#054: A Three-Step Process to Get Out Of Overwhelm [Podcast]

If you have ever felt the pressure of multiple converging deadlines, or simply too much to do and not enough time to do it all… I've got good news! There is a way to get out of overwhelm and into stress-free productivity.

Stress relief.

In this week's episode, I will help you implement a three-step process to get out of overwhelm and into action.

Here's what else is up in this week's podcast episode:

  • The secret to recording your iPad or iPhone screen.
  •  Is God willing to help you with your problem?
  • Finally, the return of Stu McLaren and the Lifestyle Business segment.
  • Plus, our feature presentation… A Three-Step Process to Get Out Of Overwhelm.

Special Announcements

  1. Time is almost up on the 3-Day Live Intensive,  April 5-7 in Phoenix. Get your ticket right now – click here.
  2. Special paid webinar next Tuesday, called “2 Hour Copy”. Learn more here.
  3. Would you like to have me speak at your event or church? I am accepting a limited number of engagements for 2013.  Click here to visit my speaking page and get details on my availability.

Tip Of The Week

ReflectorApp lets you “AirPlay mirror your iPhone 4S, iPad 2 or the new iPad to any Mac or PC, wirelessly.” In other words, you can record your iPhone or iPad screen! It's just $12.99

Spiritual Foundations

You probably believe God can do anything… but do you believe He will? Or that He is willing? How about this story…

And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
Matthew 8:2–3

Jesus showed that He was not only willing, but did the most amazing thing – he touched the leper. This points out the Lord's compassion, of course, and also the difference between the Old and New Covenants. In the Old Covenant, if you touched the leper, you became unclean. In the New Covenant, Jesus touches the leper and the leper becomes clean.

Jesus was wiling – but is He willing in your case?

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Hebrews 13:8

Whatever your need, Jesus is willing. Be certain of that. And don't feel you are disqualified because of things you worry make you unclean. When Jesus touches you, you are made clean!

Lifestyle Business Segment

It's the return of Stu McLaren! This week Stu answers the question: what is the value of connecting, really?

Feature Segment: A Three-Step Process to Get Out Of Overwhelm

It happens to all of us. We get into a situation where it feels as though we’re faced with multiple deadlines, crisis situations, and a calendar that is jam-packed… And it just feels impossible to meet all the demands. How do you get out of a situation like that?

Of course, I am speaking from personal experience. As I am writing this, I am facing one of the busiest seasons of my life. I have a conference that I am hosting coming up in less than two weeks, I have a couple of crucial client projects I’m working on, a client and friend I am partnering with on a very important project, three books in development, this blog, the weekly podcast, and multiple commitments in my church and ministry.

Many of these activities have deadlines that have, through one series of events or another, coalesced to come due at the same time.

Let me start by saying that I’m not complaining. The time pressure that I’m experiencing is almost exclusively brought on by fantastic opportunities that I am extremely grateful for. Nevertheless, I feel the stress of thinking that I’m going to let someone down.

So what do I do in a situation like this? And more importantly, and the reason you are most likely reading this post, what do you do in a situation like this?

I actually have a strategy that works. I’ve already applied it to my situation, and I can tell you that if you will follow the steps I’m about to outline for you, you’ll discover that you can relieve the pressure, meet your obligations, and be at peace.

  1. Get Clear about Your Commitments. This step alone will bring you some psychological relief. I tell you this because many of us are reluctant to go through the step of defining our commitments, afraid of what will find. Trust me when I tell you that knowing what you’re committed to is much less stressful than having a vague, nagging suspicion that some things are falling through the cracks.I recommend getting a clean legal pad, a pen you enjoy writing with, and some sort of timer (I just use the timer on my iPhone).Pile up every piece of paper, note card, scratch pad, mail item, everything in your inbox… All of the “stuff” that carries any sort of potential commitment. Just put it in a pile. Make sure you have access to your email inbox.

    You also need to have your calendar, whether that is a Franklin planner, your iPhone, or whatever calendaring system you use.Now, starting with the physical stuff, pick up the first item on top of the pile and decide what to do with it, either do it (if it takes two minutes or less), defer it (schedule it for later, writing into your calendar), delegate it (and it off to someone else and make a note in your calendar about when to check back in with them on this particular issue), or delete it (throw it away). When you’re finished going through your physical stuff, there should be no that left.Anything you need to keep for reference should be filed quickly and without lingering over. This is the reason for the timer-you’ve got to make this step quick. Do not get distracted on the rabbit trails. Don’t give yourself more than an hour total for this entire exercise.

    Next, move to your email inbox and go through the same process. As you go through this entire exercise, things will spring to mind that you need to do. Note them on your legal pad. The goal of going through this is that you clear all the physical “stuff” off your desk, you clear your inbox to zero, and you track all your commitments either on your calendar or your legal pad. Now you have a good idea of what you are actually committed to. Breathe a sigh of relief.

  2. Assign a Priority To Everything You Are Committed to. This is where David Allen and I part company. He is not a fan of the ABC prioritization system. But I have found that in situations where deadlines are crowded and crucial, prioritization is necessary. Only assign an “A” priority to items that are both urgent and important-things that must be done, and they must be done by a date that is getting close.Items that are important but not urgent (in other words, the date is not closing in on you like a freight train) get a “B” priority. I will warn you that this category is the one that will sneak up on you. By which I mean you’ll be tempted to load everything else on your list into the “B” category. I advise you in the strongest possible terms not to do that. Only put items in this category that are truly important.

    This is going to leave you with some “C” items… And these are the things that are neither urgent nor important. Consider just scratching them off your list altogether. If they are not urgent, and they are not important, why on earth are you committed to them? If you find items on this list that you just can’t let go of, put them on a “maybe” list. That way you will know you haven’t lost them, that you can always refer back to them, and you can admit that you may never do them.

  3. Mark Your Impending Deadlines on the Calendar. Identify which project or task comes up first on your physical calendar, and start working on that item first. Don’t work on anything else-and I do mean anything else-until this item is complete or until you hit a stopping point.I define a stopping point as any point at which you can no longer make progress until something happens that you are not in control of. Maybe you are waiting for data from a colleague, perhaps there is a phone call that is scheduled and you can’t proceed until after that call, etc. Once you have either finished this first task or project, or you can no longer make forward progress on it, move to the next item that shows up as a deadline on your calendar. Avoid the temptation to even look at your “B” list.

Two Key Pieces of Advice

  1. Fight the Resistance As If Your Life Depended on It. “The resistance” is the force that tries to distract you, too stop you from getting work done, or otherwise stand in the way of your accomplishing your goals.Steven Pressfield wrote about this in his wonderful book, The War of Art. My friend Michael Hyatt has written extensively about “the resistance”p on his blog.The Resistance is what convinces you that even though you have an important project you need to work on, now would be a good time to go get your hair cut. Or go to the post office. Or clean your desk. Or workout. Or do anything except the one thing you know you absolutely should be doing.

    If you want to get out of the feeling of stress and overwhelm you must not only fight the resistance, you must wrestle it to the ground and choke the life out of it. I know that sounds graphic, I know it sounds dramatic, but this is the real test. Can you defeat the resistance. Can you avoid distraction and procrastination. Can you exercise integrity in the moment and remain committed to the goals and tasks to which you have stated your committed. Resistance is the devil… and if you resist the devil, he will flee.

  2. Keep Cranking until You’re Ahead of the Curve.  This phase is really the test of whether or not you will get out of overwhelm. If you are willing to run the marathon, and keep at it until all of your “A” items are taking care of, and you begin to make process on the “B” items, you can quite quickly pull yourself out of overwhelm.A quick note here about the word “no”. During seasons where you feel overwhelmed, the skillful use of the word “no” is more important than at any other time in your life. You must, as Harvey Mackay is famous for saying, learn to smile and say “no” until your lips bleed. This can be especially difficult when the things you are saying “no” to are actually good things.

    As God has continued to bless me in my business, I have found that having his favor on my life has opened a multitude of doors for me. And it is at these times that I must remember that just because the doors are open is not mean I’m supposed to pass through them. In fact, I cannot pass through all of them.I am a firm believer in boundaries, especially around your time. I have times when I’m completely off the clock and do not do any work. Both times are part of my commitment to myself, my God, and my family. I also recognize that there are seasons in my life (and please note that I said “seasons”-not “epochs”) where I will temporarily move the boundaries. I’m currently in such a season.

    I’m working longer hours, spending more time on work projects the normal, and maintaining intense focus on my business. These seasons can be compared to the harvest on the farm. I have planted many seeds over the last couple of years, and the crop is coming in. I can either suspend all other activities and get to work on the harvest, or watch all my hard work rot in the field. As for me and my house, we are working the harvest until all the crops are in the barn.

Following these steps has brought me out of that desperate feeling of being overwhelmed, and into the quiet satisfaction of a job well done. I believe that if you will follow them, they will do the same for you.

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Ray Edwards is a world-renowned copywriter and communications strategist, writing for some of the most powerful voices in leadership and business including New York Times bestselling authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) and Tony Robbins. Ray is a sought-after speaker and author, hosts a popular weekly podcast, and blogs at RayEdwards.com.