Plan of Attack

September 14, 2011

I feel overwhelmed sometimes.  Not really surprising, as I’ve got three kids, a husband, a house, a full-time job with a commute at which I do a wide variety of things which I am responsible for with minimal supervision.  I’m also slowed down by a fetus sucking my soul and (though not currently applicable) by cruddy weather.  (I wouldn’t say I have formal Seasonal Affective Disorder, cold weather just puts me in a bad mood, slows me down, and saps my energy.)

So I get these moments (more in the wintertime) where I suddenly just stop, look around, and freak out a bit.  There’s just too dang much to do to even figure out where to start, how to organize, and projects are just too many and too big and too intimidating.

Example: I’ve had this case ticking along for a while, very routine, that I was totally confident about.  Then, in the space of 24 hours, everything went to hell in a handbasket and I had no idea of my legal position or how to do anything about it.  What was my general process in getting from a state of panic to a specific plan of attack?

1) I panicked.  Mostly to myself, though one of my paralegals got a few minutes of venting.

2) I told people whose opinions I value about the problem as quickly as possible and asked them to mull it over a few days.

3) I figured out my timeline for making a decision.  I knew I had at least a week.

4) Based on that timeline, I decided to take two days not to do anything, but to mull it over myself.  I didn’t even THINK about it consciously during those two days.  I just went about my business and knew it would come back up on my calendar.  (It is amazing what your subconscious can do).

5) I went back to the people I talked to, I went back to myself, and I made a to-do list.  In this case, it involved 1) read the cases and statutes people pointed me to and I thought of, 2) call one more guy I thought of who could possibly help, 3) gather some more case materials, 4) get a DEFINITIVE deadline on making a decision and 5) figure out all the possible options for how to proceed with my case.  I feel good when I have a to-do list.

6) BUT, I never try to do all of a to-do list at once.  With my timeline in mind, I start with the easiest or least intimidating things on the list.  That’s not procrastination, it’s giving your mind more time and information to process the harder list items, and it’s building confidence.  I’ll do one or two things, than switch to a different project, then switch back.  In my case, I did my pulling together of written materials one day, the reading the next day, and called the guy the third day.  I was saving items (4) and (5) for last… but once I called the guy, those just fell into place.  Talking to him gave me my deadline and my best option for fixing the legal mess this case had gone into.

7) And from there, I was able to do a nicer to-do list with a schedule to it… otherwise known as the plan of attack.  Which is a huge relief.

8) Also, I didn’t take any of this home, except subconsciously.

I think, though I’ve never written it out before, that this is also how I deal with feeling overwhelmed at home.  I panic a little bit, I vent, I ask for ideas from myself and others (those two can go together), I take some non-pressure time to process as needed, I make a to-do list (which can also be started right at the “panic” stage as well), and then I take the list one step at a time, working easiest to hardest (or least to most intimidating, or most to least familiar, or quickest to slowest task), switching up projects while I’m working my list and refining the list as I go along.  (At home, though, things are less defined into projects and timeline isn’t as important).

And somewhere along the line, things will fall into place and I have a more specific plan, or list, or schedule.  Probably still evolving, but the more of it that I accomplish, the more I get my feet under me and feel less panicked and more “on the right track”.

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