How To Work When You’re Overwhelmed

As I write this article, I have exactly 32 other things to do that I’ve labeled high priority . In addition, I have 39 things to do that are medium priority . And, lingering toward the end of the list, I have 21 things to do that are low priority . You might think that I’m overwhelmed. But guess what? I’m not. Here’s how you too can take your productivity to a whole new level while keeping your stress down. These ideas will work whether you’re running a home-based business  or simply trying to be more effective in life or work. Why We Freak Out When There’s Stuff to Do Understanding the root of stress is the first step toward getting rid of it. I believe a lot of our stress comes from the “unknowns” in our lives: We know we have a lot of email sitting in our inbox and think that the number of emails is what makes us feel overwhelmed. The lack of knowing what’s contained in those emails, however, is probably what’s keeping us overwhelmed. It’s an unknown. We have bills piled high on our desk and don’t know if we can pay them. That scares us. It’s an unknown. We are feeling tax time approaching and are not quite sure if we’ve done our accounting right. We don’t know if we’ll be able to find all our receipts and documentation. It’s an unknown, and it terrifies us! All of us have unknowns in our lives. In fact, we always will. So what do we do about these unknowns? Do we run and hide? No! We’re fighters! We’re not giving up! How to Calm Down and Get Back to Work Get all of that stuff out of your head. Have you heard of a neti pot ? It’s something you can use to flush out your sinuses. Gross, yes. In a similar manner, the first step toward feeling better and less “congested” is to empty your head of all the tasks you’re trying to remember to do. Cleanse your head by writing everything down you need to do in the future. Yes, everything you can think of. Some things you’ll be able to do right away, others you’ll need to do later. Some things are big projects, others are simple things like remembering to take the garbage out. Now you can choose to prioritize your list if you like. But whatever you do, don’t make a I’ll-do-this-today list. If you make one of those, you’ll inevitably not do something on that list and feel horrible and discouraged when you have to move tasks to tomorrow. I like David Allen’s concept of “Next” lists. Try making your list based on different contexts such as “things to do at home” or “things to do regarding work.” Then you should take your list and prioritize it. Don’t make a big deal about this. Just prioritize loosely. Make sure that you include due dates for your list. It might help to get some task management software like Things for Mac to help you organize. Do the most urgent and important things first. Even though you may have prioritized your list, you might have to follow your gut when it comes to choosing what to do next. Generally, it’s best to choose a task from your next list that is high priority. But which high priority do you choose to accomplish first? That’s where you have to follow your instinct. Dave Ramsey (mastermind behind the 7 Baby Steps ), in his book EntreLeadership, talks about the difference between urgent and important tasks. Urgent tasks are those things that have to get done soon or they’ll die. Important tasks are those things that should get done because they hold a purpose. If any task is both urgent and important, you should do those tasks first. Do the weekly review. Seriously. Once a week, I review all of my items to make sure that I’m on track. The only time I review my entire list is once a week. Why? If I reviewed my list every day, it would overwhelm me. I, like you, have way too much on my plate and have to focus on the task at hand – not stressing over what I have coming up. Focus on one task, complete, repeat. If you’ve taken the advice above, you’re ready to focus on the task at hand, complete it, and then repeat the process. There is a great power to focusing on one task at a time. Try it. You’ll be better able to focus now that you don’t have to remember everything you have coming up (it’s written out in a list). After you complete your current task, go right to the next task – follow your gut – what do you need to accomplish next? By following this process, we put off trying to understand or worry about the “unknowns” in our lives and simply focus on one thing at a time. We trust that we’ll get to those “unknowns” and figure them out at a later time because we have them in our system. Jesus wants us to have a strong focus on today: Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:34 NIV So, what are you overwhelmed about? I suggest you get it out of your head, onto paper, and focus on what you can accomplish right now. You’ll feel more motivated to get things done! Are you overwhelmed? Tell us about it. What are some ways you cope with the stress of multiple tasks weighing down on you? Leave a comment below! Checklist image from Shutterstock Related Articles: 3 Ways To Better Focus At Work Feeling Overwhelmed? Start Here! How to Save Hundreds of Dollars By Taking a Day Off Work 3 Ways To Simplify Your Work Schedule John Frainee is a personal finance writer at TheChristianDollar.com . His goal is to provide biblical financial principles that encourage people to live healthier lives. Beyond personal finance, John enjoys spending time with his wife and two crazy cats, playing a competitive game of Monopoly, and reading just about anything he can get his hands on. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook .

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Life Lessons from 6 Famous Failures

H ave you ever met a successful person who did not encounter some failures along the way?  I know I haven’t … it seems that failure is inextricably blended into the pathway toward success .  Fortunately for us, some very famous people have traveled this path.  What can we learn from these “famous failures”? 1. Never give up .  (Winston Churchill) Churchill failed sixth grade and was defeated in every election for public office until he became Prime Minister of England at the age of 62.  When he met with his Cabinet on May 13, 1940, as England was about to enter the war against Germany, he told them that, “ I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. ” I believe it was Churchill’s determination to face his earlier failures head on which gave him the resolve to lead his nation through years of warfare.  He later wrote these now famous words, “ Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never, never, never, never give up .” How about you?   When you are pursuing something noble, honorable and right, do you tend to give up or do you, like Churchill, doggedly stick with it? 2. Learn from your failures .  (Thomas Edison) Thomas Edison’s teachers said he was “too stupid to learn anything.”  He was fired from his first two jobs for being “non-productive.”  He made thousands of unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb, but when a young reporter asked him how if felt to have failed all those times, Edison’s now famous reply was, “ I didn’t fail 5,000 times.  I discovered 5,000 ways that didn’t work. ” How about you?   When things don’t go as you hoped for, do you get paralyzed by self pity or do you take a step back and ask yourself, “ What can I learn from this experience? ” 3. Discover your niche.  (Albert Einstein) Albert Einstein did not speak until he was 4 years old and did not read until he was 7.  One of his teachers described him as “mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in his foolish dreams.”  Einstein had speech difficulties as a child and was once thought to be mentally handicapped. He was expelled from school and failed admittance into Zurich Polytechnic School.  However, he buckled down, received some training and was eventually accepted into Zurich Polytechnic.  A few years later, after earning his PHD, he received a Nobel prize for Physics and has generally been recognized as the genius of our modern era. Because of his early failures, Einstein could have given up. Obviously, he wasn’t meant to be a writer or speaker, but he WAS meant to be a physicist of the highest order.  The key?  Discovering his niche. How about you?  Do you think of yourself as a failure in life because you failed in one area of life?  Maybe those failures are a message you should heed:  try something else, and keep trying until you discover your niche. 4. Trust your gut. (Beethoven) Although Beethoven handled the violin awkwardly, and his music instructor told him that he was “hopeless as a composer”, he continued to play his own compositions instead of working on his technique.  The rest, of course, is history and even legend: Beethoven wrote five of his greatest symphonies while completely deaf. We are thankful today that Beethoven insisted on playing his own compositions, but, if he hadn’t “trusted his gut”, he may have given up his pursuits of composing.  He just KNEW that he was meant to be a composer. How about you?  Are you doing what you know you should be doing?  Do you continue doing it even if critics and friends tell you to give up ?  Do you trust your gut?  5. Use criticism as your motivator . (Sidney Poitier) After his first audition, the casting director told Sidney Poitier, “ Why don’t you stop wasting people’s time and go out and become a dishwasher or something? ”  Poitier recalls that he decided at that very moment to devote his life to acting. How about you?  Does the sting of criticism make you want to quit or do you allow it to motivate you? 6. Allow failures to give you focus.   (JK Rowling) Before Harry Potter fame, JK Rowling was a divorced mother living on welfare.  She refers to herself as “the biggest failure I knew”, but credits much of her success to her failure.  She explained in a Harvard commencement speech, “ Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter, and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life .” How about you?   Do your failures give you an intense focus on the things that really matter to you?  If not, why not? Hopefully, these stories will help us realize that failure is not final, but merely preparation for the next step in our journey. Readers:  How do you deal with failures in your own life?   Do you see them as healthy steps on the roadway to success or as disappointments to be avoided? Does fear of failure ever keep you from attempting a new venture? Failed man image from Shutterstock Related Articles: How To Turn Your Failures Into Opportunities Failure Overcoming the fear of failure Success or Value? Joe Plemon, a retired engineer, financial counselor and blogger, lives in Southern Illinois with Janice, his wife of 40 years. Joe likes online Scrabble, St Louis Cardinal baseball, blues music, power naps, high school football, short term mission trips and Sunday family dinners. You can read more from Joe at Personal Finance by the Book .

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How to Escape Busyness and Stress

The modern world is a cauldron of busyness—in fact if we allow ourselves to run on auto pilot, busy is what we’ll be. There’s always an errand to run, a phone call that needs to be made, a meeting to attend, a “must see” sporting event or TV program. We’re consumed with a life in which we’re “busy being busy”. What are we getting out of all of that? Plenty, and none of it is good for us. Busyness causes stress and a sense of a lack of control over our lives—we want to do better, but there just isn’t time. Busyness can seem benign, perhaps because it isn’t a single catastrophic event, but rather a daily onslaught of much lesser occurrences. But rest assured it can be every bit as damaging to our lives as cigarette smoking, over-eating or spending money we don’t have. How Busyness Causes Damage What are some ways that busyness damages our lives? It damages our relationship with God One of Satan’s favorite ways to keep us either from coming to God or from deepening our relationship with Him is through distraction. Busyness is the best kind of distraction at least in part because it doesn’t seem like one. One of the first things to go when we get busy is prayer (“I’ll do it later”), and once that starts to go the dominoes begin to fall. Church attendance becomes infrequent, as do fellowship and Bible study. All of these represent our relationship with God and as they begin to disappear, so does our relationship with Him. At the time it happens we may not even realize what’s taking place—after all, we’re taking care of matters that need to be dealt with and isn’t that what God wants us to do? Not exactly. In Luke 10 we have Jesus visiting the home of Mary and Martha, and Martha finds herself “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made”. While Martha runs to and fro, making sure all is just right, her sister Mary sits at the feet of Jesus and just listens. When Martha implores Jesus to make Mary help her, he gives an astonishing reply: “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”—Luke 10:41-42 The Savior of the Universe was in her home, and all Martha had to do was to relax and enjoy him, but she chose the route of busyness. We can we fall into the same trap. Our relationship with God is built on quiet, undistracted time with Him; we have to be purposeful about making that happen in a world that’s desperate to pull us in the opposite direction. It damages our relationships with family and friends Just as in our relationship with God, we need to spend time with family and friends in order to nurture and grow the bonds. But the time we would spend doing this can easily disappear into a routine of perpetual busyness. It’s often when we become really busy—and “something has to give”—that what gives is our relationships with the people who are closest to us. That can happen without ever making a conscious decision to do so. Often, we do it under the assumption that our loved ones will “understand”. We should never count on that. It’s not an exaggeration to say that this kind of distance can ruin marriages, sour a parent/child relationship and turn friends into non-friends. Our schedules are never more important than the people closest to us. It damages our health Have you ever gotten off the bathroom scale and sworn to yourself, “I’ll (go on a diet, start exercising, get a physical, etc) tomorrow?” Does tomorrow ever come? When we’re wrapped up in a series of minor “must do’s” the commitment quickly goes into the dustbin with others that we’ve broken with ourselves. Health is one of those areas where the clock is ticking even though we choose to do nothing. Once health is lost, it may be gone for good—is that worth clearing away some extra time out of your busy schedule? It damages work and business Back in high school I had a part-time job in a local grocery store. One night I was commenting on how another worker always seemed so busy, and the assistant manager turned my observation around completely. The co-worker, he said, was a master of “keeping his hands busy to look like he was working” but in reality he accomplished little of any real value. That was a lesson well learned. When it comes to work, most of us have a great deal of responsibilities, but there are usually one, two—maybe three—that define our success or failure. This is true on just about every job imaginable, and even more so if you’re self-employed . What are those functions that are most critical to what we do? With work, it’s often tempting to “major on the minors”—working first (or mostly) on what is least essential. A job loss, being passed over for promotion or a business failure are often the result of busying ourselves with what is least important. Identify your most important function(s), then commit to spending the majority of your time working on them. People who know this and pursue it relentlessly are the success stories. It’s the only way forward. How to Regain Control of Our Lives How do we cut back on busyness and get control of our lives and escape? Prioritize As we discussed above with work, even though we have dozens – maybe hundreds – of responsibilities and events in life, our success or failure in any one arena will depend on our ability to identify the MOST important ones and to spend the first, best, and largest amount of time on them. You can even put them in numeric order. Delegate A good friend of mine used to say (frequently!) “do your best and let others do the rest”. He was one of the most successful salesmen I ever knew, at least in part because he followed that saying to the letter. Sometimes we think we have more control over our lives by handling every detail ourselves, but the opposite is much closer to the truth. Not every job or function in your life needs to be done perfectly or even specifically the way you want. Let go of as much as you can, and free your time up for what’s most important. Consolidate It often seems that there aren’t enough hours in a day to do all that we need to do. As much as I hate multi-tasking, it does have its place. If you have several errands to run, try to do them in one trip. I know it isn’t good to talk on the phone while driving, but I’ll often return a phone call when I’m on the way to pick up my son at school. I’ll also put my phone on speaker when I’m cooking or doing some other function at home; I can do my work and still chat with a friend. Regiment Where ever possible, try to create an assembly line to handle similar responsibilities. For example, block out a time to pay all your bills , time to call several friends, or time to deal with disputes (medical bills, credit card issues, regulatory compliance, etc). The idea is to handle similar functions in time blocks that free up the rest of your time to do what is most important. It creates greater focus on the job at hand but also minimizes the distraction that comes from trying to handle issues on a piecemeal basis. Let go of a few things Most of us tend to carry too much baggage in life. It could be habits, hobbies, obsessions, stuff—you name it. But everything we take on in life takes at least some time and effort. Think about all you have—can you get rid of some of it? Think about all that you do—do you really need to do all of it? Can you pass it on to someone else? Think about all that you worry about—will the world implode if you just let it go? You already know the answer to that one. Do you ever find that you’re too busy with everything to accomplish your goals or to have better relationships? What are you doing to get control of it? Meet us in the comments! Image by  Kurhan / Shutterstock Related Articles: How to Change the World by 5pm! True Perspective from Two Phone Calls Tips On How To Get Along With Your Boss Is your mortgage hindering you from fulfilling God’s call? How to Successfully Network as a Business Owner How To Help Family Members With Money Problems The Life Of Moses: How God Is Always Working in Your Life With backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry, Kevin Mercadante is professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of OutOfYourRut.com , a website about careers, business ideas, money and more. A committed Christian, he lives in Atlanta with his wife and two teenage kids. The articles on this site are for entertainment purposes and should not be taken as financial advice. Please contact a financial professional for specific advice regarding your situation. Also, many of the CPF articles help us pay the bills by using affiliate relationships with Amazon, Google, eBay and others. Find out more here .

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