A typical characteristic of high-functioning students is to have a lot on their plate. They are in different clubs, they follow intense majors and they do demanding projects. Another characteristic of high-functioning students? Complete, blind, panic.

Spoiler alert: You will feel overwhelmed

When you take up multiple projects there will be times when you simply have to much on your plate. There is too much to do, too many questions from people and somehow, during these times, your body stops functioning (sickness, tiredness and the feeling of wanting to cry).

This feeling of panic, this feeling of being overwhelmed is almost normal. It is not necessary, but a lot of people go through it. Especially when you think about everything you still have to do the feeling intensifies.

Now when you ask your relatives, your friends or colleagues the advice is probably close to this: “Breathe and just start. You have a lot to do so you should just do it, just like Nike is telling you! Haha!”

Screw that. Especially the part about Nike. Why? Because your mind doesn’t work like that. And especially the mind of high-performers don’t work like that. Your mind will worry about what you still need to do, what you still need to buy, who you still need to call and back to what you still need to do.

And that is not strange, because there is a lot on your plate and your mind is afraid to forget something, so it simply brings it forward every once in a while so you will remember.

So – Don’t just start. But start.

You need to help your mind a little. You should be allowing your mind to stop worrying. How? By simply taking away its main problem: it cannot store everything. But you can.

Whenever you find yourself overwhelmed, stressed out or in a state of panic: grab a piece of paper. Turn your notebook to the next blank page. And start writing. Write everything down you are worrying about. Write about the project you need to do. Write every action step on it (preferably with a checkbox which you can check of later), write every thought about it on paper. Write everything down.

Now take 5 minutes. Walk around, listen to some music. Look at the paper again. Look over the projects and write down what you think is missing. Now look at the paper again. Does it look scary? Good. Because you will work on that. You will work on the projects and you will check every to-do off.

Start with an easy task, a task you will easily complete. Preferably a task which requires execution (more like sending an e-mail, less like reading a chapter), so you will feel satisfied. This will generate momentum, momentum you can use to tackle the bigger tasks.

Another thing you can do is actually starting with the most daunting task. With the task you definitely don’t want to do. After you finished this task you can only win – it only becomes easier after that. This is a concept commonly called “Eat the Frog.” Eat it in the morning and the rest of the day everything will taste good.

How do you fight overwhelming work? Well, by starting. But before you begin: Breathe. Empty your head on paper. Make sure your mind doesn’t need to worry. Now you are ready to start. Overwhelming? Hell yeah. But how do you eat an elephant? One bite at the time.

TL;DR Index Card

Start, but think first

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