Help, I’m spinning
I was speaking with a client earlier today. She was feeling overwhelmed. She was getting ready to go on vacation for a week. Had tons of follow up to do. Had tons of new work to do AND was seriously behind on just about everything because her internet connection had been down most of the week.
We talked about a lot of things during our call and about half way through our conversation I asked her if she was still feeling overwhelmed. Her answer “YES!” I asked her a single question. “Do you know WHAT work needs to be done before you leave?“ She said she did not. AHA…we found the problem! I had her get out a piece of paper and pen and write down everything that was spinning around in her brain. She spent the next minute or two writing. We reviewed what she had written down, added a few things (it’s always that way, isn’t it?) and took a few things off. Finally I asked her what she thought. Her response, “Wow, it’s not as bad as I thought. I can do this. I’m feeling much better.”
Here’s what happened. She had so much going on in her mind and was working really hard to keep track of it all. She even told me that she had planned to write it all down but didn’t have a chance; it would take too long. By writing it down and gathering all of the information in one place it became visible. Her mind could no longer make it worse than it was. The unknown became known.
I often do a brain dump exercise like this when I’m feeling overwhelmed with a project I’m working on or when I have lots of ideas or commitments going on in my head. I may think “Who has the time for this?” but the reality is that it doesn’t take long and truly saves you time and energy and gives you peace of mind. It could even be a great way to help you focus at the start your day.
Here are the steps to take when you’re feeling overwhelmed and have no idea what you have to do or what you have going on.
- Grab a piece of paper and pen. Some people like to do this on a computer, personally I find pen and paper to be the best tool for this exercise.
- Start dumping. Get the ideas out of your brain, gather the little post-it notes you have and put it all in one list.
- Organize the list a bit. My client separated what she had into two sections, personal and business. You might consider organizing it by project, person, long term/short term or whatever helps you.
- Review the list. Does it all really need to be done? Are there things that you can skip over entirely? Things that don’t need to be taken that far?
- Decide when you will do the things that need doing.
I know that sometimes we avoid doing an exercise like this because we’re afraid to see all the things that we have going on. My recommendation is to give it a try. If you have so much going on that you truly can’t get it done then you know it’s time to get support for yourself or decide not to do some of the things on your list. On the other hand you may find yourself pleasantly surprised and reassured that you will be able to get it all done.
How does a brain dump make you feel? I’d love to know. Please share with me.