That can be for so many reasons – when it comes to where you spend your time you’re overwhelmed with choice, you don’t know where to start, you want to do a little of everything and sort of all at once, you’re burned out with decision making, you’re not getting any traction, you’re afraid – basically, you’re a bit stuck and you don’t know what to do next.
The problem is, most of us then just end up doing nothing. Or something that isn’t going to propel you in the direction of where you need to go. Maybe you respond to a few insignificant emails, maybe you check someone else’s Facebook feed to be inspired what they’re doing and get stuck there for half an hour, maybe you throw your laptop out the window and play Candy Crush.
You’re not alone. Well, you probably are if you threw your laptop out the window, but just about everyone I’ve talked to has felt this way at some point. The deeper you get into the quagmire of blogging (blogmire?), the harder it is to find all the hours in the day to do all the things you need to do be the Next Big Thing.
And with all the overwhelming choice, to-do lists, articles you need to read, articles you did read that told you 50 things you now need to do – you paddle about doing not much of anything at all.
The best thing I know to do when I don’t know what to do is: anything. Everything. Something.
Just get started
Like last week when I told you it’s ok to just be done and not perfect, you just have to make a start.
When I’m faced with a to-do list that is longer than a two-day hangover, and even after prioritising my list I still don’t know how I’m going to get through it all, I pick one thing and move one step in the direction toward getting it completed.
I open a new post and give it whatever headline I can think of at the time (I can always change it later!). When it comes to writing the post further down the track, at least a post has been created for it and that’s one less thing I have to do.
Sometimes I open a new post and just write whatever is in my head about what I want to say. And then come back to it the following week. I always get a spark of recognition, which reminds me of something else I wanted to say, and then suddenly I’m off.
Sometimes I look up just one article I think will be a useful resource and take a few notes.
I move one step in the direction towards getting it done [tweet that!] Then the next time I think about writing that post/updating that schedule/creating a social media strategy I feel much better knowing it’s already been started and I just have to swoop in and tie up the loose ends. Sometimes those “tying up loose ends” actually means “doing the whole thing” but it’s a relief knowing it’s begun. And “well begun is half done”, as they say (thanks Mary Poppins/Aristotle).
Do a Brain Dump
This is the fastest way for me to lessen the anxiety that can come with a giant to-do list. It’s such a useful tool for getting everything out of your head and onto something permanent that you can keep adding to, and you can get an overview of everything that’s on your task list which gives you a better idea of where you are, what’s a priority, and what you should be spending your time on.
Use a white board, a piece of paper taped to the wall, lots of post-its, a google doc, an Evernote note, etc – whatever you have that’s big enough to contain all the bits floating around in your head that you need to tackle. Don’t be shy, put every little tiny thing on there and finally get it down once and for all.
Separate those tasks into “right now”, “in the next year”, and “long-term goals”. I often use a new sheet of paper for each of these lists and transfer everything across, but you can highlight them in different colours, or stick them on post-its, whatever works for you.
Make a Cheat Sheet List
The next thing I like to do is check that master list of things to do, goals I want to achieve, and sundry tasks to be fulfilled and break them down into as many 10-minute tasks as I can. Then, when I’m feeling a bit lost at sea and haven’t got the motivation (or the time) to tackle one giant job, I pick one 10-minute task from my cheat sheet list (you can have one list for everything, or a list each for the short and long-term goals) and just do that one little task. I often then spend more than 10 minutes on it because I end up getting on a bit of a roll and can often get through quite a few of those small tasks – but it’s easier to sit down and do a small job when you’re feeling overwhelmed rather than be facing a massive job that you just can’t get your head around.
It stops me from floating around in that headspace where everything seems so overwhelming that I end up doing nothing (that overwhelm can often be what contributes to hoarding, as well as the pursuit of perfection, and I definitely hoard tasks instead of doing them!), and means I can actually cross a few things off my list because they only take 10 minutes, and that’s great for a feeling of productivity! And feeling productive then motivates you to be more productive and you feel like you’ve spent your time well instead of wasting it.
Get the brain working with less of the writing and logical bits of the task, and focus more on the creative parts that will spark thinking. Brainstorm the visuals for your post or social media, find an image to use or take your own, play around with fonts, give yourself 10 minutes to think of new ways you can promote the post, or devise a community challenge around it. Maybe think of an out-of-the-box way to create an affiliate post, or a different way to showcase a recipe. When you don’t sit down and stare at a blinking cursor trying to figure out what to write, but instead do some more imaginative, visual stuff, you often find that the task ends up in a natural state of flow and you complete more than you thought you would.
The extra bonus of this is that you find new ways to do things, it sparks ideas for more content, and can even motivate you to do the tasks you were dreading half an hour ago.
So remember: just start, even if you don’t finish. You’ll be thanking yourself next time you sit down to tackle that big to-do list!
What do you struggle the most with? Time? Overwhelm? Comparison? Let’s chat!
Stacey Roberts is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net: a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about all this and more at Veggie Mama. Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama or be entertained on Facebook.
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