As highly sensitive people we are predisposed to take in more details, which can be useful for sizing up a situation and making plans. It can also lead to feeling overwhelmed by all that information, so much so that you end up frozen in indecision, wondering where you should be focussing your time and energy.
It’s a frustrating and distressing place to be; you have so much to do but you find yourself procrastinating or trying to do a little of everything. Worse still you may reach a point of burn out where you’ve exhausted yourself with trying and worrying.
There are many reasons why we end up in this position, enough for many blog posts, but today I’m focussing on giving you my tried and tested way to quickly come back to yourself, clear the decks and figure out what you need to do next.
Get yourself a hot drink, a quiet space, paper or a computer and let’s dive in:
- Make the mother of all lists
This isn’t a To Do List, it’s a Could Do List. Write or type out all the tasks, plans, ideas and worries that are cluttering up your mind. Write, write, write and empty it all out without attempting to filter or decide what to do with each thing.
- Give your worries some space
Worries aren’t always problems to be solved; sometimes you can’t do anything about them. But that doesn’t mean shoving them down and trying to ignore them. On a fresh page write about the worries that came tumbling out when you wrote your big list. It doesn’t matter if they seem trivial; if something is worrying you it is important because it’s a painful distraction in your mind.
Write about what exactly is worrying you here. You may find yourself writing yourself out of it ie. you just needed to get it out of your head to feel better about it. Seeing something you’re anxious about written down can also give you clues about how to help yourself through it or something you can do to improve the situation. At the very least it’s a relief to write them down.
Then there are the big fat worries that you can’t do anything about. I find a good place to go from here personally is to journal about them or talk them through with someone I trust. It’s also good to recognise the strain they’re putting on you so you can try to take care of yourself whilst you’re experiencing it.
It’s really important to pay attention to these worries as they may be stopping you from getting other things done (especially the old What If’s). If you’re an empath this is especially valuable as you may notice that many of your worries relate to other people’s problems that you want to fix, but which are really their responsibility, not yours.
- Pick out the ideas
If there are items in your list that are ideas rather than tasks or worries pick them out and park them somewhere separate. I have a board on Trello that is my Idea Park and I find it reassuring to know that I have them there, stored away ready for when I want them but not distracting me from what have to do now.
- Pull out the future tasks
If there are things on your list that will need to be done at some point but not soon add them to your calendar, diary or set up a separate Future Log page to log things that are due to be done in the future. Just like with the Idea Park you’re putting aside things that are distracting because they matter to you but aren’t urgent.
- Do some weeding on what’s left
Look at the remaining items on your list one by one and ask yourself if you really need to do it. Is it a real task you must do or just something you’d like to do? Is it necessary, or a wish list sort of task? For example, the main page of my blog says ‘From Our Blog’. I find that irritating because there is no ‘our’, I’m writing it alone, but I can’t figure out how to remove it. But it’s been time consuming trying to find out how to change it and I found out that I’d have to learn some html to put it right. It sat on my To Do List for weeks until I took an honest look at it and decided it wasn’t important, it was just a detail I was worrying about.
- Circle the quick wins
Mark up anything you can get done quickly today, like sending an email, booking an appointment, checking a small piece of information etc. Pick them out, do them and feel good for getting some stuff done. Things are moving!
By now you’ll have list of things you’ve decided are important enough to commit to doing so it’s time to figure when and how you’ll do them.
How: Take a look at each task, especially any you’ve been procrastinating over. Do you need to split any of them down into smaller, more manageable tasks? Is there anything stopping you from doing the task that you need to address first? That could be a concrete thing, like doing research before you write an essay, or something emotional like tackling your fear of public speaking before writing your speech for a friend’s wedding. The rule here is if it looks too big break it into smaller and smaller pieces until you can manage at least the first part of it.
When: Which of the tasks on your list have a deadline attached? Do you need to do any of them in order to complete other tasks on your list? If you’re really unsure of where to start pick the one that’s the biggest thorn in your side, the biggest pain point that’s getting on your nerves and that you want to be able to move on from.
They are the 7 steps to finding clarity and taking action when you’re feeling overwhelmed and confused. I work through these steps whenever life feels too much and I sense that I’ve lost my way on what I want to be doing. As someone who relies a lot on intuition rather than linear thinking this helps me to bring order and structure back to my situation without being too rigid.
Be kind to yourself as you work through this process and give yourself credit for having a go. Most people struggle along without taking time out to do this sort of exercise so if you’ve decided to try it well done!