Feeling overwhelmed? Here's an exercise to help you prioritize.

Feeling overwhelmed by all the so-called priorities in your business? You're not alone. 

Here’s a common scenario I encounter during coaching calls:

Client: I just feel overwhelmed. I have so many things on my plate right now I don’t know how to fit self-care into my day without it feeling like just another item on my to-do list. 

Me: OK. Sound’s like you’ve got more things to do than you’ve got time for. Where would you like to cut back so you can free up some time?

Client: I’ve got no clue. I want to cut back, but I don’t even know where to start.

Seriously, I hear this with almost every client. And with each of them I’ve used the same exercise that I’m going to share with you today. Because 100% of the clients that I’ve led through this exercise have found it incredibly useful when they feel lost in a sea of too many priorities.

Pick your priorities: an exercise. 

Feeling overwhelmed in your business? Try this exercise to get clear and focused. (click to tweet!)

When creating a schedule that aligns with our needs, I like to start with deciding what’s truly working for us vs what’s working against us. And as creatives, it's a lot easier to make those calls when we can lay it all out visually and see it with our own two eyes.

Most of the time I’m using this exercise with creatives that are feeling overwhelmed with too many responsibilities in their business, but you can use this framework for just about anything in your life. All you need are two variables.

Let me explain:

If my client is a soloprenuer designer who wants to find time for more self-care, but finds herself staring at Adobe Illustrator more often than she’d like, I use the following variables: 

  • Variable 1: Do you or don’t you love the task at hand?
  • Variable 2: Does or doesn’t the task at hand create direct income?

I have them get out a big sheet of paper and pen (or a sharpie if you’re like me and love big, bold lines) and draw up a big square with a vertical and horizontal line crossing in the center.

Next, on the top of the page they draw a big heart over the left column and a heart with a big slash through it over the right column.
On the left side of the page they draw a $ sign to the left of the top row and a $ with a slash through it to the left of the bottom row.

Print out the worksheet here to follow along.

Now there are four boxes:
One box in the upper left for things you love doing and that make you money.
One box in the upper right for things you don’t love doing but make you money.
One box in the lower left for things you love doing but don’t make you any money.
One box in the lower right for things you don’t love doing and don’t make you any money.

How to fill out the worksheet:

Start with a brain dump of all work related tasks. Every single one. Nothing's too big or small. If it’s part of the business, it belongs in one of the four boxes.

Next, it’s time to take a look at each box. 

Look at the items in the LOVE + MONEY box first. They are total keepers. These are tasks that not only bring joy but also bring in the dolla dolla bills (hello dream job!)

Now look at the NO LOVE + NO MONEY box. These are the first things to go when it’s time to start slashing responsibilities. Which of these items or projects are truly necessary? Which can be outsourced and completed by someone else? Which could be put on the back burner for the time being?

The two remaining boxes are where the tough questions and real decision making comes in. These are the tasks that might bring joy, but take away from billable hours. Or they might be the tasks that keep the business afloat during quiet seasons but have started to feel routine and no longer fun.

If choosing what stays and what goes feels impossible, reflecting on these two questions can help give a bit of clarity:

  • If I stopped doing this task tomorrow, how would that impact my current feeling of being overwhelmed?
  • Is this task absolutely necessarily? And if so, how could my business benefit from someone else completing it?

Modify the exercise to fit your needs.

This exercise doesn’t just have to be used in the context of money. You can use this as a visual way to break down anything. Here’s another example:

Maybe you’re further along in your business and you need to spend your time bringing in new clients and growing your business, not just getting stuck with day-to-day tasks. In that case, keep the first variable the same, but change the second one.

  • Variable 1: Do you or don’t you love the task at hand?
  • Variable 2: Does or doesn’t the task at hand bring in new business?

Switching it up this way can help you figure out which tasks are necessary for you to complete and which tasks you can delegate out to a virtual assistant or employee.

Or maybe your business is a well-oiled machine, but you feel like your home life is wreaking havoc on your day. You could make the second variable focus on something more personal, like your relationships.

  • Variable 1: Do you or don’t you love the task or thing at hand?
  • Variable 2: Does or doesn’t the task at hand deepen your relationship with your partner (or kids, or family, etc)?

The bottom line:

Laying things out visually in a grid can give you a new perspective on your situation. Try it out today to see how it helps you get clear and focused in on what’s really important for you right now. 

Having trouble prioritizing your time? Try making things visual with this exercise. (click to tweet!)

**The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.

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