The feeling of overwhelm can be crippling to a newly promoted manager. Having too many deadlines, hundreds of e-mails, back to back meetings, and a wider span of relationships and responsibilities than you’re used to can create the feeling that there is just too much to do .

If you feel like you’re being crushed by overwhelm and that you can’t deliver, your credibility will take a hit too. Nobody wants that.

I’m here to offer a quick brain hack that will transform all of this.

Let’s pretend that you wrote down every single thing that you have to do in all areas of your life, my guess is that it would fill several pieces of paper. I also have a hunch that if you were to just work on those things on the list without adding any additional tasks until they are all done, it would probably take you weeks or even months before you get everything done.

In reality though we are always adding to our lists.

Now, if that is the reality, why do we persist with the idea that it’s possible for us to get everything done?

It simply isn’t possible.

50–80% of the things on that list will never get done.


Don’t argue with reality.

Accept it.

The Magic Pill

So if the majority of these tasks will never get done, and we accept that and find peace with that then rather than being a source of pressure, our To Do list becomes a menu from which we get to choose.

When I ask an overwhelmed client these two simple questions,

“Tell me, what’s your gut feeling…

What are the 3 most urgent tasks that you need to get done?

What are the 3 most important tasks you need to get done?”

they are always able to answer them.

Try it for yourself and then write down those six things.

Next, imagine you were just going to focus on one of those tasks today, how much of your time would it take to complete the task. If the answer is more than two hours then the chances are that is a project and not a task. Break it down into separate tasks and find the single next action that will move this project forward. That is your next task.

To the right of each of the six tasks write down the date and time when you would like to complete those tasks or need to complete those tasks by.

When you have done this for all 6 items ask yourself, If I could do just one of these, which will have the greatest positive impact when done?

Place the number 1 next to that one. Then repeat the question for the remaining five items and put a 2 next to the most important one of those five. Keep repeating the question until each of your tasks are numbered from 1 to 6.

We’ve already agreed that it’s not possible to do everything. Next we need to agree that the idea of multi-tasking is a fallacy. People do their very best work when they are focused on a single task.

Do you want to do your very best work?

Do the first task first.

Focus on that and only that.

Get it done.

Then the next and so on until all 6 are complete.

Most people feel so overwhelmed that they struggle to complete anything.

If you complete 3 urgent and 3 important tasks per day you are taking control and making progress. Soon you will have fewer urgents and will be getting 5 or 6 important things done per day. Feeling overwhelmed will quickly become a thing of the past.

Try it. I’d love to hear the difference it makes in the comments below.