Chantelle K. Dockter,
MA Licensed Professional Counselor
Question: I feel like I am drowning trying to keep all of the responsibilities in my life afloat. I am disorganized, and feel so overwhelmed that I tend to end up doing nothing. Help!
Answer: Okay, before you finish reading my answer, take a deep breath, make a cup of your favorite soothing tea, and sit down with a pen and notepad. I empathize with your plight, as I too often feel behind the ball. Once a person reaches a certain level of being overwhelmed, they tend to shut down and do the opposite of what they need to do: nothing. This leads to further discouragement (once the denial has worn off) which perpetuates the cycle.
Let me give you an example. Several years ago my husband and I moved into our new home from a much smaller condo. We did not have children yet, and needless to say we did not come close to filling it at the beginning. We were up and running, everything in its proper place fairly quickly after moving in. With one exception: our home office. We had personal information, work information for both Bryan and I, and a lot of miscellaneous stuff that had accrued that all needed to be coordinated into that room.
Every time I would open the door to attempt to go in and organize, I would take a long look, heave a big sigh, and walk out, closing the door behind me. I figured by not looking at it, it wasn’t there. After many weeks (okay, months) of doing this, my husband and I finally wised up. We realized that the task was just way too daunting and intimidating if we looked at the whole thing all at once. We decided to break it down, one pile at a time. We would literally set the timer for 15 minutes at a time, and when the timer beeped we knew we were free until the next day. Amazingly, the stacks began to visibly dwindle and until one day everything was in its happy home. At least for the time being!
Add a home project like this to keeping the rest of your home clean, paying bills, spending quality time with your kids and husband, friends, church, etc…there is just a lot to juggle. So how DO we keep the balls from falling? Here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. Make lists. So often we have a million thoughts, tasks, and “to do’s” running through our head, then promptly forget them when it is time for action. Have a list for each day of what you want to accomplish, and relish in the satisfaction of crossing each one off when you complete it.
2. Prioritize. There are only 24 hours in each day, and yes, you have to sleep…so keep the most important tasks at the top of your list and focus your attention on those.
3. Keep a small pad and pen with you. Whether it is in your purse, car, or back-pack, jot down what needs your attention and come back to it later.
4. Set timers. This works with tasks for yourself AND your children! See how much you can get done before the timer goes off. Make it a fun challenge between family members.
5. Categorize. Draw a pie chart, segmenting all areas of your life, such as family, home, friends, exercise, personal time, work, and school. Determine which areas need some extra attention and set your goals accordingly.
6. Reward your accomplishments. We all do better when we work towards something that motivates us. Don’t forget to treat yourself for all your hard work and recognize a job well done.
7. Keep your goals and expectations of yourself reasonable; none of us are Superwoman. Sometimes life throws us an unexpected curve and we may need to adjust or show ourselves some much-needed grace.
Chantelle K. Dockter, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor
Associate of CCCOW, CCCOW.org