Confession Tuesday on Thursday: The Swamped Edition (Or How to Stop Being an Overwhelmed Swamp Monster)Sel

Self Portrait with Deadlines

Dear Readers,

I confess I'm swamped.

I confess when I'm swamped the blog falls to the end of my list (and oddly, somehow procrastination and spending time on things I shouldn't be doing starts to slide up to the top.)

Though I'm getting a lot done, I do find in times where I feel completely overwhelmed (as I do this week), things like email and the blog are completely ignored and things like staring into space, checking Facebook, and oddly, going to websites (aka MSN, Twitter, & the HuffPost) that do me absolutely NO GOOD seem like a good idea.

Professionals call this "distraction."  Some people use it for other anxieties in their lives.  I use it when I feel I have so many deadlines I'm not sure where to begin or what to do.

And I know better.

I can handle a lot when it comes to multiple deadlines (I thank my early life at a corporate job for that "gift"), but occasionally, there's this tipping point, this point where my head hurts from looking at my To Do list.

It doesn't happen too much, more in the last 6 months than in the last three years, but it does happen to me.

What do I do when this happens?  Here's a few steps on how I get my life back in order--

1) Before bed, create a "Next Day" To Do List

-- I actually do this step in bed.  I write down (or honestly, I already have all these written down) ALL the things I have to do on this list.  Everything.  Every deadline.  Every task.  Every single thing that is on my mind.

If there's a specific email I know I should respond to, but haven't, I write that email down as well. Anything that I feel I've been "trying" to remember--from "I need to get coffee at the store" to "Turn in manuscript."

2)  Once everything is listed, number your TOP priorities or anything you must get done in the next two days with a #1.  

This is probably from the Cult of Franklin Covey, but it works.  You figure out your TOP priorities and well, put them at the top.

3)  Highlight your TOP 6 priorities.

One may be "buy coffee" --that's okay.  Now, on a separate piece of paper, put them in order of how you want to do them.

This is where Franklin Covey and I have words.  I'm sure Franklin would say, "Put them in order of their importance or priority," but I say, "Put them in order of how you want to do them, making sure there are a few 'easier' tasks on the list."  Why?  It feels GREAT to cross something off the list.

If you put "buy coffee" and happen to pick some up after you drop your child off at school, congrats, you are one less task from being completely overwhelmed when you get home.

4)  For extra credit, on the back of the paper with the TOP 6 list, put down what you'd like to work on next.  

These may or may not be your top priorities, but if you finish your TOP 6 list, if you're like me, you may need to know what to do next or you're "spin your wheels" when you're done ("spin your wheels" is a metaphor for "browse Facebook" btw).

5)  When you wake up the next morning, before you do anything else (well, except get coffee), LOOK AT YOUR LIST.

Seriously.  Then just start.  Give yourself a reward every time you cross 2 things off.

For example, on my writing residency, I told myself I could have breakfast (my favorite meal of the day) once my acknowledgments were done.  Okay, that's not really a reward, but a withholding, but that works for my personality.

6)  Do the things on your list without getting distracted with new things or the internet (or whatever your personal downfall is).  

7)  At the end of the day, make a new To Do List for tomorrow.

8)  Repeat 1-7 as needed until you are no longer a Swamp Monster.


That's it, it's how I do it.

The evening To Do list for the next day is my easiest way out of the swamp.

Also, if you ask why I have Top 6 instead of Top 3 or Top 5, the reason is, there are always a few smaller items that can put on your list that by finishing them make you feel better. I believe in small victories very much.

Also, by having 6, you're getting ahead more than the self that would only do 3-5 things.

I believe in the benefits of overachieving and aiming a little higher than what is normal.  This small stretch in everything you do will always benefit you.


I confess by writing this my head feels a little cleaner and while this post doesn't benefit ANYTHING on my To Do list, I feel better and am ready to get to work.


~ Kells

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  1. Great post. I do this very often - especially for the weekend and it works every time.


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