How Not to be Overwhelmed When Things Appear Overwhelming
“Wow, that’s a huge steak! How’re you gonna eat all that?” the little girl asked her uncle.
He grinned at her across the table and waved his fork. “One bite at a time!”
Sounds pretty silly, maybe. Or too obvious. But, it is a basic truth that sometimes is easy to forget. It is a truth that is too easy to put into practice, perhaps.
Consider it, however, as you contemplate goals and “New Year’s Resolutions.”
Possible Project: Post-Holiday Clean-Up
Problem: Too many new things, too many old things. Not enough time or room to put them away.
One bite at a time solution: Start in one room, in one corner, and work your way around that one space. Give yourself the “bite” for a first goal. The area where you display the cards? The holiday centerpieces? The decorative, seasonal throws over the sofa? Start in one place. Sort, store in a box in the room in question, tidy that one area, including dusting or sweeping or anything you feel is needful. Call it good and reward yourself. When you have gone through a room in its entirety, you’ll have boxes that need tucking away. If you had a place for them before, return them there (garage, attic, basement). If you need to find MORE space, give yourself the permission to make it by judicious pruning of your current items in storage.
One bite at a time, one area, one room at a time, and the clean-up can be achieved. How long it takes is up to you.
Possible Project: Finish the Manuscript
Problem: “Did you read that? FINISH? A whole MANUSCRIPT? For a NOVEL, maybe? HUH?”
It’s intimidating to look at a possibly empty screen, or a paragraph of an idea, or an outline that goes nowhere and think that one can finish a project like this in a matter of weeks.
Yes, weeks. One year is only fifty-two weeks. Or if you’re quick and organized, you can complete the manuscript in a month or three (depending upon your speed and dedication). That brings the time involved down to maybe twelve weeks.
Impossible? Not remotely.
One bite at a time solution: If you look at a whole project as a whole, it can be daunting, so break your writing project up into smaller projects. Research. Basic storyline. Outline. Writing (in whatever sequence feels comfortable for you). Then, when the pieces are defined, you can break each section up into bite-size morsels of accomplishment. Word count goals for a day’s writing, for example.
Saying, “I resolve to write a novel by Christmas” is a hugely intimidating prospect. Saying, “I resolve to write 500 (1,000, 2,000, etc.) words a day” is much more manageable. Especially as you discipline yourself and find that you can whip off 500 words before breakfast if you’re in a good place, mentally.
For any kind of project, there are sub-goals. Smaller things you can do, one bite at a time, to achieve your end. Often, the only difference between a success and a failure is the willingness to take each bite with a smile. Be willing to work at it and move on to the next. You can chart your progress with To-Do lists (my favorite!) or a graph on a wall or by the amount of rewards you give yourself for each sub-goal reached.
And when you’re done, you might perhaps see that it wasn’t really as impossible as you thought it was going to be. After all, YOU DID IT!
I wish you all the best in 2012!