thoughts into categories. Last Friday at 3:30 am, I made a short term to-do list, a long term to-do list, and a blog to-do list. That way things I needed to accomplish that day wouldn’t get jumbled with lower priority items. Mowing the lawn was more pressing than organizing my recipes on that particular day.

Your categories can be whatever works best and is most meaningful for you. Be sure to prioritize your list, so you know where to start. This could be working backwards from predetermined deadlines (ie. paying certain bills or completing a work project), or just noting that mowing the lawn is best accomplished during the coolest daytime hours, while washing towels can be done anytime.

If your list contains big projects, break it into smaller steps. I wouldn’t put ‘Organize Recipes’ on one day’s to do list. Rather I’d keep it on my long term to do list, and put smaller steps such as ‘Sort Cookbooks’ on my short term list.

Research shows that writing a list actually increases follow through, so you’re off to a great start!

Get Dressed:

This may sound overly simplistic, but hardly anyone feels energetic while wearing pajamas. Take a shower, do your hair and makeup (if that’s part of your daily routine), and get dressed. That small step can really go a long way in making you want to be productive!

Listen to Music:

Put on your favorite playlist or Pandora station and crank it up. Or if audiobooks are more your style, listen to that instead. Unless you really need to concentrate, listening to something you enjoy should make your tasks feel like they go faster.

Pair Hands On and Hands Off Tasks Together:

True multitasking is kind of a myth, since your attention can really only be paid to one thing at a time. But you can easily pair more automated tasks with ones that require your focus. You could vacuum while the washing machine runs, or sort the mail while dinner simmers. You can get more accomplished at once than you think, with just a bit of planning. And knocking out multiple tasks at once lets you cross things off your list faster, and that is very motivating.


Many of us tend to think that we need to accomplish everything on our own. One person cannot be all things, so please do not hesitate to ask for help if it is needed. Seeing our family or coworkers sit around while we handle everything only breeds resentment. Speak up! Now is not the time to be a martyr. I’m not always so good at this, so when my husband sees me starting to race around in a hectic state, he makes sure to ask what he can do to help. God bless him. I hope you have people in your life like that too.

Time to relax!

Now that you’ve made a plan and started executing it, I hope you’re starting to feel much better. Make sure to take some time to relax and admire all your crossed off to-dos. Be sure to do something you enjoy, and have no guilt after all that you accomplished.

One caveat: If you’re currently experiencing a difficult time, or you’re getting sick, or just plain burned out, please consider just taking a break. I firmly believe that we can’t give 100% every single day, and rest or easy days can be just as important as the productive ones. You know yourself best, and when you legitimately need a break, by all means take it. You’ll be all the more productive when you’re back in the game!

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What has you feeling overwhelmed right now? What do you do to ease your mind and be productive?



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