A jammed email in-box, overbooked calendar, and cluttered desktop will make even the most energetic person feel overwhelmed and frustrated. 

This happens frequently to overachievers who try to do more than is realistically possible. I have been trying to conquer that habit for years. I have good news, though, even if you’re like me and tend to take on too much, you can still pause and re-start at any time.

Here is what I do when things begin to feel overwhelming in my workspace:

Clear The Clutter. If necessary, I can be creative with my laptop on top of a pile of dirty dishes and unpaid bills, but that is not my preferred way of working. The best thing I ever did for myself was to begin cleaning off my desk about 30 minutes before leaving the office every day. Occasionally, things can still get chaotic. When this happens, here is how I gain control quickly: 

I begin with old-fashioned sorting. The paper on my desk is not clutter. It’s a pile of action items. So, I’ll sort these into temporary piles that are organized into to do, to read, to call, etc.  My intention is to eliminate all the paper.

After I have the papers organized, I schedule the tasks into my electronic calendar. Now I can shred or recycle that piece of paper, so it’s gone from my desk and since it’s safely scheduled I won’t worry about forgetting about that task. I know that you are going to be tempted to complete the task at that moment, but remember that our mission right now is to gain control of the chaos.

When entering a to-do item onto your calendar, be realistic about how long the task will take. Allow yourself enough time to do the work without stress. Otherwise, you’ll be creating the same overwhelmed feeling in a different space.

Now that your desk is clear, refresh and clean up the space. Dusty curtains, outdated decór, old client files, and piles of old paper will suck the energy out of a, draining your energy and productivity. Once you have things cleaned up, take a few minutes each week to dust, de-clutter and straighten your space. If you have trouble remembering to do this, add it as a recurring appointment on your calendar.

My most important tip for you today is to set healthy emotional boundaries.

The reason we feel overwhelmed and chaotic is because we overbook ourselves or let others intrude on our time. I know that this is not easy to implement, but it’s worthwhile. And you may uncover some unhealthy habits in the process. Your subconscious sometimes uses distractions and drama as a clever way to sabotage you from important work. 

Even if you have been distracted or procrastinating for years, the best thing you can do right now is to make a decision that you’re going to put your work as a priority. Then—respect your decision.

When distractions interrupt, notice that and then get right back on track. This new practice will take some time to get used to but keep with it. Once you create a habit of setting personal and professional boundaries, the people around you will begin to respect you and they may begin to model your behavior themselves.

Remember—when you stay out of overwhelm you show all the people around you that it is possible to be productive without being frantic. ?