One Thing You Need to Do If You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

How planning your week ahead of time can melt away your stress.

While I was working two jobs, running a blog, and starting on Medium, I’d broken my “overwhelm” levels.

I’d reached that level where I was always so stressed that instead of trying to finish my tasks, I ended up doing nothing.

I’d try to work, but I could only think about everything else I had to do. The tightness in my chest and my loud thoughts made me quit every time.

I tried scheduling tasks and organizing my list by priority, but nothing worked. Even if I only gave myself three jobs to do all day, I’d think about when I’d get to the others.

One day, I was fed up with feeling overwhelmed, so I took out a blank piece of paper and wrote down the days of the week across the top of the page. Then, I wrote down what I’d do every day of that week.

I don’t exaggerate when I say that my overwhelm disappeared in a moment.

Why planning your week defeats overwhelm

Instead of creating one work to-do list, you create seven.

When you put this system in place, the stress of what you need to do and when you need to do it disappears.

You don’t have to worry about the big task due in two days today because you know you’ll work on it tomorrow.

This also helps you learn not to stuff one to-do list with too many tasks. You can schedule jobs accordingly throughout the week.

What should you use to plan your week?

Before we get into how to do this, let’s talk about where to do this. As I said, when I started, I used a sheet of paper because I couldn’t afford a planner.

If you want to buy a planner, I don’t recommend anything fancy. Don’t worry about habit-trackers, What are you grateful for? lists, or anything like that.

Purchase a plain, non-overwhelming planner that has a space for weekly planning, like the one below, and you’re good to go. (They usually have monthly calendars inside, too.)

Picture by author

1. Write down everything you need to do

Make one long to-do list with everything you need to do this week. Don’t hold back; you can worry about what you’ll keep and remove later.

Here is a short version of what mine looked like this week:

  1. Write and publish 14 articles on Medium
  2. Edit the article you’re submitting to Forge + pitch them
  3. Read three to five Medium pieces per day
  4. Read Hello Girls
  5. Send publication Letter

I write down tasks that correlate with my job and goals, but you can include what works for you.

2. Break down your goals to action steps + assign due dates

Take every task and give it a due date or turn it into action steps you’ll take throughout the week.

For example, I need to write and publish fourteen articles this week. I can’t give it a due date, so I’ll break it down. To accomplish that goal, I have to write two articles per day.

Thinking about two articles per day is less overwhelming than thinking about writing fourteen articles this week.

However, I can give something like pitching Forge a due date.

Let’s do this to all of my tasks:

  1. Write and publish 14 articles on Medium — Write two articles per day
  2. Edit the article you’re submitting to Forge + pitch them — Due October 15
  3. Read three to five Medium pieces per day
  4. Read Hello Girls — Finish by Wednesday
  5. Send publication Letter — Send on Tuesday

3. In your planner, write down everything

If you wrote down tasks in your first to-do list that have no due date or aren’t important, don’t put them in your planner.

Take everything else and organize it into your planner or sheet of paper. This is what the first three days of my week would look like:


  • Write an publish two articles
  • Read three Medium pieces
  • Send the newsletter to email subscribers
  • Read Hello Girls before bed


  • Write an publish two articles
  • Read five Medium pieces
  • Final edits on “Forge” article + send a pitch
  • Read Hello Girls before bed


  • Write and publish two articles
  • Read three to five Medium pieces
  • Finish reading Hello Girls

Final words

Just like that, you know what your days are going to look like exactly, and there’s no need to feel overwhelmed.

Try not to stuff too many tasks into one day. Remember, the point is to lay them out throughout the week.

Do three main, more time-consuming priorities first, and then move on to the shorter tasks.

That said, go out and buy a weekly planner if you like (Hello, Target), and then plan the rest of your week. Don’t wait until next week when you can start dealing with your overwhelm now.

Not an expert. Not a guru. Just a self-help writer trying to be as honest as possible and hoping to make a few people feel less alone along the way.

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