Overwhelmed and not sure what to prioritise? Do this coaching exercise

annie ridout

If your to-do list feels never-ending and you’re finding it hard to work out where to start, here’s a coaching exercise that will help you to work through your overwhelm and plan some simple steps forward…

Words: Annie Ridout

First up, let’s talk feminism. Because as women, we are up against it. We are still, in 2022, doing the majority of the housework and childcare, even if we’re also working full-time. Add to that the invisible labour (making social plans, household admin, emotional support) and, well, we’re pretty busy.

It’s no wonder 42% of women say they are constantly burnt out.

But what do we do with these feelings of overwhelm?

I’d recommend you find a time when you can be alone for half an hour. Make yourself a cup of tea, or another warming, calming drink.

Find somewhere you can sit comfortably and take a deep breath in through your nose, out through your mouth.

You might like to close your eyes and imagine that you are breathing in light and breathing out chaos, whatever that looks like for you.

Want to get a bit woo?

Imagine a deity, floating in the sky above you. This might be ‘God’ to you. It might be a fictional character you’ve created. You could look up Greek goddesses and choose one whose powers appeal.

Ask her (or him) for what it is that you want. Perhaps that is clarity, or calm. You might want a more creative life, or a more restful one. But err on the positive (what you want, not what you don’t want).

Hold them there with you as you move through the coaching exercises. You have assigned them the job of guiding you towards this different way of being. Trust that they are there with you, and for you.

Now, onto the coaching…

What does your life look like right now?

It can help to get clear on exactly what you have going on in your life right now so we’re going to look at the bigger picture.

Get out a pen and a piece of paper and make a list of everything you’re doing on a regular basis. You can include things you enjoy doing, as well as things you’re obliged to do.

How does that list look?

Is it longer or shorter than you’d imagined it would be?

Now, strike out all the things you’d like to stop doing. Be true to yourself – this is a coaching exercise and it’s just about you. You don’t have to action everything that comes up but it can help to be clear on exactly what you’re doing that you’d prefer to not be doing.

Create a new list – of all those things you don’t want to be doing.

Is there any way to delegate these tasks?

Work through them, one-by-one, to see if there is someone who could help with these tasks.

If they were delegated, what would that free you up to do?

How important is it that you have time to do that?

How would it feel it you were doing that, instead?

Is there one task that you could let go of, or hand over today?

Next, return to that initial list. What’s left should be tasks that you are ok doing, or enjoy.

Again, create a new list of these tasks.

Run through this list and note the regularity of each task.

How do you feel about how often you are doing this?

Does it work for you?

Would you like to do it more/less?

How can you make that happen?

If you look at this list, what stands out as your current priority?

Is that what you want to be prioritising?

If it is, how can you create more space for it in your week?

Lastly, what is the priority right now?

What needs to be done today?


How can you create time for it?

How will you feel, once you’ve completed it?

What could you do, once it’s done, to celebrate?

Remember: when we’re in an overwhelmed state, it can be hard to see through the panic fog. But getting your thoughts from your mind onto paper can feel therapeutic, and as if it’s creating space. Do the above exercise as often as you need.

And at the start of each day, ask yourself: what needs to be done today? Why? What can wait?

We don’t need to be doing everything that could possibly done, and in the most perfect manner – we need to do just the things that are important and time-sensitive, knowing that time stretches beyond this moment and today. Tomorrow, you can conquer the next task.

For the woo women amongst us: keep your deity close. Let her hover above you, nudging you gently back towards that path you asked for (clarity, calm etc). A guardian angel, of sorts. Or simply a visible manifestation of your subconscious mind. Either way, hold her close.

If you’re interested in more coaching exercises, you might like this online course: How to be more productive (work, rest, rituals and play) 

Author: Annie Ridout