How to Get Your Life in Order When Things Feel Out of Control

All the little tasks that pile up in our space drain us physically and mentally. And eventually they can overwhelm us to the point that there’s no room left in our head to work toward a big life-changing goal. But there’s an easy way to get back on track when things get out of hand. I created a #Powerday guide to walk you through a 1-day process of wrapping up all the piles of little things so you can get back to your big thing. Set up a #Powerday and reclaim your goal.

Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google, or iHeartRadio

Resources & Links mentioned in this episode:

Transcript:

Welcome to the Cara Brookins Show, this is where you’ll find all the tools you need to get unstuck and build a better life. I know what it feels like to need a friend to talk you through the hard stuff. From cleaning off your desk, to building a new desk, or even rebuilding your entire life from scratch, I’ll be here with you for every step. Let’s get moving and build exactly the life you want.

This is one of those weeks where everything is just really piling up around my house. Half of my dining room table is covered in boxes. I’m behind on laundry… and yard work. My email has flags of every color. One cabinet in my bathroom has a loose hinge. You get the idea. I’m overwhelmed. You’ve probably been here too. And today’s show is going to fix this.

On days when everywhere I turn I see a reminder that things are piling up and getting a little out of control, it effects. everything — my mood, and my motivation. The longer my to-do list gets, the more I feel like I’m going to be stuck just maintaining this basic stuff forever. Forget about my projects and big goals—those are just going to keep falling further and further behind. After this goes on for a while, I start to wake up thinking, if I can just get through the day without a longer list than I started with, that’s good enough. I’ll take that. Just keeping my head above water feels like enough. But— it isn’t. Not really. Not if I want my life to actually change, to improve.

When I feel overwhelmed with all the little things around my house or job, like I do right now, my perspective of what a big goal even is gets really skewed. Instead of dreaming about big career moves, I start to dream about just reaching the spot on my list where I’m getting the oil changed, folding the towels, and ordering new tennis shoes—as if that’s doing the extraordinary.  

But it’s not always like that. On a more sane day, when I’m caught up on things, I know perfectly well that doing these ordinary things isn’t enough. On those better days I have the space in my brain to reach for something bigger. That’s the goal right? To make space in our lives to reach a little higher and to do things that are kind of extraordinary. 

The good news is, we can definitely make that happen. We can get rid of that awful buried feeling, that feeling that shrinks your world, when you have too much to do. 

But wait, before we go any further, I want to say the first thing, the thing that really helps when I feel things piling up like this, is knowing: that I’m not alone. You, feel like this too. I know because a lot of you DM me or talk to me after events and tell me that you sometimes feel so overwhelmed by all the everyday stuff that you can’t imagine ever getting caught up enough to do something big. Heck, even having an extra hour to think about doing something big isn’t going to fit on your calendar for years. And as much as you’d like to, you can’t create time that doesn’t exist. 

Earlier this year my oldest daughter Hope jokingly told me “I feel like I’m five years behind.” And I said, “I know how you feel, me too.” It happens to the best of us. You’ve felt that way. Frustrated that you’re not accomplishing the things you want to. Disappointed in yourself because another day has gone by and you’re casually sliding the undone things over to tomorrow’s to-do list…again. Like no one will notice! In weeks like this, we just feel stuck. 

The thing is, we all have big ideas and plans for our lives. A lot of you talk to me about the big things you want to do. It could be something you’ve planned since you were a kid or something brand new that you’re itching to get started on. But then, the everyday life things start to pile up. A broken garbage disposal here. A last-minute homework assignment your kids forgot to tell you about there. Another company that messed up your bill so now you have to call…for the third month in a row. And before you know it, you’re practically buried in a mountain of post-it-note to-do lists. I hear you. “Out of control” feels like it should be the title of your memoir…except you’re way too busy to write your life story anyhow.  

Uggh. I get it. 

And I know for me, this overwhelm happens fast. One day I feel like I have all these systems and stuff in place to keep things in order, then just a couple extra things come my way and suddenly it’s like an avalanche and I’m buried so far under a Mountain that I’m pretty sure I will literally never catch up. 

Even when the world paused—with months of stay-at home orders—I still had trouble getting everything done that I wanted to. At first, I tried to focus on a big project I’d been planning for years, writing my Build Something course. But being in my house all day, I was so overwhelmed by all of those little projects in my house needing to be finished that I was too stressed for my brain to focus on writing… or even outlining. I would end up clicking over to the news or social media. And you guys know, how fast you can get pulled into news videos these days, and then you feel so down about the world that you have to go put in some TikTok time to laugh and recover. And then…. repeat. This is such a common habit cycle because it actually works to get our mind off the 50 projects in the room all around us, and the big project that we’re putting off again. Then before you know it, you’re climbing into bed. Next day, rinse, lather, repeat.

But getting your mind off the projects doesn’t feel good for long. And it doesn’t move you ahead. You’re left in that loop of the same old life. And that’s not the life you want or deserve. 

So, when I started to feel really overwhelmed at the beginning of COVID lockdowns, what did I do? I spent a lot of time feeling bad about myself while I just kept moving my attention constantly between launching my course, this podcast, doing virtual event presentations, while also trying to start all of those projects around the house. And no matter how many hours I put in, no surprise, bouncing between all those projects was not effective. Instead of wrapping up a lot of stuff, I was just failing at a lot of stuff. I didn’t get much done. The bottom line was, I needed a better strategy to solve this. 

You know,  I built a house. I’ve written 8 books. I’m capable of taking on some really big projects and finishing them. But at some point, life just catches up with you. Too many projects—too little time. Until one morning I decided to solve this whole problem in a new way: letting a little pressure off myself by pausing my big goal. 

Not what you expected from me, is it. I know. But by intentionally pausing my big course-writing project I gave myself the time to tackle all the small distracting things around the house once and for all. If I could just get everything done and out of the way, I would finally feel in control again and be able to focus on the big stuff. Right? Then I’d be back to a place where I could accomplish the big meaningful things again. Sounds reasonable doesn’t it? 

Well, because I’m me, I may have overdone it a little. What started as a couple days to focus on finishing random house projects turned into over a month of a complete home redesign that involved painting rooms, furniture, even painting a tile floor. I framed art. Created art. Built a desk. Yeah, it was over the top. I have a huge floor to ceiling library and I took every single book out of the library shelves to restyle the entire thing. It was crazy. And it kept getting crazier. And well, obviously it was way more than a short sidetrack from my big goal. It all took way, way too much time. But guess what happened?

It turned into a light bulb moment. I realized that there was something important about that break where I tried to tackle all the projects in my universe. Because wrapping up some of the to-dos on my list, well it made me feel a whole lot better. It really did clear some brain space for my big project. And then I was able to write my Build Something course, film it, and launch it. I was able to start this podcast. And that’s when I thought, you know what? I’m on to something!

Wrapping up the tasks that I had been putting off, small projects I talked about or at least thought about every single time I walked past them in my house, well actually doing them cleared enough space in my head to give me my focus back again. Finishing your small projects wipes away not only the excuses, but the stress, too. Because let’s be real, the worst part about that project on your kitchen counter that you keep ignoring, isn’t actually doing it—the worst part about that project is the stress you get from seeing it there day after day after day. And when a whole mountain of those types of to-do projects piles up, that’s a lot of noise in your head, a mountain of stress. And stress is no good for productivity.

Stress stops us in our tracks. It sends us toward Netflix binges and cat videos and games on our phone. Stress stops our forward progress and the longer we stay still, the longer we feel stuck, the more we avoid taking any sort of action that would take us toward our goals. And one thing I always, always argue for is action. Because taking some kind of action will always leave you in a place better than you’re in now. Here’s the bottom line, the way to stop feeling stuck is always the same: Take action. 

Sounds simple enough, but remember, in this specific case we’re talking about overwhelm and action in that case looks al little different. 

. . .

Before we dig into those details, we’re going to take a short break.

Do you have an idea that you just haven’t been able to get off the ground? Or maybe you worked on it for a while and then got stuck? And even though you still love the idea—can’t get it out of your head, you just have no idea how to get unstuck. 

If you could *just* take all the time you spent putting off a project, and put that time into doing the work to reach your target it would change everything. Take the distractions, the extra coffee breaks, TikTok videos, and Netflix binges and instead spend all those hours, weeks, sometimes years making real progress toward your goal. 

If procrastination has been holding you back, my course Build Something can help.  

I’ve put EVERY SINGLE THING you need to build your ridiculously big project into Build Something. All the strategies, tactics, and methods I used (and still use) to successfully turn my big ideas into real-life projects and finish them. #BuildSomething will teach you how to: plan your projects, get started, take action, actually do the work, work through the hard parts, and stay motivated until you reach your goal. 

Go to carabrookins.com/buildsomething/ for all the tools you need for this project. The one after that. And the one after that. And—you get the idea. That’s carabrookins.com/buildsomething/

This is your chance to get unstuck and start the project of your dreams so you can #BuildSomething you’re proud of.

. . .

And now, back to the show. 

When you’re stuck under the overwhelm from all of your day-to-day tasks, the action is going to look a little different than the usual project based action. Instead of directing your every move toward your big project—which is usually where all your action should lead you, this time that action is paused, and instead your action will be aimed toward all the little things that are taking up too much time and too much space in your house, your office, and especially in your head. Because those un-done little things are getting in the way of your big thing. Here’s how I think of all the little things that pile up:

Every single time you see these irritating little ‘this needs to be done’ laying around your space it uses up energy just to mentally think about the undone task. I think of it like physically leaping over a hurdle—which I don’t know about you, but I can’t jump over too many hurdles before I’m going to be exhausted. 

Now just to be clear, I’m not even talking about DOING the task. Just seeing it in your space uses up your energy. So as an example, picture this process in your house where every task equals a leap over a hurdle. You walk by the basket of laundry, you just jumped over one hurdle. There’s a stack of mail on the table. You jumped another hurdle. That cabinet door with a broken hinge. That’s another hurdle. The garbage disposal is broken. You’re low on trash bags. The wedding invite for this weekend is on the fridge, you haven’t bought a gift yet. Your kid still needs help with the science fair project. Have you walked the dog? Hurdle. Hurdle. Hurdle. Hurdle. Hurdle.

DO you see what I’m saying? Not doing these things, but just seeing them over and over releases stress hormones in your brain that wear you down and wear you out. And the last thing you need in that moment is me popping up and asking, “are you going for that big goal yet? What are you working on?” And you kinda want to scream at me: “Inhaling and exhaling. I’m just working on inhaling and exhaling. I can’t even remember my freaking big goal anymore.” 

And of course you can’t, because of all those hurdles. This is why you feel so much more tired that you think you should feel. All of the piled up tasks are exhausting you. 

Well, enough is enough. We can fix this. 

We recognized the problem, now let’s fix it. You have permission to pause the big project for a minute. Tackling a big pile of those small projects will feel good, and you’ll be relieved to finally have the space to focus on your big goal. Finishing projects will give you the satisfaction of finishing something. Of checking something off of your to do list. 

Now, you’re thinking, “That’s easier said than done Cara.” I know, I know. You weren’t just putting these things off for no reason. They suck. They take up time. And they are never the fun things. It’s hard to see how they contribute to the big goal, which is where you really want to focus your time. BUT getting control of a big pile of these things is going to change everything for you. It is hands down one of the best was to set your life up for success. It’s a no brainer.

Most of us have more time at home now than we used to. But even so, I realize that spending a month or more tackling projects like I did isn’t only unrealistic, it’s long enough to become a distraction or even a form of procrastination. Which is NOT what I’m here to promote. Instead, I put together a little something to make this process more effective and also really easy. I created a process that I could use myself going forward. It’s a one-day catchup. I decided to start calling it a #PowerDay because nothing makes me feel more powerful than taking care of all of those tasks that I never want to think about again. I actually schedule a #Powerday every month or two to keep me on track. So what exactly is a #PowerDay?

It’s the day when you draw a line in the sand, look your frozen-in-place self straight in the eye and yell, “Enough is enough! I can do more than this!” It’s a day of removing clutter from your brain and your space. It’s a day to set up habits to un-stick yourself for good. Sound like a lot of work? 

It’s not. It’s 4 steps that you’ll finish in 1 day.  Seriously, a day.

These are easy steps and everyday tasks that you already know how to do. Why will getting up and moving on simple tasks change everything for you? Because you’ll have a lot more energy if you aren’t leaping over a dozen hurdles in every room. You’ll have that space in your head we talked about, but also because an object in motion tends to stay in motion. 

To have your #PowerDay, you’re going to need 8 hours to devote (plus a few extra hours if you know your kids are going to distract you). I broke this down into four steps so plan to spend about two hours on each of the four steps but you don’t need to set a timer or anything, just split your time so you can fit in all four steps. 

If this is starting to sound complicated, don’t worry, You don’t have to do this alone. I created a FREE guidewalking you through my process so you can have my voice in your head as you go through your #PowerDay. And because I know you’re already tired of making lists around your house (or in your head), this guide includes a separate customizable checklist for each step. I also included suggestions to keep you motivated. 

Just go to Cara Brookins .com and click on power day. It’s 100% free. 

This guide is a lot more than a checklist. One of the many things I learned raising four kids is that sometimes you need a little more guidance (and motivation) than a checklist gives you. So my customizable 9 page PDF guide has all the details that will take you through the process of having a successful #PowerDay from start to finish. 

No matter how stuck and out of control you’ve been feeling, remember that you already have everything inside of you that you need to nail your next big project. And the enormous leap you’re about to make in one day is going to take you toward the bigger future that you know was meant for you. 

Block out a day to get unstuck right now. It changed my life, and it will change yours too.

Get yourself and your life together and start reaching your goals by committing to a #Powerday. 

Come back again next week to talk about what to do when you discover that your biggest goal is something you absolutely can NOT do right now. We’ll talk about how to keep that goal alive while you do the set up work.  

Thanks for hanging out with me today, head over to carabrookins.com for more (free) tools, and we should really connect on social media too. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast.

BACK TO PODCAST PAGE