Our entire family was hit with a virus a couple weeks back that had each of us down for the count for at least two days. For nine straight days, at least one of us had a fever.
The first strike came on a Friday morning when my daughter woke up with a fever of 102. At that moment, the day’s schedule and priorities got realigned. My entire to-do list that day became caring for my sick little girl.
Three days later, I got the bug. Friends took care of my children, my husband took care of feeding the three of us who were eating more than chicken noodle soup and my to-do list got ignored. My only job for the next 48 hours was resting.
Actually being sick is miserable enough. But the overwhelming nature of it is compounded by not only not getting done what you normally would, but all of the additional tasks that come with caring for someone who isn’t feeling well.
It’s a double whammy.
After more loads of laundry and Lysol wipes than I care to count, two weeks passed and we were all mostly back to health. Great. Except that I was overwhelmed at the thought of where to even begin to dig out.
Where’s the ‘Start Over’ button?
It’s not just sickness that can cause this feeling. Anything that interrupts your normal routine – even the good stuff – can lead to feeling behind. More evenings away than normal, work travel, even vacation can get you off track. And getting back on just seems like too much.
How to Get Back on Track When Life Causes Derailment
1 – Start by making a list of every.single.task that needs to be done
Every single task?! Won’t that intensify the feeling of being overwhelmed?! No.
It’s better to name the tasks and take charge of them then to let them linger in your sub-conscious and nag at you.
Start with the previous day’s list. If you don’t have it written down, just start writing down whatever tasks are nagging at you. If you can’t think of anything, walk through your house and write down everything that you see that needs to get done.
Don’t get overwhelmed by this step. My Grandpa used to always say “It has to get worse before it gets better.” I think he may have been referring to this exact situation.
2 – Filter Tasks
Be judicious about what really has to get done. Real life comes and something’s gotta give. Read through your list and ask yourself “What gives?”
For me, this was house cleaning chores. We view cleaning as a way of taking care of what we have (vs. having a clean house to show others). The floors won’t be destroyed if they don’t get mopped this week. Fungus isn’t going to sprout on the stovetop if it isn’t cleaned.
In this situation, a dirty house is a constant reminder that some things aren’t the way I want them to be, but that’s real life.
3 – Triage the Tasks by Due Date
Go through your filtered list and separate the tasks into three categories – 1: Overdue 2: Due within the week & 3: No Due Date.
When there’s a lot to do, everything seems urgent. Doing this helps you see what is actually urgent.
Tip: For things like laundry, which don’t have an actual date, but that need to be done in a timely manner (unless you’re okay with your family walking around naked), assign a due date that is determined by when you will start to suffer the consequences of the unfinished task.
4 – Schedule Tasks
Take your slimmed down, triaged list and assign each task a to-do date. Start with the overdue tasks, then move through each category.
According to Finish author Jon Acuff, you double the odds of actually finishing a task if you plan out when and where you’ll work on your goals. You still might not get everything done, but you’ll get more done than you would have if you sat on your couch and felt bad for yourself.
Be realistic about what you can do in a day. Don’t prioritize tasks over health – physical, mental & emotional. If getting all of these things done means not getting the adequate sleep that your body needs to recover, then it’s not worth it.
5 – Give Yourself A Break
It takes longer to get back to “normal” than you think it should. That’s just reality.
Give yourself time and recognize that no matter how much you cross off of your list, if it comes at the expense of your stress level and recovery – or your family’s – it’s not not worth it.