Do you have the problem of feeling overwhelmed? I think one cause of that feeling is when the stack of stuff we have to do is too big for our minds. The average stack of things we can keep track of in our heads is about seven. We can make lists. Those work really well. But what about when a project has a deadline, and you have to focus on it to the exclusion of almost everything else?

In a way having to focus on just one project is a relief. You know what you have to do every day when you get up: work on that project and go as fast as you can. Ignore everything that can be neglected.

Then the project is done and you feel a rush of relief. Almost immediately, though, all the little stuff rushes in. Part of what makes projects satisfying is you have that sense of completion, whereas with day-to-day stuff, you’ve worked hard, but you have no sense of completion.

It’s crazy-making.

Putting everything on To Do lists is good, but have you ever had that sense that you’re missing the big picture or something important?

I decided to put what I have to do on a big piece of butcher block paper.


Note: Mr. Sketch are scented pens, which are key!

One of the basic things I learned as a project manager was the difference between projects and operations. Projects have a beginning, middle, and end. Operations are ongoing activities you need to do for the business. I found remembering the difference between projects and operations to be a huge help.

In the midst of a project, you still need to keep those operations going. When you finish a project you need to see all the other ones that are waiting (and going cold). Or, if you have time to work on multiple projects at once, when you finish working on one during the day, you can glance at your list of projects and quickly get back on task with the highest priority one.

On my butcher block paper, all projects are in one color at the top of my paper. The operational stuff is in another color at the bottom. Every morning I walk into that room and look through it all then plan my day.

I think this technique will help me not forget projects or stop doing the day-to-day stuff that keeps things going. I will report back and let you know how it is working.

I am excited about this big-picture technique because I am tired of doing well for a while, then having to focus on a critical project or going on vacation and then losing track of all my good daily habits and forgetting smaller unfinished projects.

Do you feel overwhelmed? How do you keep track of all the things you have to do? Does the idea of separating out projects from operations make things easier to plan?

Now for some fun. I’m really good at making time for that! I am thinking of sending one of these monochrome photos in for Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness. These were the four I processed. I think with the Monochrome challenge, it’s okay to use a single color. Someone did it last week and it was amazing. I just tried it on a  photo from Paris. Anyway, which of these do you think I should submit, if any?

Diagram of projects and maintenance
New York
Grand Central Station, New York
The Empire State Building with three others

35 thoughts on “Overcoming work overwhelm

  1. I like your concept of projects and operations. I find I have trouble juggling both at the same time; if I’m really doing well with my writing, the promo suffers and vice versa. I have to find a way to keep on top of both.

    I’m going to be contrary and vote for the Paris picture, just because I’ve been there and it reminds me of a wonderful holiday!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jana,

      Yes, I’m the same way. I’m hoping if I have that big picture view every day it will keep me from getting myopic during a project push. I want to even it out and do a little promo all the time with some swells around release time, instead of sequentially in blocks of 2 weeks then nothing for months. W’ll see how that goes…

      Thanks so much for coming by and contributing. Paris is up to 2 votes now.


  2. I think as writers we agonize over everything. I enjoyed your post. My biggest problem is when “operational tasks” eat up time from the project. Since I’ve been to all three places,I vote for the man (or is a woman?) walking. Where did you take that particular picture?


    1. Hi Judy,

      That’s funny! I didn’t realize agonizing over everything was so common among writers! Goes with the personality I guess!

      I agree, that is a problem. I’m hoping to break down the resistance to the operational tasks like promo and networking by having all of them in big writing where I can look at them each day. The resistance comes because they feel like they are detracting from the fun stuff, the projects. Also because they don’t have measurable results. But by having them big and visual, at least I can see they are finite. And I can make them more so by setting a timer when working on them, helps avoid the sideways wander that happens with online activities.

      Thanks so much on the photo. It is a man, in Grand Central Station in New York City.


  3. I love them all. So hard to choose. The most unique is the one with the feet. Somehow, I’m not getting an email notice that you posted and only find you’ve done so when I go to work on my blog. You’re doing great work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Anne! I just submitted that one to Leanne. This was so fun. I really appreciate your coming by to comment.

      I checked your subscription and you will see me in the Reader, I think. I added a button back to my blog under my name where you can sign up for an email subscription. I had accidentally deleted that follow method. Thanks for letting me know.


  4. The walker in GCT is a real standout…it goes beyond a mere recording of a scene and infuses the viewer (or at least this viewer) with a feeling. Overwhelmed? Yes, all the time…but I just keep nibbling away at things and realize (from my history) that eventually everything gets done.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Robert,

      I am learning that a feeling is something to look for in an image. I have been looking at images with my husband and analyzing what makes them grab ya. I’ve noticed interesting angles, surprising perspectives, intense saturation, surprising juxtapositions. Those are from analyzing the Design issue of Travel and Leisure. The GTC image was gut instinct, LOL! You’ve helped me see it’s the emotion. Thanks!

      Like how you deal with overwhelm. That works. I’m trying to keep from forgetting stuff and also get the stuff out of my head where it drains energy.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Glad to help – a straight up shot is fine, but for most of my images at GCT, I went with a low shutter speed and low ISO to intentionally get the blur, which translates in to the feeling of the hustle-bustle of the location…I think Stacy did likewise in the shot she posted from there.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Robert is one of those pros I mentioned in the response I just wrote to your first comment, Calisa. I met Robert on this blogger photographer day. He’s a brilliant artist and I have loved having him interact on my blog. I find his comments very thought provoking. Anyway, nice guy. His blog is called Infrared Robert.

        Thanks so much for your thoughtful response to my question.

        PS Paris…it’s Heaven, isn’t it?

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Your plan is impressive. Let us know how it works out for you. I know better than to try to do something so detailed and organized for myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha! I totally get that, Mary. I’m seeing a lot of creative types run screaming from this thing, LOL. Thanks for coming by and commenting. I will do a follow up in about a month and send out the news! 😉


  6. Like the others, I think your way of mapping out things is impressive–but really detailed! And the projects/operations designations is great. I’m a list-er, but your way looks definitely worth a try (she says, biting her lip :>)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Is this schedule for your writing only, or did you include “life” stuff in there as well? I think it’s a great way to keep yourself organized if it works. Waiting to hear how well you do.

    As for the FUN-As far as appeal, I love Paris, or rather the Eiffel Tower, so I would go with the monochrome. But–the feet walking with the distinct shadow really stuck out for me for some reason in a deeper way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Calisa! So great to see you here. Thank you so much for commenting.

      I just put my writing stuff on there. I try to go in and look at it and read every line every day. A lot of times I slap my four head and go, oh yeah, I need to sign in to Facebook! Or something else triggers. I like it because it’s not a to do list, I can choose things off of it. As organized and overwhelming as it may appear, it actually allows me to be more spontaneous.

      An interesting thing about the photo in Grand Central station is that I was there with a group of professional photographers and was totally intimidated. This is completely my own problem, because they were all sweethearts. But imagine yourself being a beginner and hanging around with four photographers who are taking all these pictures. Finally I couldn’t stand to imitate them anymore, so I turned around and just took that picture because I liked the sunlight on the floor. It turns out everybody loves it, including some of the pros who went with me that day!

      Thanks for following my blog.



      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s such a great shot for an unconscious reaction to your situation, Nicci. Robert sounds like a wonderful person and something of a mentor. 🙂

        Paris? I’d love to find out first hand just how heavenly it is!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh yes, Paris, I hope you get to. If you go, get in touch, and I’ll share where we liked staying. We rented an apartment right next to the park with the Eiffel Tower!


  8. NIcci,
    Great post with wonderful ideas. I too live by my to-do-lists. I have this list pad that I have started to copy over and over. It as a little otter on it and says “You otter Read this” this is has 15 spaces for tasks. Makes me smile just looking at it. Anyway that’s how I keep in track.
    As far as the pictures, I love the New York one. The prospective is so different, intriguing. Have a wonderful rest of the week!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Tena,

      Oh, you gave me the biggest grin! That is such a creative writer approach. I absolutely love it. Thank you for sharing!

      I’m actually going to do a minor update today because I have a development…

      You have a wonderful week too!




  9. Every day! This is exactly what I’ve been feeling and unable to find an outlet to break it up so that I’m not overwhelmed. I don’t know if I can do quite as detailed a chart, but I’m sure going to try. I need relief! As for the photos, I really like the last one with the touch of gold. Nice post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Lida! Getting the big picture and some of the routine details out of your head but in a safe place where you can scan them routinely, will free your head for nicer things. 🙂 It’s been working for me!


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