How to Stay Clear and Calm When You Have an Overwhelming Project

12/03/2015 02:54 pm ET Updated Dec 03, 2016

When my first book came out, I noticed I was mesmerized by any training that said "book" and "success." Learning isn't bad, but when it keeps me from actually focusing on what's most important for preparing for one of my books to come out or classes to start, there's a problem. I'm in the process of discovering how I can take my own project and time management practices to the next level.

I thought it might be valuable to share with you what I'm learning I need to stay clear and calm in the midst of an enormously nebulous and potentially overwhelming project.

Whether you're writing a book, managing a large department, starting a business, or just trying to get through the day without missing a meeting, here are a few tips:

  • Establish a Capture Location: I researched different tools and decided that Asana was the right one for me and my team. In it, I can break down the different sections of the overall book marketing campaign by project. Then under projects, I can have tasks, and under tasks, notes.

  • Understand the Big Picture: I'm still in the process of developing just the right method for me, but it has become clear that I need something other than a task management system to see the overall scope of what's happening. Here are a few systems that I've seen other people use that I'll be exploring. You can glean ideas from these concepts:
  • One of my friends, Jenny Blake, developed an awesome Google Excel doc with lots of pages that outline the different steps of the book marketing process, including a Gantt Chart.
  • One of my clients designed a really awesome Excel spread sheet where you can sort tasks by department, priority, urgency, deadline, and follow up plus take notes on the status. He kindly offered to share his template so if you e-mail freedom@reallifee.com with "template" in the subject line, my client joy director can send you a copy.
  • Another one of my clients just loves MindManager so that may be another possibility to visually map out exactly where I'm at in the process and what's happening next.
  • Set Weekly Goals: I am vigilant about weekly planning so typically goal setting is not a problem. But when I'm really passionate about a project, I can slip and use focus. Fortunately, the key to getting back on track is pretty simple: clarifying my most important current priorities. This gives me the ability to really make progress on them, and also to not feel guilty when someone points out to me something I haven't done yet.
  • Get Help: One of the reasons people don't do the above steps is that it makes it completely evident if you're incapable of accomplishing everything on your own. But my philosophy is that "reality is good." So instead of staying in denial about the enormity of the task, I'm recruiting help for the various items that fall outside of my strengths or are simply beyond my capacity to handle.
  • I hope that some of these insights resonate with you about where your system might be slipping and how you can become more clear and calm.

    About Real Life E
    Elizabeth Grace Saunders is the founder and CEO of Real Life E a time coaching and training company that empowers individuals who feel guilty, overwhelmed and frustrated to feel peaceful, confident and accomplished. She is an expert on achieving more success with less stress. Real Life E also increases employee productivity, satisfaction and work/life balance through training programs.

    McGraw Hill published her first book The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment: How to Achieve More Success with Less Stress. Harvard Business Review recently published her second book How to Invest Your Time Like Money. Elizabeth contributes to blogs like Lifehacker, Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and the 99U blog on productivity for creative professionals and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox.