Freelance Overwhelm: Reigning in the Whirlwind

Many, not all, but many who do freelance writing confess to having a desk like mine. It has piles of papers and books. The desktop is virtually invisible. It looks like chaos. What I've come to realize of late is that part of the reason our desks look like the aftermath of a tornado is because that is what our minds are like. We always have a whirlwind of thoughts swirling around in our mind.

The Whirlwind of Overwhelm in Our Minds

There are new ideas popping up, items from our to-do list that still need to be done, concerns for people, musings from the past or plans for the future. They don't present themselves one-by-one in a neat, tidy list. They get blown into our mind like a bunch of post-it notes caught in a dust storm. We've barely caught a glimpse of one before it swirls away and a brief glimpse of another pops up. Pretty soon we don't know where to look, what to do or where to start because we are overwhelmed with so many ideas, possibilities and responsibilities. So, how do we harness all this and turn it into productivity?

Step 1: Stop!

Everyone is different, but for me, the first thing I need to do is stop. Stop listening to the whirlwind of thoughts. This has to be a conscious choice or they will just keep coming.

Step 2: Do!

You stop the thinking by doing, taking action. My 'do' usually consists of grabbing a pad of paper and a pen. Then, I choose my focus. Typically, this is writing a to-do list of my top priorities for the day. As I begin to focus on the task of recording that list, the whirlwind slows down so that I can grab individual "post-it notes" that relate to what needs to be done. They may come in a random order, but that's okay. I can prioritize those tasks once the list is complete.

Step 3: Focus

Now that the most urgent items have been pulled out of the whirlwind and been deposited on my notepad, my mind seems less chaotic. I can take a breath and relax. Plus, I have a physical list sitting in front of me on which to focus. Now I can prioritize my list and determine where to start and what comes next. Once I have those items corralled on paper and numbered, my freelance overwhelm is gone. I can focus on task #1, assess what needs to be done and move on with my day.

Freelance Overwhelm. How do you deal with it?

That's my simplistic process of reigning in my cluttered mind. What's yours?

Do you have tools you use or is pen and paper your go-to?

Let us know in the comments.