Modern*Simplicity

Creating a Life Free From Chaos

Do You Feel Like You’re Behind? 7 Ways to Conquer the Overwhelm

Do You Feel Like You're Behind? 7 Ways to Conquer the Overwhelm“I have so much to do, it’s insane.”

“My to-do list is a mile long.”

“I will never catch up.”

Sound familiar? Do you feel like you’re behind, like you’ll never get caught up? That feeling of being behind causes some serious overwhelm, and that overwhelm blurs your vision and clouds your thoughts. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because that overwhelm kills both your creativity and your productivity.

Overwhelm can cause frantic action, when you’re thinking, “I’ll work really hard and get all this stuff done so I can finally breathe.” The rushing causes you to feel super stressed, and you’re not sure how long you can keep up the pace. Your productivity suffers as your attention stretches too thin.

Or maybe that overwhelm paralyzes you — you aren’t sure what to do first, what is most important because it all seems important, it all seems urgent. So you do nothing because you just can’t deal.

Overwhelm kills both your creativity and your productivity. Click To Tweet

Both of these scenarios send your mind to negative places, and you find that you’re beating yourself up for taking too much on, for not being productive enough, for not working hard enough. The negativity spirals until the overwhelm wins.

Change your thinking

The key to conquering that overwhelming feeling of being behind is to change your thinking. Focusing on the past, on the things you didn’t get done, will get you stuck and set you up for failure. Instead, focus on what you can do, what you can control.

Think about what is truly important to you. We try to be everything to everyone, but in reality, we may actually be accomplishing nothing because we are not focused. What is one big thing you want to work on right now? Is it something you can focus on for the next month?

7 ways to conquer the overwhelm

  1. Whenever possible, put like activities together. I have two kids. They always go to the dentist together, on the same day, same time, so I only have to deal with it once. Doctor appointments are always scheduled one right after the other. If I have errands to run, I’ll set aside time to do them all in one day. Think of it as batching tasks.
  2. Before you add any task, ask yourself if it’s something you really need or want to do. Don’t fill your calendar with stuff you hate just for the sake of doing things. It’s OK to say no and create margin in your days.
  3. Organize your task list. Go through your to-do list, and reorganize your tasks. Cross off anything that you really don’t need or want to do. Group similar tasks together, such as errands, phone calls, emails, online work, home tasks, etc. Mark the most urgent tasks with a 1, important but not urgent tasks as a 2, and tasks that aren’t urgent or vital with a 3. Make it a goal to do at least one #1 task per day.
  4. Done is better than perfect. We often procrastinate because we think we won’t be able to do the task perfectly, and that leads to projects staying on your to-do list for far too long, creating that “left behind” feeling. You do nothing because you don’t think you’ll do it well enough. It’s hard to perfect something that isn’t there, so how do you plan to make your project good enough when you don’t have a place to start from?
  5. Do it now. Whenever possible, start the task right away. Don’t put it off. Recognize that you won’t have more energy, or more time, or more inspiration, tomorrow. Make it as easy as possible to start now.
  6. Schedule time to check email, social media, read the news, any of those little habits you tend to do throughout the day. Don’t use them to fill the time, or to distract you from more important tasks. Write down when you’re going to do them, and for how long. Put that in your calendar or post a sticky note somewhere that you’ll see every day and follow that schedule. Don’t let those little habits take you away from tasks you need to finish.
  7. Check your phone and delete all those little apps that you waste time on. Remember Candy Crush? I could waste hours on that game. Maybe it’s not a game that distracts you. Is it social media? Facebook? Twitter? Pinterest? Delete those apps from your phone now, at least as an experiment. Same goes for iPad. Try it for a week, and see if you get more time back to focus on more important things.

Will you ever finish every task on your to-do list? No, none of us will, so making “to-do list zero” isn’t a viable option. Give yourself some grace, organize your tasks, and be thoughtful about adding more to your plate. As long as you’re moving forward, you’re not behind at all.

Give yourself some grace, organize your tasks, and be thoughtful about adding more to your plate. Click To Tweet

Who Needs to Be Where When?! Time Management for Families

Time Management for FamiliesTrue story: I once showed up a month early for my son’s parent/teacher conference. Yep, a whole month early. Right “day,” right “date number,” wrong “month.” I knew something was wrong when I pulled into the empty parking lot of the school. I was mortified, though I guess I should have been relieved that only the custodial staff saw me. How does stuff like that happen? I put the wrong date on my calendar and never double checked it, even though I wondered why the teacher hadn’t sent any conference reminders. Lesson learned.

Posting my mortification on Facebook (because I’m a glutton for punishment,) I found out I’m not alone. So many of my mom friends had their own stories of missed appointments, forgotten obligations, instances of showing up at the right place at the wrong time, or even with the wrong kid at the wrong activity or missing the correct gear. And these are wicked smart women too. What is it that’s giving us that “mom brain” where we confuse times, places, even which kid is going to which activity?

What is it that’s giving us that “mom brain” where we confuse times, places, even which kid is going to which activity? Click To Tweet

Why do we do this to ourselves?

We all want to be able to organize our schedules and have the discipline to maintain them on a daily basis, but how? It can be especially frustrating when you have multiple children who each have their own activities that need your participation (most often in the form of a chauffeur). Add in a job, a spouse, maybe even a hobby or side gig, and it’s a recipe for calendar disgrace. Creating a workable schedule can be time-consuming and often results in a frustrating battle with your calendar.

But you need to do it. With the new school year fast approaching, this is the time to get your calendar in order, before the invitations and school events lists start pouring in, demanding even more time. And if your kids are involved in sports, my condolences. Soccer for two boys nearly killed me, so I was relieved when they dropped out. Now I just deal with tons of Scouting events.

Create a calendar system. Use the system. That is why we have systems. Think of it as 'if you build it, they will come.' Or at least, they probably won't be late. Click To Tweet

Tips for setting the calendar

  • Put together a shared calendar. I highly recommend Google calendars. I have a personal calendar, my husband has one, we each have a work calendar and we have a shared family calendar. Even our kids’ schools have Google calendars we can subscribe to. The beauty of Google calendars is that they all show up on one calendar view, color coded according to “whose” calendar it is, even on a mobile device. We even have a Cub Scouts calendar and a Boy Scouts calendar on Google to keep each boy’s activities straight. If you want to keep your activity private, you can set it to show just a colored block marking off your time as unavailable. The key here is that all these calendars can be shared with the appropriate people but seen TOGETHER on one calendar view.
  • Now make your family use it. This may be a little tricky, and it may take some persuasion, but keep at it. My husband will tell me about some event, and I still have to ask him if he put in on the shared calendar. I will not remember. Use the system. That is why we have it. It will remember for you. Include relevant data such as address or phone number for appointments so you don’t have to look that info up again later.
  • Start with your own activities first. The non-negotiable stuff. Your work hours, your spouse’s work hours. Meetings. Business trips. Medical appointments. Get them all on the calendar, not just random sticky notes and business cards lying around with hard-to-decipher dates.
  • Add in your routine kids’ activities, such as music lessons, speech therapy, Scout meetings, sports, swim lessons, whatever you’ve got.
  • As you receive school calendars, event notices, practice schedules, anything, add all relevant information to the shared calendar, including school vacation days, photo day, field trips, band concerts. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, until you put that stuff on the calendar. Double check your work too, to make sure you don’t wind up at an appointment a month early. Like, you know, me.
  • Whenever possible, put like activities together. I have two kids. They always go to the dentist together, on the same day, same time, so I only have to deal with it once. Doctor appointments are always scheduled one right after the other. If I have to drive an hour to Tulsa for a specialist’s appointment, I’ll purposefully schedule anything else that needs to happen in Tulsa for that day, so I can save the drive back and forth. Think of it as batching tasks.
  • Before you add an event, ask yourself if you really want or need to even go. Don’t fill your calendar with stuff you hate just for the sake of doing things. It’s OK to say no and create margin in your days.
  • Keep it current. As events change, get canceled, or new ones are added, update the calendar immediately. If you wait, you may forget.
  • Use it. Please don’t go through all that effort and then never look at it. I check our calendar every night before bed so I know for sure if anything special is needed the next day, any appointments, whether my kid needs his trumpet, if it’s picture day and you don’t want him wearing that shirt, that kind of thing. I also do a weekly review every Sunday, noting activities for the week ahead. Knowing what’s coming is a great way to keep you focused.
  • Adjust as needed. This is my system, and it works for us. Adjust to fit your family’s habits. The key is to set up a system and consistently use it.

Who Needs to Be Where When?! Time Management for Families

Traveling? Keep Your Kids Entertained Without Screens

Traveling? Keep Your Kid Entertained Without ScreensLong trips with kids can be challenging, whether it’s by plane, train, car, or bus. It’s even more challenging when you want to entertain your children without the use of electronics. Ninety-eight percent of households with children 8 and under have access to a mobile device, such as a tablet or smartphone. Usage of those screens increases during travel because it is just so easy to hand your kid your iPad or pop in a DVD in so you can drive in peace. If you’re looking for an alternative to sticking your kids in front of a screen to keep them entertained during long trips, try some of these ideas.

When you travel, it is just so easy to hand your kid your iPad or pop in a DVD in so you can drive in peace. What you need are ideas to keep your kids entertained screen-free. Click To Tweet

Coloring and Activity Books

Coloring books or activity books are inexpensive, easy ways to keep children occupied during long trips. A character coloring book, such as this one with Dr. Seuss, can inspire kids with a love of a certain TV show or character. If your child likes lots of variety, consider an activity book such as an “everything” activity book like this one. Does your child or teen feel like she’s too old for coloring books? Check out one of the newer adult coloring books with more intricate patterns to color. Don’t forget to pack a zipper bag of crayons, color pencils, or washable markers!

Books, Comics, and Graphic Novels

Books are tried and true travel companions, and a kid-friendly travel guide is a perfect way to get your child excited about the destination. When we went to Alaska last month, we packed books about the ports, bears, glaciers, and sled dogs. Disney World trips involve the history of Disney parks books, hidden Mickey books, and some Imagineer books. Also consider a couple of books from a new book series you think your older child would like, or board books featuring your younger child’s favorite characters. If your child isn’t a big fan of reading, try age-appropriate comic books, graphic novels that feature bright illustrations, or manga to keep their interest and get them to dive into some light reading.

Get your child excited about traveling with books on your destination, brain teasers, and activity sets centered on their favorite characters. Click To Tweet

Travel-Friendly Games

Travel games are also a great way to keep kids occupied on long trips. A deck of playing cards can make for dozens of game ideas for kids of all ages, or choose a card deck such as Old Maid, memory match, or other age-appropriate game if your child has a favorite. Skip-Bo and Uno have been our family favorites for years. Many popular board games also come in travel varieties, from chess and checkers to Scrabble and Trouble. Car bingo and versions of the license plate game can be found as free printables online. If you are taking a bus or car and expect a few pitstops along the way, consider taking a flying disc, inflatable ball, or jump rope for a quick activity to burn off some energy at meal stops and bathroom breaks.

Brain Teasers

Brain teasers are a fun way for kids to work their brains while traveling and can be entertaining for the whole family. Try a brain-bending activity book or a collection of riddles. Trivia books and “did you know” activities are also great brain builders. Activity books that feature kid-friendly versions of word search, crosswords, or Sudoku can also be a fun way to entertain as well as educate.

Character-Themed Games and Activity Books

If your children have a favorite character, consider putting together a character-themed collection for them. Let’s say your daughter enjoys Hello Kitty. Put together a travel collection featuring Hello Kitty Mad Libs, a Hello Kitty activity book, and a Hello Kitty sticker book, along with some Hello Kitty storybooks and a plush character she can read them to. When our kids were younger and we were heading to Disney World, I made Mickey and Friends activity books using free printables from the Internet, along with coloring books from the dollar store and a special Disney plush of their favorite characters.

Include books, coloring books, brain teasers, and travel-friendly games on your packing list to ensure the journey is as much fun as the destination. Click To Tweet

Traveling with children can be challenging, but it’s also a great opportunity to bond as a family and make lasting memories together. It’s easy to default to electronics for entertainment, but if you plan ahead and think about your children’s interests, it’s fun to plan activities to keep them entertained while traveling. Books, coloring books, brain teasers, and travel-friendly games are all tools you can include on your packing list to ensure the journey is as much fun as the destination.

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Traveling? Keep Your Kids Entertained Without Screens