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Feeling Overwhelmed? Follow These 8 Steps


Use this eight-step guide to address a potentially stressful situation before you reach the point of feeling overwhelmed.

There are times when it feels like you’re so overwhelmed by ongoing responsibilities that you couldn’t possibly take on anything else. Your mental to-do list has reached such proportions that three lifetimes still wouldn’t be enough time to complete everything. Managing a veterinary practice, examining patients, family commitments, personal duties — your cup is overflowing.

You are stressed out, ready to explode and may even feel like you’re on the brink of a nervous breakdown or temper tantrum.

Sadly, these negative reactions won’t alleviate the problems. A more productive way to deal with an overwhelming situation is to take a deep breath — literally — and strategize. If you don’t take a step back, the stress of the situation will only get worse.

In fact, an even better time to address a potentially stressful situation is before you reach the point of feeling overwhelmed.

Use this eight-step plan to get yourself out of an exasperating predicament.

1. “Mind Dump”

The first step is to “dump” everything you have to do out of your mind and onto a notebook or computer.

Make note of everything on your mind: your current to-do lists, your mental to-do list, projects at work, things that need to get done at home, appointments to be made, birthday gifts to purchase, etc. Not only does putting these things on a physical list help you prioritize, it also helps you remember.


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2. Take a Break

Rather than going straight to work on your giant list, take a breather. You should feel a sensation of relief. Take a walk, do a few push-ups, drink a glass of water, take a deep breath and relax for a few minutes.

The next steps of your plan are the “5 Ds.”

3. Do It Now

Borrow from best-selling author and professional development guru Brian Tracy’s mantra and “do it now.”

Quickly go through your list and find the things you can accomplish right away. Identify tasks that take less than three minutes and get rid of them on the spot, such as sending a quick email, scheduling a doctor’s appointment or taking the garbage out.

This will not only help you get things done, but it also gives you a sense of accomplishment as you start to cross things off your list.

4. Dive In

Identify projects that take a little more time to do and schedule them on your calendar. Depending on the situation, you can choose the order based on urgency or importance.

5. Delegate

Find items that can be delegated to someone else. Mark them with a "D" or highlight them in a specific color.

6. Delete

A certain number of tasks on your master to-do list can be deleted altogether. Some items don’t need to be done, so don’t clutter your list and your life with unnecessary work.

7. Defer

Other items would be nice to work on, eventually, but can be postponed for now. Add these projects to your “someday maybe list,” a concept borrowed from efficiency expert David Allen, author of “Getting Things Done.”

8. Do It

The final step is to actually work on your remaining projects according to your calendar (see Step 4).

Follow these eight simple steps and you will be able to tackle your to-do list much more peacefully and efficiently.

Kelly Serfas, a Certified Veterinary Technician in Bethlehem, PA, contributed to this article.

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and serial entrepreneur. His traveling surgery practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. You can visit his websites at DrPhilZeltzman.com and VeterinariansInParadise.com.

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