Tame Image I’ll admit, this is a purely selfish blog post.

Although I consider myself the expert at the well-crafted to do list, and rely on my list and a solid plan to accomplish everything from my business dreams, to getting my kids packed and off to summer camp in the morning, I have felt out-of-control lately.

While I’ve done a pretty good job of navigating the schedule that is summer vacation, I’ll admit that not having the routine of the school year has definitely affected my productivity.

photo 1Now, it’s not necessarily all bad.

I’ve loved the long weekend camping trips with no cell service and we’ve had fun sneaking out to the movies in the middle of the afternoon.

We’ve spent hours inventing games on the trampoline in the backyard (poison ball, anyone??)

But, without the rhythm of the school year, (and therefore my work schedule,) I definitely started this month feeling a bit scattered and overwhelmed.

I still had my to do list. But instead of breaking down tasks, prioritizing the steps and fitting each task into an available time, I felt stranded.

I only had two precious hours of kid free time while the neighborhood seventh grader played with the kids in the backyard, but everything on my to do list everything seem to be a Catch-22.

I couldn’t do item A until I sorted out item C, and it didn’t make sense to do item #4 until I figured out a better system for items 5, 6 and 7.

I had to stop the overwhelm and get myself back on track, so I could enjoy my summer and make sure my business was moving forward too.

Here’s what I did.

Go after the low hanging fruit

This is not my normal advice.  Normally, I recommend you prioritize your list and make sure you tackle that big thing that is going to move you and your business forward, before you catch up on all the little things. But sometimes when you are feeling overwhelmed and unsure of where to start on your list, crossing off those easy, niggly tasks (I love that word I have picked up from my Australian friends) can help you build momentum to getting the bigger things done.

Sometimes setting aside an hour to fill out the new school paperwork, mail the insurance forms, return the preschool playdate emails and fix the broken link on your website you’ve been meaning to get too, can help shorten your to do list and have you breathe a little lighter.

Segment Your List

Speaking of preschool emails and broken website links, sometimes a to-do list can feel overwhelming when your entire life’s must dos are written out in one long list.

I strongly believe that we need to keep ALL our to dos in one place, after all you are one person, both mama and CEO, but your list should be separated.  If your lists jumps from “pick up milk” to “finish client action plan” to “order soccer uniform” your brain has to jump between thinking of all of these items too…and all that jumping is exhausting (just ask me after 15 minutes on the trampoline!)

At the very least, divide your paper in half so you can separate your mom tasks from your CEO tasks, but I like to divide my list even further so I can see mom tasks out of the house and in the house and business tasks at the computer, on the phone or that need the input of other people.  Then my brain can focus a bit more.

Decide what is highest priority

When your time and focusing ability is limited (because those under 4 feet tall have given you 15 minutes until the next round of poison ball,) you want to get done the absolutely most important thing.

I take a few minutes every morning (or the evening before) and choose the 3 most important business tasks for the day and write them on a post-it note, then I can close the cover, and the overwhelm, of that long to-do list and just focus on the highest priority task for that day.  When I cross those off, I feel accomplished instead of bummed that there is so much left to do.

Think about how you want to feel

photo 2At the beginning of the summer, we sat down as a family and planned out activities we wanted to do during our ‘adventure weeks’ and I created my master business goals for my ‘work weeks’ (aka- kids in camp weeks).  I had structured our summer this way on purpose.

I had wanted to have big chunks of time to enjoy my kids and our time together and then I wanted to have deep focused time on my business.  But I found myself craving work time while we were supposed to be heading to the beach and missing my kids and feeling guilty the days they were at camp.

Sometimes the first step in not feeling overwhelmed, is simply take a deep breath, step back and reminding yourself this was the plan all along and everything will all get done the way it needs too. (and the kids will have fun at camp, even if they say they would rather stay home with you.)

Plan for the future

With only a month left of summer, I still have a few things on our list of family activities and a few more business projects I wanted to accomplish before the first day of school.  But, you know what?  The Fall is a great time too!  I triaged and re-prioritized my list and my expectations.

September is a great time to launch that new webinar series I have planned and who says we can’t head over to the zoo one day after school?

Remember, you are the CEO, you get to call the shots in this company.

Now excuse me while I finish these client action plans and then tag in for a round of poison ball.