Everyone knows that university can be overwhelming at times. The bad news is that feeling overwhelmed isn’t something that goes away when you graduate. In fact, in some cases, the pressure increases. It’s impossible to avoid feeling overwhelmed at certain times in our lives. The key is what you do when that feeling surfaces. For most people, the problem is that the overwhelming feeling causes a sense of panic, and they have a hard time seeing the forest through the trees.
A few weeks ago, I ran across this post from Donald Miller on how he learned to not be overwhelmed. In it, Donald gives some of the best, most practical advice I’ve heard for handling that overwhelmed feeling.
Here are the four steps that Donald uses when he starts feeling overwhelmed, along with advice I’ve learned from my own experiences:
1. List your major projects.
- Part of the reason you may feel overwhelmed is because you have so many responsibilities you’re afraid you’re going to drop the ball. Listing your major projects eliminates that possibility. Whether you use a notebook, an app, or your bathroom mirror, writing down everything you have to accomplish will help you identify what’s on your plate and when you need to have each one completed.
2. Write down what you want each of them to look like when they are completed.
- This is a step a lot of people miss. Sometimes, in an effort to stay above water, it’s easy to forget what the project is to look like when it’s finished. That can cause the quality of your work to suffer. By keeping the end goal in the forefront of your mind, you’re sure to put out your best work on every single project to bring it to the desired state of completion.
3. Break each project down into its minor parts.
- Once you have identified the end goal, start breaking it down into smaller tasks. If it’s a paper, set due dates for the outline, first draft, second draft, and final version. This is something we’ve been taught to do for years, but still don’t do that well. Yet it’s essential if you want to avoid the feeling of being overwhelmed.
4. Work daily, like an ant, knowing that each little sentence, each little paragraph is moving you closer toward the final vision.
- You can only eat an elephant one bite at a time. Once you develop a game plan, knowing what you have to do, the next step is critical. Whenever you get discouraged, remind yourself about step #2 and continue to work as hard as you can to accomplish what you’ve set out to do.
The great thing about this advice is that it can work whether you’re a university student who’s feeling overwhelmed about upcoming finals, an employee nervous about an upcoming presentation, or a CEO who feels like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.
How do you handle the feeling of being overwhelmed? What steps do you take to accomplish your big projects?