On Writing: What to Do When You’re Overwhelmed

Morning comes in the middle of the night way too often for me these days, and I know why.

I’m overwhelmed.

This morning, my “To Do” list included grading 150 college app essays, 40 reaction papers, 100 timed essays, answer 30 emails, write the video script to promote the new album, blog to build a platform to sell a novel I proudly believe can stand on its own, write lesson plans, finish tweaking the rough cut of the Indy film I shot two summers ago, learn to utilize octal media better, yada, yada, yada.

So yeah, I stared off, freaking out.

Truth is, that doesn’t help anything. Here’s one thing that I find does help, and maybe it will help you.

When I am overwhelmed, first thing I make myself do is breathe. You should too. Most important, calm yourself and take stock. Then do the following:

1) Is there anything that can wait? If so, put them to somewhere out of your immediate eye line, giving yourself a date to get back to them.

2) Next, from the work that remains, what is absolutely due yesterday? Put these items in a pile close to you.

3) Is there anything left? Put it all in a pile we’ll call “first thing tomorrow.” Guess when we’ll see them next?

4) Now take that pile nearest you. Let’s take a look. Which is the shortest project, the one that is closest to being done? That becomes Job One today. Why? It will be done quickest, giving you a win. What’s the next smallest job? And so on.

5) be realistic. What can realistically get done in the time you actually have? Be honest with yourself. Don’t over-estimate, don’t rationalize. What can actually get done? Once you have a real picture, do one more thing…

6) Make a deal with yourself. Set the bar; today I will definitely get two jobs done. If I get the third done, my reward will be such and such, but if I get four done, then I will treat myself to this and that instead of such and such. Make sure both potential rewards are worth working to achieve … and affordable to your budget.

7) Then get to work.

I sincerely hope this helps.

Christopher Ryan is author of City of Woe, available on Kindle and Nook, and in print. For more info, click here.

About chrisryanwrites

My name is Christopher Ryan. I am a former award-winning journalist turned high school teacher, and I have written since reading S.E. Hinton's THE OUTSIDERS when I was in elementary school. I have independently published an award-winning debut novel, CITY OF WOE, plus the prequel short story collection CITY OF SIN, the sequel novel CITY OF PAIN, a high school thriller novel GENIUS HIGH, and several high adventure novelettes for the Rapid Reads series featuring Alex Simmons' African-American adventurer BLACKJACK All are available via amazon.com, as is my children's book, THE FERGUSON FILES - THE MYSTERY SPOT. Additionally, I was nominated for a supporting actor award for my work in the multiple award-winning independent film, CLANDESTINE, from Feenix Films. I blog about writing, life, pop culture, the journey of learning to promote my independently published work, my efforts to secure a traditional publishing contract, and my career as a teacher.
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2 Responses to On Writing: What to Do When You’re Overwhelmed

  1. Jane Constantine says:

    Just when I was feeling overwhelmed…a very timely and helpful reminder to get some perspective…Thanks Chris
    Jane

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