What To Do When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

As I’m writing this I’m in the midst of home renovations. It’s a three bedroom, two bathroom farmhouse built in the early 1900s.

When I bought the house a few years ago, I made some minor cosmetic updates before move in. I took down the wallpaper in every room and each room got a new coat of paint. I kept the carpets the shades as they were – sea foam green, peach, and brown. I never painted the ceilings and the bathrooms remained unchanged aside from paint.

Teddy Bear Wallpaper Removed

Fast forward to 2020 and it’s time for some upgrades. Every single room in the house is getting an update except for the kitchen. That will stay the way it is until next year. Almost every other room is getting wall paint, trim paint, new ceiling paint, updated fixtures, and updated flooring.

This means a lot of decisions to make. Like what color should the walls be in the dining room? Should they be the same as the living room? Do I want black fixtures or gold in the bathroom? What about the laundry room? How should I reconfigure it so it’s both aesthetically appealing but also functional? What tile should I put in the bathroom? What will the hardwood floors look like under the carpet? Will they need refinished?

And the list goes on….

Hardwood under the carpet

The decisions seems to be never ending and can feel incredibly overwhelming. Even just picking paint is a hard decision and I’m normally quite decisive.

One of many paint trips at the hardware store

So here’s what I learned when I feel overwhelmed with the amount of decisions that need to be made or the speed at which I’m required to make them:

1. Prioritize – What is the most important item to make a decision on right now? What can’t wait?

2. Execute – Whatever that one this is, make a decision in it. Then go to the next priority and then the next. Eventually you’ll have made decisions in a methodical way that will help you feel less overwhelmed.

In the book Extreme Ownership, the authors Jocko Willink and Leif Babin share this strategy as it’s used in the military. When there’s seemingly chaos around you, the way to do the next right thing is to prioritize and execute.

Paint color options.

Yesterday I had a huge list of things to do at the house. I sat down, took a breath and decided to choose one room to work on. In that one room I listed out the 4 tasks in order of priority. I gave myself 5 minutes to get ready and then the work had to begin.

It seems simple but it worked. I was able to turn this feeling of overwhelm into finished results. You can too. Just stop, take a breath, prioritize, and execute.