As usual, you’re juggling a lot of things at once. You’re managing creative projects, work projects, family projects. You have a lot on your plate but you get lost in the daily details. You keep adding more and because you don’t have a sense of the whole, you live in a state of overwhelm and stress.
The problem? You don’t have a solid sense of everything that you’ve committed to, so you keep saying yes.
The solution is simple. Draw a visual of your ‘plate.’ I use a mindmap for each month so I can see at a glance what I’ve committed to.
Mindmap your plate
At the end of the month, do a plate map for the following month. In a page in your work journal, put the name of the month in the middle. In circles or boxes around it, name your projects. From each of those projects you can list out tasks to complete each project.
I don’t list ongoing things like client work, administrative work, or miscellaneous things like commenting on blogs and in forums. The map tracks major projects that require immediate attention and focus to complete them.
There are at least three ways this helps you be sane with your commitments:
Reality check. Seeing my big projects on the page helps me know when I’ve taken on too much. Throughout the month I can flip back to the plate map and get a quick reminder of my focus when days threaten to dissolve in minituae.
Just say no to shiny new things. When new opportunities arise, I can check my plate map to see if I can truly add anything more.
How did it go? At the end of the month, I go back to the page and check in to see if I completed my projects. If not, they go onto the next month. Like this, month by month, I am able to manage multiple projects and complete things without feeling overwhelmed.
The numbers. Here’s a bonus. Last month I added a list on the plate map of my estimated expenses for the month. At first I thought this kind of thing didn’t belong on the plate map. Then I realized it was a simple way to see that month’s expenses at a glance, and also to see how what I was working on related to my finances. (If I were really doing that thoroughly, I’d add income as well.)
Try it – place everything you’re trying to consume on one page in a notebook or online document. What do you see? How do you use visual planning techniques to get things done?