How to Plan Without Getting Overwhelmed

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Image of a woman and a man ripping papers outside and the phrase, How to Plan a Project Without Getting OverwhelmedYou sit down to do some planning in your schedule.

You’re going along at a good clip, when you start to feel overwhelmed.

You want to start working on one item in your schedule, followed by another, and another.

Your schedule seems so exciting, and yet at the same, so complex, difficult, and busy!

In this post, I offer several ways to sit down and do some planning…while still keeping your cool.

Plan routine or familiar items first.

Think of this exercise as a type of mini warm up.

The idea here is to start your planning session off slowly, but surely, and let you ease into the more challenging items.

Start with the basics: schedule your lunch breaks for the week, the times you arrive at and leave work, regular weekly meetings, and so on.

Having these routine items already booked in your schedule frames your other work nicely, plus gives you a few less things to worry about in your planning.

Get project tasks out of your head, and out of sight.

Give your mind some breathing room, and write down all of your ideas.

You could create a list of tasks, working quickly to write one item down on a single line, followed by another.

Or, you could capture tasks or actions on index cards. Start with a full stack of blank cards, and quickly write a single action on each card, and tuck it behind the stack.

Then, you can return to your list or stack of cards when you’re ready to sort through things.

Work with limited tools in a different environment.

You say you can’t help but try to work on a project when you’re at the computer at your desk. Why not shift your working environment and tools?

Allow yourself to focus on your work by changing your physical location and removing any unnecessary tools and materials from your reach.

You could move to an empty conference room or office, sit in a park or cafe, and only take the bare essentials needed for your planning, such as a planner, schedule, or blank notebook, and a pen.

Give yourself a break.

Feeling completely overwhelmed? Sometimes you can become so involved in your planning, that you have a hard time differentiating between small and large items. If so, it’s probably a good sign you should put away your schedule and take a break.

Put the planning aside for a few hours, or perhaps even a day, or two.

Work on something completely different; it could be a work or personal project, so long as it is not directly related to your planning.

Practice makes perfect.

Like many things in life, there’s no substitute for plain old practice. The more you practice planning, the better you’ll become.

The planning process will become more and more comfortable over time, but only if you put in the time to do so.

Try scheduling a regular planning session for yourself every week at the same day and time.

Treat yourself right and make it a pleasant and enjoyable experience. You could put on some soothing music in the background, brew a cup of your favorite hot beverage, and pull out your favorite pens or pencils, and get to work.

How about you? Are you ever tempted to work on a project task as you’re planning? What do you do to stay focused? Join the conversation and leave a comment below!

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Rashelle Isip is a New York City-based professional organizer and productivity consultant who helps people get organized so they can stress less, have more fun, and be happier at home. Her work has been featured in Good Housekeeping, Fast Company, Cosmopolitan, The Washington Post, Business Insider, and The Atlantic. Get access to her free guide, 3 Smart Steps to Organizing Your Home, by clicking here.