Overwhelmed? A Step By Step Guide on How to Focus and Complete Many Tasks Quickly

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Whenever you start something new or get extremely busy it is easy to get overwhelmed.

It is easy to get worked up and worry if all the tasks that need done will be done in time.

There is an easy way to take control of the work that needs done; whether it be with learning about real estate or managing a project at work. Here’s how.

Why I Think This Article is Important

I have a lot going on and many times I get overwhelmed myself.

For example: I have 6 fix and flips properties and I just had to fire my main contractor.  I think I have found a great replacement, but it is hard to tell until after a few projects.

I have 10 rental properties now and we have had to rent five of them in the last two months due to new purchases and move outs.  I have my real estate team (which is doing great) but I have to constantly manage overhead and make sure enough deals are in the pipeline.  Then I have my blog, which is fun, but takes time as well.

I actually do not get stressed too often, even though I have a lot going on.  I have many techniques that help me stay focused and I have a great team to help me.

Some people claim they work better under stress or when something has to be done.  In most cases… that simply isn’t true.

We usually do our best work when we are relaxed and focused.  You may get more done when you have a strict deadline because you have to get it done or face dire consequences.  That doesn’t mean you are doing your best or most efficient work.

How to Handle Stress

So, how can you can you calm down when there is too much work to do?

It is easy to get frazzled and lose focus when we feel too much has to be done in the given amount of time to do it.  If you look back at your life at situations that seemed impossible, I bet you came out okay in the end.  Either you got the work done, got an extension or the consequences were not that dire when you failed to meet your deadline.  After all, your still breathing and reading this article right?

Here is what I do when I have too much to do and too little time.  Technically I should do this all the time whether I am under a deadline or not.

1.  The first step is to relax and realize it is not the end of the world if you miss your deadline.

2.  The second step is to focus on one task at a time, do not multitask!  Multitasking takes more time and create low quality work.

3.  The third step is to make a list of everything that needs done.  This gives you a plan and an idea of the tasks at hand.

4.  The fourth step is to prioritize those tasks by what is the most critical thing that needs done.  Many times we do the easy tasks first because we feel like we are getting something done.  The most important tasks should be done first.  If you don’t get everything done in time, you want to make sure the critical tasks were done and the less important tasks were left for later.

5.  The fifth step is to tackle the most important tasks first without distraction and finish one task before you start another.  Focus is one of the hardest things to do in our society.  I have a really hard time focusing on one thing, but I work so much quicker when I focus.  Shut your office door, hold calls, turn off your cell phone,  do whatever you need to do to be free of distractions.

6.  The sixth step is to cross off the items on your list one by one as you complete them.  This gives you a sense of accomplishment, shows you the list is getting smaller and more management and gives you confidence you can get it all done.

Conclusion

This is a simple technique, but most people will never use it.

It is hard to make yourself be free of distractions and focus.  If you need something done quickly, this is the best way to get it done.

How do YOU avoid stress in your life? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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About Author

Mark is Real Estate Broker and investor in Greeley, Colorado. Mark invests in long-term SFR rental homes and also does 8-15 fix and flips a year. Mark started a blog this year that focuses on investing in long term single family rentals.

27 Comments

  1. Noteworthy and interesting tips, thank you – regarding the “one task at a time” approach – this is a discussion I often have with my wife and business partner, who also subscribes to this view.

    Personally, when running a business, I may be able to focus on any one task at any given time, but to think I can leave everything off until that task is finished particularly when it’s a task that may take several days, is just plain impossible for me – let’s say I’m working on a crucial invoice and receipt database that needs updating, and then a client or a tenant or a property manager or a body corp rep (endless list really) calls with an emergency? How do you work around that?

    Would be great if our businesses operated in the vaccum of space, with just us “running the show”, but as much as we exercise control over our schedule, some things simply can’t be slotted, as they require immediate response and we’re not expected or preventable etc.

    Curious as to how you manage this one?

    • Zig, great point! I forgot a crucial component. There are some tasks that simply can’t be completed in one sitting. For those tasks set a specific amount of time to work on ten uninterrupted. Then when the time is up I can work in something else or continue working on it if nothing else is pressing.

  2. Yes, Mark, I’m a big list maker. I get some odd sense of pleasure from marking items off of my to do list (maybe I’m weird, oh well).

    I’d like to expand on #4 and just say that in the context of what you are trying to say there, there are varying degrees of importance. Understanding how you define a “critical” item, and why, will help you prioritize. For instance, if you don’t get something done, will you start losing money? Will it make you look unprofessional? Are you going to miss a deadline?

    Conversely, if the only tasks you seem to be handling are the super important ones, then that’s a sign that you probably are procrastinating a bit, which to me is the main reason why people stress out. They plain just wait too long to do things. Nice article!

    • Hi Sharon, Thank you ! Yes, you can’t only do the critical tasks, but if we are stressed on time they are the most important. When we get some time to catch up is when the less important tasks can be done. With the important tasks taken care of it takes more weight off our shoulders.

  3. People pay hundreds of dollars to learn for courses to learn what you just broke down in one blog post Mark! Awesome! Thanks so much for sharing, I’m sure people will be astonished at their productivity and reduced stress levels just by following these guidelines. I know It helps me a lot!

  4. Thanks Mark! Good post. It is quite true we should prioritize and focus on one task at a time – otherwise we just seem to end up spinning our wheels, starting, stopping, switching, restarting, and never really making any headway.

  5. Michael Dorovich on

    Great article Mark!

    The one thing I would add is that today it is very easy to see an article 5 minutes later on ‘how to multitask’ that looks convincing. So it seems like it is 5% what you focus on, and 95% what you don’t focus on that counts.

    Also, your point about setting a specific amount of time to work on tasks uninterrupted is major. I have found that setting a timer and working on a given task for 15 minutes, or even 5 minutes or 3 minutes a day, actually produces results, to my astonishment.

    • Thanks Michael,
      Spending a certain amount of time on tasks is super important. I learned a lot of these tricks form jack canfield coaching. I can see why it appears multitasking is good, but it is so hard to focus on multiple tasks and stopping and starting takes time.

  6. I have writtwn lists for years now. Always a stack of papers in my back pocket. I still write on paper as it just works better for me then on my phone. I can see what needs to be done and add things when they pop in my head. I always feel I am able to focus a lot better knowing that I have my list in my back pocket in case I need it for review. I am in the process of a 5 day turnaround for a duplex unit so I have a couple lists with time, costs, tasks needed to be completed, supplies to bring, items to buy. Along with my normal lists which I also like to include projects that are not immediate. If I find out that I will have a day free next week I can check the list and step up with a tenant to get a project done if it works for them.

    At the end of the day organization is key and lists are great but I am still looking for the day I can buy another one of me :)

    • Hi Kyle,
      I like to write things out as well, but I use my phone too when I don’t have paper. Writing out the lists and crossing stuff out feels better then simply erasing it on my phone list or putting a astercks by it.

  7. Spot on Mark. I recommend people use a personal kanban system with Work in Process limits. By creating a prioritized list and limiting how much you work on at a given time, your productivity can improve immensely.

  8. Thanks for the tips, Mark. I think time blocking is an effective method as well. Setting a “schedule” and blocking out time for certain projects or tasks can works. Lists get a bad rap sometimes, but I still use them also. They are another tool to help me focus and prioritize. I’m amazed at how distracted I can get when I don’t have a list or a schedule.

  9. Sara Cunningham on

    Mark I totally agree with everything you said. I am a huge fan of lists and love marking out items it gives a real sense of accomplishment. However I have to make one point. Interesting that nearly everyone that commented is male. Most women would totally disagree and say that the problem with men is that they can’t multi task. Their brains don’t work that way. They have 1 compartment that can only deal with one thing at a time, whereas women are designed totally different and very capable of doing several things at once. Sorry I couldn’t resist saying that.

      • haha, I am an excellent multitasker, but it does not help me work any faster, it actually slows me down.

        Maybe men just pretend to be bad at multi tasking so they can claim not to hear the to-do list.

  10. One way to get more done and stay focused on the important tasks is to hire out the less important ones. I’ve been reading a book recently about virtual assistants and it sounds like a great idea to get a General VA.

    If you are having problems getting everything done, then you may be falling into the SuperOwner Syndrome where we think we have to do everything ourselves.

    I still do most everything by myself, but the more I progress I’m finding I’m in need of help.

  11. The ability to multitask is important to keep things moving along and to get various mundane activities done (until you delegate or eliminate them from your life).
    But it is a terrible way to work if you have to finish an important task or if there is something that needs at least some fair amount of focused time to move to the next step.
    In those times (which come up more than most of us like to admit) the process you outlined is phenomenal! Lots of great tips to get you focused and not overly stressed about the tasks at hand.

    I also totally agree about putting it on paper and crossing it out as you go along. It is just a good mental trick to make you feel good about things.
    Lets admit it we have ALL had a list at some point, we did some task we had NOT had on the list originally, then we wrote it on the list and immediately crossed it off! :)

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