It’s Monday. You slowly drag your body out of bed. You get weary just thinking about the mountain of work ahead of you this week: projects, deadlines, meetings, family events. You’re overwhelmed before you’ve even started. So what do you do?
I’ve coached many people over the years who have been worn down by a feeling of being overwhelmed. And often when I ask them to schedule out how they plan to accomplish what’s on their “To Do” list they have not written anything down. They have no real game plan for their week. That’s when I pull out my “start small” speech.
I think Naval Adm. William H. McRaven would agree. He spoke at Commencement for the University of Texas on May 17, 2014.You can watch the video here. He challenged the graduates to change their world. And the first thing he told them to do was something small. He said, “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” (That’s from someone who has been a Navy SEAL for 36 years. You want to argue with him?)
He went on to say that “If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.”
It’s small. But it is an important start to your day. It can become your statement each morning that you are going to get up out of your bed and straighten out the wrinkles and the wads that await you. Just by accomplishing something small you will gather a sense of victory that will lead you to the next small thing.
It can even begin the night before. Get your coffee ready. Lay out your clothes. Pack your lunch. All small things that add up and when they aren’t prepared ahead of time can eat into your morning “get ready” time and make you feel defeated before you even begin. And while you’re at it take a look at your calendar before you go to bed.
That’s another small thing you can do. Take your calendar and block out when you will work on each task ahead. I find this is difficult for some. It forces you to think about your week and picture yourself getting the work done and when you will get it done. But it is important visualization and organizational work that is done before the actual work is done.
“But these are big assignments I have this week!” you say? Break them down. Effective people take each task and break it down into smaller tasks.
- Need information? Make that phone call first or send an e-mail. You may not be able to go further without that.
- Take your information and then share it with your team.
- Or write the draft.
- Or research possible solutions to the problem.
Whatever the task break it down into bite size pieces and begin devouring it one section at a time.
Sounds too simple, right? You’d be surprised how many people have not developed the discipline of starting small. You can drown in your sense of being overwhelmed. Or you can choose to gain control of your days, your week . . . your life.
W. Clement Stone said, “Big doors swing on little hinges.”
You can open some big doors for your life today.
Instead of being overwhelmed, start. Start small.
Question: What do you do when you are overwhelmed?