5 Ways To Stay Productive When You’re Overwhelmed

The week before a vacation are always totally bonkers for me. I’m cramming all my work in, trying to hit the gym, buying crafts for my kid’s class party, booking activities and restaurants for while we’re gone, the list goes on and on. As much I try to stay on top of things it can feel like I’m loosing my mind. I look like Sarah Jessica Parker in that movie “I Don’t Know How She Does It” when she’s lying in bed obsessing over her endless to-do list.  This got me thinking. How can we stay on track with our life when we feel overwhelmed? There have to be some easy solutions that can help us feel a little less stressed and stay productive.

Here’s what I’ve found helps me:

Priority Buckets

The first thing I do is write a huge brain dump list into Goggle Docs where I list out everything I need to get done into different priority buckets. For example: I have buckets for Family, Work, House, ME. After I’ve gotten everything into the lists I separate out the high priority tasks and the low priority tasks.

Schedule It

One of the most important tactics is only scheduling 3-5 high priority tasks per day. If I start to add too much I will start to stress that I don’t have enough time to get it done. Being able to cross off a few things each day is extremely gratifying and makes me feel like a boss! I will sprinkle in some of the lower priority tasks into times where I can multi-task. I don’t always do this because sometimes slowing down and not being hyper-productive will serve you better, but this is for those weeks where you got a lot to do in a short amount of time. Things like errands and time for me (ie: social activities, exercise, reading) can be sprinkled into my day if I’ve been productive.

Here’s an example:


Family bucket high priority:

  • Buy craft for my daughter’s class party
  • Schedule dentist appointment

Family bucket low priority:

  • Order Valentine’s Day gifts for kids
  • Research online for housekeeping near me

Work bucket high priority:

  • Schedule social media posts for the week
  • Write blog post that’s due

Work bucket low priority:

  • Start brainstorming for February’s newsletter theme

Me bucket:

  • Take ten minute walk with my dog
  • Read for 20 minutes before bed

Think about when you’re most productive. For me, it’s in the morning after the kids are at school. I will do a few calming rituals at home to get my head into the game and then I will get working on my high priority tasks. Also, don’t ignore the ME bucket. It’s  high priority, people!

Set Timers

Recently, I’ve started setting timers for things in an effort to get quickly get more done. This helps when I get too sidetracked or I’m taking way too long on something. I know this may sound like it will add to your stress, but I think if it like a game. I set timers for emails, researching, emptying the dishwasher, online shopping, taking a shower. I don’t always do this (because I would go mad), but on week’s where time’s short I find that this helps me stay focused and have some fun while I’m at it.

Life Stuff

One of the hardest aspects for me is the life stuff has to get done. It may not exactly be on my official to-do list, but still has to happen. Things like emptying the dishwasher, folding laundry, cooking meals, etc. This is where the real overwhelm starts to creep in. I have two strategies for these. If it’s an unusual week and you are majorly cramped for time then let that stuff go where you can. Maybe it’s a week where you skip out on cooking a ton or cleaning the sheets. If it’s an average week and you’re just trying to be productive then try to get yourself into a routine of weekly life stuff. Like meal prepping on Sunday, cleaning the sheets on a Thursday, emptying the dishwasher first thing in the morning. I find that the more routine and scheduled I can be with that stuff the more smoothly it works into my busy day. Also, get people to chip in. That helps too!

Be Easy On Yourself

Lastly, I like to remind myself that I’m human and I can’t be winning at everything. Some things are going to have to slide when I’m super busy and stressed. I also won’t forgo things like eating well and sleep in an effort to be more productive because I end up feeling even more terrible. Try to remember that you aren’t perfect (none one is!) and that it’s very likely some things you wanted to get done aren’t going to happen and that it’s OK. You can always try again. So do your best at tackling that to-do list and pour yourself a big glass of wine at the end of the week. You deserve it.

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Author: Taylor Sterling

Taylor Sterling is the founder and creative director of Glitter Guide. When she's not working on all things GG, she can be found reading and sometimes art directing photoshoots for @LolaJayne. She enjoys spending time with her family and eating french fries (not necessarily at the same time, although that's definitely the best combination). Follow her at @TaylorSterling