Overwhelm? Get S.M.A.R.T

OVERWHELM POST”One step at a time. Focusing on the next step is the best way to avoid overwhelm” – Dan O’Donnell

Life can be overwhelming

Yet it’s not always a bad thing. Lately this subject has cropped several times with friends & family and honestly a couple of them have been on the back of an avalanche of good things happening to some. The overwhelm elements there being those of surprise & gratitude.

It becomes problematical when the time we have to do the things which we need/are expected to becomes……the ‘’not enough hours in a day’’ syndrome.

Obviously everyone’s different but I don’t think I know anyone who hasn’t experienced this occasionally?

We reach the stage of being lost because we’re totally overwhelmed by what life throws at us; the kids, finances, work etc and we don’t have the time to deal with them.

We know then it’s time to pause, take a step back, breathe and reassess what’s happening. Because let’s face it the feeling of total, utter and complete stressed out panic that kicks in once we reach this crisis point is something we can all do without.

For me I honestly think I’d prefer a broken limb than suffer the anguish brought about by allowing myself to get to this stage, yet………Get there I have, time after relentless time until during a particularly stressful (and trust me I do stress really, really well) time not long ago I decided that was it.


What the hell was I playing at?

Despite making enormous headway turning almost every area of my life around and allowing myself to be justifiably proud of doing so, I STILL allowed myself to dragged down by overwhelm.

Something had to change before I metaphorically managed to single handedly drown myself!

But what?

Now, I think I’m a fairly intelligent member of the human race but there are times when I astound even myself at how often I seem unable to see the wood for the trees…..the bigger picture!


The time available in any one day is ALWAYS finite!

I guess like most of us I’m busy everyday with family, working, chores, grocery shopping…..I hate grocery shopping…appointments etc let alone trying to factor in that all too precious chunk of ‘’me time’’ we should all make time for daily BUT which is usually the first casualty when it comes to ‘’getting things done’’…..GUILTY as charged your honor!!

So what next?

I decided to prioritize MYSELF & my time…EVERY day….and as far in advance as I could realistically manage…!

Mmmm first stumbling block – my organisational skills or rather lack of them!

BUT it’s amazing what you can do when you set your mind to it and I was done with being overwhelmed. This mind was well and truly set on a change for the better!

Having had ‘’stern words with myself’’ I started making plans.

During my years working in the Special Needs sector of the UK education system we used the S.M.A.R.T principle, which basically means;

Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Realistic. Targets.

My ‘’ battle plan’’ began to take shape

SPECIFIC: set a goal which would improve my quality of life
MEASURABLE: it would be attainable within a given time frame
ACHIEVABLE: break it down into smaller ‘’chunks’’ to better define progress
REALISTIC: given the constraints of (in my case) available time
TARGET: successfully reach the aim of my original goal

Well that was a bit of a light bulb moment!

As I’ve said there are times when I’m slow to see the bigger picture. I spent roughly 14 years working with special needs students using this exact same technique with…if I say so myself…. amazing success YET until push came to shove in this particular area it had never entered this scrambled egg of a brain of mine to transfer that same skill set to my personal life!

What was it I said before about ‘’wood for the trees’’?.

Setting myself up to succeed

Having formed my initial plan I took time to fine tune it and came up with a solid foundation upon which to build.

Going forward I planned my time using nothing more than lists & chunking them up into definite time frames. For arguments sake we’ll say hours & days. Measuring the effectiveness or otherwise based solely on what had/hadn’t been accomplished on my list given that I had deliberately restricted the time I had to address each one. The deliberate action of restricting time meant I had no choice but to be honest as to what I hoped to achieve and as a result it became a realistic expectation that I would indeed realise my goal…hit my target if you like of actually improving my quality of life.

It’s ironic!

Speaking as someone who is quite spontaneous by nature and who rarely even used a shopping list for the dreaded grocery shop…..I morphed into someone who now has lists for everything…..I even have a list of my lists to keep track of my own best intentions! Seriously I do…..although I do have to police that particular trait as if I’m not careful it fuels my O.C.D oriented brain (a post in it’s own right).

Yet lists……nothing new, fancy or technological………literally stopped me in my tracks by making me look to that bigger picture.

A pad, a pen and Notepad on my phone gave me the visual stimulus I needed to put my house in order!

Obviously I also needed to be persistent enough to make this a habit but once it was, there was absolutely no stopping me. I no longer allow myself to try and cram more into a day than I KNOW I have a realistic chance of achieving. Each and every list is in itself prioritized…most to least important and I’ve learned to accept that the world won’t spontaneously combust if  I don’t tick everything off the blessed thing by the end of the day.


The biggest lesson of all and the one which probably prevented nervous breakdown number 4 or was it 5?

No one is perfect, we all have different stresses, strains & demands on our time and at the end of each day IF we’ve done our best then that’s all anyone including us can ask…….tomorrow is another day and we can always start another list!


Thanks for taking the time to read this, stay S.M.A.R.T!


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