The Step 1, 2, 3 Method

It’s very easy to become overwhelmed by big tasks, particular days, things that happen – like moving house or the days when you wake up and feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders.

It’s very important not to give yourself too much to do in one day, there are only 24 hours in one day after all, and eight of those you sleep or should do! And remembering, you’re just one person!

But what if the tasks you have to do requires a lot of emotional energy? And you feel as though you just can’t face it?
That’s where ‘The Step 1, 2, 3 Method’ comes in.

Here are two examples, which are my real-life examples:

  1. Moving House
    I have moved house many times in my life. More than I’d like to remember. Not by choice, rather by circumstance.
    I hate it – yes, I know hate is a strong word but my dictionary tells me ‘hate’ means ‘feel intense dislike for’ or ‘have a strong aversion for something’ and that’s accurate for the way I feel about moving house.

    The last time I moved house, I vowed not to feel ‘insert negative feeling here’ about it, so I wrote a checklist.

    This is how my list looked:
    1. Collect removal van
    2. Drive to London
    3. Pack stuff in van
    4. Drive back from London
    5. Unpack stuff into garage

    At the start of the day, if I had thought about the task ahead as one huge one, it would have been easy to get overwhelmed and sad (moving makes me sad). But instead, I thought only about one task at a time – the next one on the list.

    It’s important to notice that each step is reliant on the previous one – one cannot be done without the other.

    With each step complete, I texted my Mum (it could have been a friend) to say ‘Step X complete.’
    I also said it out loud to myself to revel in my success.

    The move took me 12 hours door to door, I handled it well and didn’t get upset.

    2. Bad Day
    There are some days where I wake up with some big tasks on my list, I feel overwhelmed and just want to stay in bed and hide from it all.

    I woke up feeling like that a few days ago. I didn’t have anything major to do – a few hours of work on the computer, 5k walk, unpack some boxes from the garage, fix the leak in my car, make Sunday dinner – but I just wanted to stay in bed and hide. I know from experience that never makes me feel better. So I wrote a Step 1, 2, 3 List.

    Here is how the list looked:
    1. Fix leak in car (the job I wanted to do the least)
    2. Prepare Sunday lunch
    3. Walk
    4. Work
    5. Unpack two boxes

    As with the previous example, if I’d thought about all these things at the start of the day, it would have made me feel anxious and overwhelmed as there were some jobs I didn’t want to do.

    Unlike the previous example, each task was not reliant on the previous one. However, I treated the list exactly the same as the moving house example – I would not start one task without having completed the previous one. This helped provide momentum and discipline to the day. It also stopped the overwhelm as I only had to do one thing.

    With each step complete, I crossed it off my list and said out loud ‘Step X complete’ celebrating my success.

I think saying it out loud, although feeling a bit silly, is an integral part of the method. It’s another mini-milestone reached and it’s important to recognise that.

This powerful method is one I used when rowing 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean.

At the start line in Spain, if I had thought about the finish line in the Caribbean, it would have been easy to get overwhelmed and think of all the things that could go wrong.
Instead, I broke the challenge down into weeks, then days, then individual 2 hours shifts – we rowed in two hours shifts; two hours on and then two hours off. Eventually, as the journey went on, I broke the 2 hours shifts into 15 minutes chunks.

Imagine 43 days (the amount of time it took us to row across the Atlantic ocean) broken into 4,128 chunks of 15 minutes? It’s hard to imagine now, but I did it and it worked. Each 15-minute chunk was one step closer to our goal – the finish line.

It’s important to note that the two examples above (not the Atlantic rowing one) only have 5 steps. In my opinion, if a list has more than 5-8 steps then it’s too much for one day unless it’s lots of micro-tasks….. but even then, perhaps it’s still too much?

It seems modern humans have become naive to think we can do so much in one day. I think that’s wrong. Not only is time-limited, but so is our physical, emotional, and brain energy.
Don’t be unrealistic with how much you set yourself to do, be responsible.
Focus on one thing at a time and do it well.
And remember to include some time for rest, relaxation, and self-care in your day, otherwise, you’re asking for trouble.

As with all my blogs, I write these as if I am giving myself advice.

If you found this blog useful, you may also like these:
It’s OK to Slow Down
13 Tips For When You Feel Overwhelmed
No Rush, No Pause
You’d Feel The Same