Overcome Overwhelm, One Tiny Step at a Time

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Today felt hard. I worked all day long trying to clean and organize the house, but for every step forward, I felt like my 3 year old was setting me 3 steps back. By 4pm, the house didn’t look any better than it did at 8am.

I don’t know why I bother cleaning while my kids are awake.

So there I am at around 5:30pm, exhausted, utterly spent, grouchy and discouraged. I roll of my sleeves and get to work making a quick dinner, putting away dishes, picking up and putting away toys, folding blankets, etc.

And it dawned on me.

Cleaning the kitchen is hard.

Taking a plate and moving it from the dish rack to the cabinet isn’t.

Organizing my girls’ room is tedious and time consuming.

Gathering up the books and returning them to the shelf isn’t.

Doing the laundry can take all day.

Folding a shirt takes 15 seconds.

Scrubbing down the bathroom can be disgusting.

Cleaning the toilet is…still disgusting, but less overwhelming when you remove it from the larger context of the entire bathroom.

This, I believe is the first time the idea of micro-actions really clicked for me – not to reach a goal, or establish a habit, but to simply get through my day.

Of course, my day may look entirely different from your day (and to be honest, I don’t do ALL that housework in one day). You might teach 25 6 year olds, deliver babies, make sales calls, wait tables, write books. All those things are simply descriptions for the little tiny actions that, when put together, create a teacher, a midwife, a salesperson, a waiter, and an author. And in everything we do, there is potential for overwhelm.

Our entire lives are made of tiny actions whether we see it that way or not. Every day we think about EVERYTHING that we have/want to do, and the overwhelm can be paralyzing, but when we break down our day into hours, and minutes, even seconds if we need to, and immerse ourself in each tiny span of time, we can get through whatever overwhelms us, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day.

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2 comments to Overcome Overwhelm, One Tiny Step at a Time

  • What a great perspective — breaking down larger tasks into smaller bites. Like the joke says, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” When I thought about wanting to come up with a “curriculum” for our Au pair to follow with J when he’s taken out of preschool in January, he task felt so daunting. Then I talked to a friend and she gave me easy and practical advice for getting started and now I have smaller tasks and feel much better about accomplishing it.

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