When life gets overwhelming, chances are your list of to-do’s and projects does too. I’m totally in that mode right now. Usually, right after the holidays, but before Spring, I get all kinds of disorganized. The list of tasks gets longer and the time seems to speed up. Therefore, one of my main goals in late winter/early spring is to be more strategic and organized about what I want to accomplish in the next couple of months to make my summer it’s most productive.
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By the end of February/beginning of March, my mind is ready to stampede through my project list. But, this is the best time to get it all out of my head because, by the time May rolls around, I’ve either accomplished some small stuff or I’m prepared to start a bigger project because I completed the prep work.
My reason for starting this so early is because when I would wait until May to figure out what I was going to accomplish during the summer, I ended up losing most of June to tedious, annoying tasks that I could have accomplished much earlier. Then, when July comes around, there are so many parties and get togethers that before you know its August and school is ready to start again.
Too many times I’ve felt as if I accomplished nothing by the end of summer and I’m over it y’all! Time to get serious and spend the summer doing fun stuff like DIY projects and hanging with friends and family rather than frantically trying to play catch up with menial house tasks. Let’s do it!
Step 1: Take a deep breath, seriously.
Mental Health Awareness week is this week at the school where I teach (normally it is the second Monday in May). They gave us all of these great techniques to use with our classes. I included my favorite ones below that may be beneficial in this space.
It is counterintuitive, but when you are super busy, taking a few seconds to recenter is super important. You can actually retrain your brain to limit your emotional responses and replace them with more calm, stress-combative thoughts and actions instead. Pretty cool, right?
Taking a few moments to decompress before diving into the rest of these steps is key to making sure you don’t freak out when you realize how much stuff there is to do. Remember, it’s all going to be okay!
Overwhelm is serious business and can effect so many aspects of your life. Your home and/or planning your home projects should not be as stressful as they often tend to seem. So, take a deep breath and follow some of these fun activities below.
- Breathe – Close your eyes or watch a video of falling snow. Take some slow deep breaths. After one minute, check in with how you are feeling.
- Focus – What’s on your plate? Divide up your plate by Must, Should, Could. Draw it out or share with a friend for a minute. Consider how many things are pulling your focus and try to redirect it.
- Vision – Close your eyes and visualize ascending some steps. Take a step upward with every breath, moving upward and feeling accomplished. Now visualize your goal at the top of the stairs. What small steps can you take to reach it?
Step 2: Empty your mind
In my favorite book, Getting Things Done by David Allen, emptying your mind is one of the main ideas that really resonated with me because I have such a hard time remembering anything unless I write it down. So, when it comes to summer prep, emptying my mind of all the possible projects, tasks, and details of what I want to accomplish is liberating. When you do this, be sure to include everything you need to fix, repair, organize, purge, decorate, and style. I go room by room and leave no task unwritten. I have a whole system for working through this process systematically that you can find here.
Seeing the full scope of my goals laid out in a list really helps me decide what needs to be done and what is just me dreaming. I also can see what rooms need the most work and which ones can be complete in only a few steps. This year, I landed on my living room as the main focus, so be on the lookout for the series of posts coming soon.
Step 3: Prioritize
Once you see it all out in front of you, the next step is to prioritize. I usually try to stick with the menial purging, spring cleaning, and organizing part of the list to get done first. As you do this, consider if anything should be done in a certain order and/or whether or not in can be completed quickly in the time you have now.
My goal is always to get these menial tasks completed before May, if I can. That way, when I have more time towards the end of the school year and the summer, I can get the big projects rolling. If you are looking for a great way to create lists that you can easily drag and drop to prioritize, I use a program called Trello to organize all my tasks.
Step 4: Map your plan to get it done!
The best way that I have found to actually do the tasks in my list after prioritizing is to focus my attention on the top of the priority list, but also to put those tasks in to a paper calendar.
This seems pretty old school for someone who loves technology, but I find it helpful to write down the tasks (in pencil) because it forces me to consider what kind of time and energy I will potentially have during those days.
I spend about half an hour writing down any appointments or meetings on to the paper calendar. Then, I go one by one through my prioritized list to consider if I could accomplish that particular task on that day or if it needs to be spread out over multiple days or saved for a weekend.
The physical act of writing it down also helps me decide if my task is too vague. When I go to write something like, “buy drapes,” I am much more likely to realize buying drapes has more steps than just buying them. I first have to measure, consider color, pattern or not, and what stores I want to check out. Then, I have to actually go shopping. This type of task would take me at least two weekday days or for sure a Saturday morning/afternoon.
Also, after having done this a few times, I have a better sense of what I actually can accomplish on a Wednesday afternoon or on a day that I also have a work meeting. Understanding your energy and time constraints in your week is helpful to get a feel for how long the project and/or task is really going to take you.
I find this to be super helpful because it gives me realistic goals. I may tell myself I’m going to complete the living room, craft room, and dining room all before summer comes to an end, but looking at my timeline and all the summer activities we already have planned, I can quickly see that I’d be lucky if I complete even two of those tasks. Then, I know I either need to start earlier or limit my expectations on what I can get done and still live life.
What’s on your top priority list this spring?
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