How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed by What's On Your Plate


“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” ― Annie Dillard

“Mr. Brown, I’m sorry to tell you this but you have stage two melanoma; it’s cancer. If the cancer has reached your lymph nodes, you have a 5% chance of survival over the next 3 years.”


At that moment, I looked at my wife and well, I teared up a bit, kind of a lot. I’ve always been so healthy. Stage two cancer? What? How did this happen? I've got a daughter, my beautiful wife, my students, a 5% chance of survival? What?!


Fortunately, the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes and after a two-hour surgery, I was on my way to a speedy recovery.


The most frustrating thing I dealt with from my cancer experience was that I knew something was not right months before I was diagnosed but I just kind of blew it off. I should have prioritized a phone call to the doctor when I first knew something was not right but as mentioned, I just put it off until it got pretty serious. The doctor said if I had contacted them right away that my cancer would have been no problem at all. Now, I was in a situation where I could have realistically died.


So what happened? About 3 months after I noticed that something might be wrong, this particular mole on my leg began to bleed and bleed a lot. When my wife saw this, without hesitation she prioritized an immediate call to the doctor and within two hours I was being examined by my doctor. My wife’s quick action quite possibly saved my life.


In life, there are a lot of skills you don’t need. You can be happy and successful without knowing how to rebuild a car’s engine, program a web application, or replace drywall. Sure, these are useful skills to have, but they aren’t absolutely necessary.


I’ll tell you what, I think prioritizing is absolutely necessary to your success in life and reducing the day-in and day-out feelings over being overwhelmed. I believe success in our lives depends on effective action, effective action depends on the ability to focus your attention or prioritize where it is needed most, when it is needed most. This is the ability to separate the important from the unimportant, which is a much needed skill in all walks of life, especially where there are ever increasing opportunities and distractions.


Here are 4 Insanely Cool Ways to Prioritize:


1. Consolidate your tasks to a single source

I always use my Notes app on my phone to put all my tasks on it. Why? I pretty much always have my phone on me. This way, all my tasks are in one place and I can always find them. I randomly think of something, I grab my phone, I put it on my Notes app. They are not on a sticky note at my work, on a note pad that I place on the refrigerator but in one single location.


2. Make a task list for your day

With all of my tasks consolidated in one place on my Notes app, I can now figure out what is most important to least important.


Think about it. All of us have a lot of stuff going on each day and each week. When it comes to being good at prioritization, being able to see all that you have going on in any given week is very valuable. I like to say, "You got to see it to seize it."


3. Prioritize your task list

I love to help my students figure out how to prioritize by a simple little acronym: W.I.N. This stands for “What’s important now?”


When I look at my task list, I can easily see what is most important to what is least important. I then give the most important task a number 1, followed by a number 2, followed by...you get it.


You know what's kind of crazy? My students are blown away when I tell them that I’m ADHD. I naturally struggle to stay focused. However, my wife will often say that I’m one of the most focused people she has ever met. How did that happen? Well, I do steps 1-3 very regularly. In fact, 1-3 are now positive habits in my life. It’s true, I’m one focused dude! LOL!


To be totally truthful, I hate stress. I hate the stress of not doing something that I needed to do or oops, forgot to do. So, by doing 1-3, I rarely to never get unfocused or forget things that I need to do.


Ok, totally gross, but this is a pic right after my surgery. I'm grateful is was not my time to go. I knew something was wrong but I chose to not prioritize.


Your turn…

Think about it. What areas of improved prioritizing could help you in your life? How could prioritizing help you as a student? What helps you to prioritize that I did not mention? Lastly, what moved you from today's lesson on prioritization?

©2019 by Michael Brown.