Notes on Overcoming Overwhelm (a.k.a. Frog-Eating and Zorro Circles)

(I'm taking a slight break from the enduring saga of "Will Nikki live on her budget or not?" because, well, I got behind in my blogging. Ergo, I'm sending out a post I had written in advance. We'll get back to Nikki's fiscal adventures next week.)

Since overwhelm is ubiquitous, I thought I’d share two more strategies to help you if you're feeling behind on your to-dos.

I stand by what I wrote here and here: repeating simple mantras to yourself helps because what you say to yourself matters way more than what others say about you (or to you).

But let me expand a little….

For the strategies that I’m outlining below, I first recommend making a list of what needs to occur (even if you can’t see the whole picture yet). Don't worry about making it perfect. Just get all the things on paper. Everything. Do not hold back. Make it messy.

Then, once you do, you can

1. Eat the Frog

I don’t know where this came from, but “eating the frog” is bandied about in productivity circles.

What this means is doing the hardest thing first.

This could be sending that email first thing in the morning to say no to that job you kind of want to do, but isn’t paying that much (and you’re worried you’re going to strain the relationship); or it could be checking your credit card balance online to see how much you owe.

Yes, doing the hard thing is hard.

That's why it's good (sometimes) to do it first.

Because once it’s over with, the day opens up.

You feel a magnificent release.

Everything else that follows feels so much easier.

Because it is.

But if you fear doing that hard thing (or it just doesn't feel right), you could always try…

2. A Variation on the Zorro Circle

I'm almost done reading “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor, which is insightful and funny in equal doses.

On a recent morning when I felt overwhelmed from all the writing (and adulting) I needed to do that day, I read the chapter on Zorro Circles.

Borrowed from the myth, the Zorro circle is about identifying all of the things you need to do,

drawing a small circle around you (metaphorically), and becoming aware of the feelings you have about the tasks facing you, specifically how much control you have over them. (

According to Achor, in the first circle, you identify things you have the most control over, the things that are closest to you.

My variation on this is to identify the smallest, easiest tasks first.

Then, you identify and draw another circle outside of that and group all of the bigger, slightly more difficult tasks there.

As you draw another circle out of that, you identify the hardest tasks. Once you identify the tasks (from easiest to hardest), you can action on them (from easiest to hardest) and build a momentum. Because once you feel the micro-victory of getting a small thing done, it gives you strength to focus on and accomplish the next hardest thing.

When I read this (and did it), I started by doing the easiest things of responding to emails

and planning logistics for my upcoming week. Accomplishing those tasks set me up writing several pieces of content (which I did from easiest to hardest).

By the time I was finished with everything, I had earned a "good tired," and the day felt complete.

Hope one (or both) of these strategies does the same for you.

Long live less overwhelm.

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