Overwhelmed and Immobilized

by Dr. Lorin Bradbury

Question: I feel overwhelmed with work and I don’t know where to begin. As a result, I find myself feeling immobilized. Any suggestions?
Answer: Several years ago, Peter Bregman wrote an article in the Harvard Business Review in which he gave some simple steps to get started:
1. Spend a few minutes writing down everything you have to do on a piece of paper. Resist the urge to use technology for this task. Why? I’m not sure, but somehow writing on paper — and then crossing things out — creates momentum.
2. Using a timer, spend 15 minutes — no more — knocking out as many of the easiest, fastest tasks as you can. Make your quick phone calls. Send your short emails. Don’t worry about whether these are the most important tasks on your list. You’re moving. The goal is to cross off as many items as possible in the shortest time. Use a timer to keep you focused.
3. When the 15 minutes are up, turn off your phone, close down all the windows on your computer, and choose the most daunting thing on your list, the one that instills the most stress or is the highest priority. Then, again using a timer, work on it and only it — without hesitation or distraction — for 35 minutes. In his article, he makes reference to computer tasks, but this plan can work for any type of task.
4. After 35 minutes, take a break for 10 minutes and then start the hour-long process over again, beginning with the 15 minutes of quick actions. Don’t be too troubled if you don’t stop at 35 minutes due to momentum you have attained. However, Mr. Bergman recommends not going over the 35-minute work time by more than 15 minutes. The reason he gives for not going over the 15-minute extension is that following this recreates novelty in the work.
The above steps may not be applicable in all situations, but if you are overwhelmed and immobilized, it may help you get moving again.
Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected].