Everyone has different triggers and thresholds for feeling overwhelmed. Ambiguity is my major trigger for feeling overwhelmed. I feel a sense of mild panic when a large project is presented to me without detailed expectations and I haven't done it before. As a way to deal with ambiguity and overwhelming thoughts, I started organizing my work into mini goals.
Mini goals are bite sized pieces that will help you to achieve a larger outcome. When I am thinking about work, say I'm planning a training institute for my students. I might collect research on best practices, create a simple outline of topics/learning objectives, fill in the outline, create the presentation template, etc. To keep myself organized, I like to put all of these mini goals on my Google Calendar.
Your mini goals don't have to be work related at all. If you want to run a 5k in 3 months deciding on a couple of mini goals will help you get ready for race day. Some examples of mini goals leading to a 5k might be: to walk a 5k, get a training buddy, or train 3 days per week for 30 minutes. Each of these goals builds up to the next one until you're ready for race day.
Looking at each mini goal and slowly checking it off gives you the feeling of a small win. Sometimes it's hard to see your progress when you are only looking at the big goal. Seeing the mini goals achieved one by one keeps me motivated and feeling successful. When I'm feeling motivated/successful vs. overwhelmed I'm way more persistent and less likely to abandon a goal.
My current big goal is to run a half marathon in September. Instead of feeling overwhelmed because I haven't ran one in 3 years (OMG YIKES!), I'm working on lots of mini goals for the next 6 months. The first was getting out and jogging with my dog, Edie, every morning for about a mile. My current mini goal is to work up to two miles by the end of March. Wish me luck!
If you like this post and are a University of Minnesota student, please sign up for my FREE SELP presentation on March 31st at 2:15-3:30pm in room 321 of Appleby Hall. The topic is Goal Setting with an Eye on Stress and Time Management. Here's the link to the program and sign-up for SELP Workshops.