If you got one thing done today, what would you want it to be?

When we moved into our two bedroom house, we had great aspirations for our second bedroom. We had coined it the Swiss room, because, like a Swiss army knife, we would use it for so many different activities: guest bed, music, office, storage, yoga. Alas, instead it has evolved into an island of misfit toys. It is the place in our house for objects that have no where else to go. I look into this room and it makes me sad. All of these objects have no home in our home.

From time to time I decide I am going to face my second bedroom nemesis. I don’t even usually get past the doorway. I stand there staring at all of the objects, wondering where they are going to go or what to do with them. There are so many things to do, I just don’t know where to start. I stand down, walking away, defeated.

I recently took away a nugget from a fellow toastmasters speech:  when you are faced with feeling overwhelmed with a certain task, ask yourself: if I was going to do one thing today to make myself feel better or more satisfied about this project, what would it be?

I have found asking myself this question liberating. I tend to generate long lists of what I would like to get accomplished and I get easily overwhelmed. By asking this question it helps me to focus on the next most important thing until it is complete. I try not to think about all that needs to be done but just the task I have chosen to do.

It’s also important to think about a project in smaller chunks of work so that when you answer the question you don’t say – “fix the second bedroom” but “archive the files” or “take pictures of objects to sell and put it on craigslist”.

Asking this question is also helpful because when you are staring at a heap of tasks and thinking “but it ALL needs to get done” I find it’s easy to get overwhelmed and walk away. When everything seems important, the question helps to focus your efforts on one key thing and getting it done.

Using this method, I am slowly tackling the second bedroom. I have made some headway but there is still lots to do and this weekend I am going to be back at it. I am not going get overwhelmed. I am going to break out my trusty tool for figuring out what to do next, liberate myself from the long list and just get one thing done, then the next and then the next.

How do you get started on an overwhelming project?


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