Are you having trouble starting a huge project because you feel overwhelmed? Here is how to break it down and get it done.
Previously, we talked about dealing with the overwhelm that comes from having too many things to do.
In this article, we are going to tackle those projects that are so big they are overwhelming. For example, I work with a lot of people who say that they want to write a book but they do not know where to start. Or they want to take on a new project in their business, or get organized, or create a product or any number of things that seem, well, overwhelming.
Have you heard the expression that the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time? That is how you need to attack your overwhelming project: one bite at a time. Looking at the entire project can make it seem impossible, but looking at the smaller tasks within the project will make you realize that you can do it, one bite at a time.
Do not start with the assumption that you are going to finish a huge project in a day, a week, or perhaps even a month. But you will never finish if you don’t start, so our objective here is to get you to start.
Chances are that you do not know exactly what you will have to do at every step along the way. Even if you think you do, there will probably be surprises. What matters here is that you choose a place to start. There probably isn’t one perfect thing to do first, but rather several things that need to be done to get started. Just choose one and do it. For example, if you are writing a book there are several ways to get started, and everyone who has ever written a book has probably done it differently. Don’t get hung up on doing it right to the point where you do not do it at all. Just do it.
If you are not sure what you need to do, make a plan in reverse. Start with the result you want, then work your way backwards to where you are. Have you ever planned a big party? You can work back from the date of the party to figure out that in order to get the guest count to the caterer two days before you need to send out invitations at least two weeks before. That means that if you are mailing invitations, they need to be in the mail about two and half weeks before the event, which means you need to order the invitations six to eight weeks before the event. To know how many to order you need a guest list…and so on. The same process works with any big task.
One of the problems that many people face with overwhelming projects is getting bogged down in the middle. You may have jumped in with enthusiasm, but now it feels as though you have been working on this forever and the end is not yet in sight. One way to stay on track is to make yourself accountable to someone. It could be your coach or a friend, as long as they will actually hold you accountable and not let you off the hook too easily. Set intermediate goals with a reward for meeting the goal or a penalty for failing to meet it. For an example, read https://idealady.com/the-economists-weight-loss-plan
Chart your progress as you reach your intermediate goals. When you are hitting a wall and feeling frustrated, just looking back over what you have accomplished so far can be motivating.
Know when to stop. Just as it can be hard to start a big project, some people find it hard to finish. There is always one more thing that can be done to make it a little bit better. Having unreasonable standards will contribute to a feeling of being overwhelmed. It is important to do a good job, but aiming for perfection sets you up for overwhelm, frustration and failure. You are not perfect. Get over it. Settle for excellent.
Stop feeling overwhelmed and start taking action.