A simple and effective way of overcoming feeling overwhelmed is to use the priority matrix.
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You are inevitably going to come across hurdles on your journey to achieve your IMPACT Goals and these will affect your emotions.
It is possible to respond to strong emotions constructively, with emotional power.
As the Chinese Proverb says,
“When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.”
One way to do this is to learn to deal with strong negative emotions such as disappointment, frustration and sadness by taking time out to refocus and calm down.
This is an ideal way to deal with the emotions caused by mistakes.
It is likely that you feel overwhelmed at some point in time as you pursue your goals.
Having techniques to deal with overwhelm can allow you to manage this as quickly as possible, so that you do not waste time on it.
I find the simplest way of dealing with feeling overwhelmed is to make a list of what is overwhelming me.
This might be a list of tasks, pressures, or worries.
Once I have written the list I decide what are my priorities and discard the rest.
I devote my time and energy to focusing on those priorities.
The Eisenhower Method
I first learnt about the Priority Matrix in Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Covey introduces the idea of creating a two by two matrix, that breaks tasks into those that are Urgent and those that are Important.
As with many personal development ideas, this one can be traced back to someone else.
In this case, it comes from a quote from an address that US President Dwight Eisenhower gave at the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Illinois in 1954.
Eisenhower credited the idea to a former college president and acknowledged the challenge of prioritisation:
“This (college) president said, ‘I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.’ Now this, I think, represents a dilemma of modern man.”
Dividing tasks in to Urgent and Important became known as “The Eisenhower Method”.
This is a useful though slightly more complicated way of dealing with being overwhelmed.
Creating the Priority Matrix
In the priority matrix, you draw two lines, one horizontal and one vertical across the middle of a piece of paper to create four boxes.
You label the upper boxes on the vertical axis as “Important” and the lower boxes as “Not Important”.
You label the left boxes as “Urgent” and right boxes as “Not Urgent” on the horizontal axis.
This gives you four boxes that you use as follows:
- Urgent and Important: Ideally, this box should be empty. Anything in this box is in a crisis. You are in fire-fighting mode. These things must be done first and done now.
- Not Urgent but Important: You should spend most your time on the items in this box, because these are the key things to concentrate on.
- Urgent but Not Important: You should avoid doing these tasks. Ask yourself whether these really need dealing with. If they do, then delegate them to somebody for whom they are important.
- Not Urgent and Not Important: These are time-wasting activities. Discard anything that is in the not important and not urgent box. You never need to do these!
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