It's About What's First Or Next

Overwhelmed. Of all the comments I hear when talking with others about their day, "overwhelmed" is heard most often. There's always an email, social media notification, or 3 foot long task list screaming at you. And if by some miracle you could conquer all this, you might find a nanosecond to take some time for yourself. If something else doesn't steal your focus away again.

Before you throw your hands up in the air in frustration and just waste the day with reacting to what's going on around you, try this simple technique: Answer two questions for yourself throughout the day:

  • What should I do first?
  • What should I do next?

Forcing yourself to answer these questions brings your day to a more manageable level. If I start thinking about ALL I need to do today or this week, I can get overwhelmed. But if I use this simple method of prioritization, it helps to not waste the present moment on something of lesser value.

For example, as I write this blog on a Monday, my mind is racing with all the events and activities of the week. I've got a presentation to finish, new training program to develop, countless follow ups with clients and potential clients, and I leave tomorrow! I'm depressed already. However, if I ask myself, "What should I do first?" the answer is "Go exercise," because I know that if I am to have the mental energy to work through my day, I need to improve my physical health.

Once I return to my work, I'll ask, "What should I do next?" and then answer that question, basing it on a deadline, potential return on investment for my business, or the urgency someone has to hear from me today. In my new book, Getting to It, I go into deeper detail on how to use filters to determine what comes next in your day or week as well.

The process may seem counterproductive to those who like to know all of their "A" "B" or "C" tasks for a day or week, and honestly I have some of those in my plan as well. But if I try and keep all of them in play mentally, that's overwhelming to me. Asking what's first or next, however, lowers my stress level and makes my day much more doable.