Just when you think you have mastered the art of productivity, something happens to mess it all up — sickness, vacation, drop-everything-and-do-it-now opportunities to name a few culprits. Suddenly, your get-it-done mojo is gone and you find yourself deep in overwhelm, wondering how or when you will get yourself out.
If you are like me and rely on routine to get through daily task list, then finding yourself unable to catch-up, never mind keep up, is challenging. It’s enough to suck the energy right out of your productivity routine and leave you staring blankly at your overloaded inbox as the messages continue to build up.
It’s tempting to try to dig your way out in one go, but that usually leads to you feeling ever more overwhelmed and burnt out. Instead, try to set a more realistic schedule to get yourself back and track and handle what you can one step at a time.
How to Slowly, BUT Surely Dig Yourself Out of Overwhelm
Push Off Deadlines — Don’t take on any new deadlines until you are out of overwhelm and push off any that can be readjusted to accommodate your short-term needs. Even giving yourself a week to get caught up is a huge help to you digging out of overwhelm.
Pick Your Priorities — Decide what absolutely, positively has to get done right away and focus on nothing but accomplishing those tasks. Give yourself permission to let other things slip a little, including your overloaded inbox and your rigorous task schedule. Now is not the time to worry about sticking to your regular routine.
Catch Your Breath — When you get back on track with your priority tasks, give yourself permission to breathe a little. Chances are if you got overloaded enough that you fell out of your regular routine, you had to shift into crisis management mode and focus on putting out any fires that resulted from your absence.
Slowly Get Back on Track — Next, work on getting back into your work ahead routine one task category at a time. For example, if you normally like to have 5 to 10 blog posts and a newsletter ready to go, aim to get 1 or 2 ahead before upping the ante.
Clear the Clutter — Now that you have a little more breathing room, start cleaning up the messes you ignored when you were still in crisis mode. Pick one category to focus on at a time. For example, spend an hour and clear your desk of the paper build up or organize your expense receipts, then move onto your inbox and digital files.
Pick Up the Pace — Once all the residual mess is handled, push yourself to resume your former task pace. Don’t turn your lax pace into the new standard. Easing off was a temporary measure to help you get through the worst of it. Now it’s back to business as usual so hold yourself to those standards.