Last night I went out on our deck to get wood to fill our wood stove for the night and I noticed that the pile contained only a few more logs, not even enough for the next day. I came into the house feeling overwhelmed as I thought about my long to do list. I had not included time in the next day to put wood on the deck for the upcoming cold weekend. When I awoke the next day, I considered my list and thought if I just place ten wheelbarrow loads on our deck I would get a little workout and place enough logs on the deck for at least the weekend. Once I shifted my thoughts from filling the deck with wood to adding ten wheelbarrows of wood I began to feel optimistic and hopeful. My outlook was brighter and the load seemed lighter and more do-able. The number ten wasn’t a magic number by any means, but it turned out to be enough to seemingly and magically fill the deck with more wood than I needed for the weekend, possibly even two weekends of warmth and comfort.
Taking that heavy thought of filling the deck with wood and changing it into smaller chunks, ten wheelbarrow fulls, reminded me of the importance of perspective. By changing the words from “filling the deck” to “ten wheelbarrows” made the work seemingly easier and the task less daunting. I began to think that I could try the same technique at work when I get overwhelmed.
My thoughts go immediately to the big tasks that I face when I get back to school in a few days: professional development to plan, new coaching sessions to schedule and family nights to coordinate. I can easily get overwhelmed with these to dos. How can I think about these tasks in a way that will seem less daunting? How can I break these tasks into smaller tasks so I can shift my mind and make the activities more palatable and seemingly less stressful?
As I reflected on this further I began to think about those students who get overwhelmed with empty writing pages, or a new book. How can I shift my words to ease them into their overwhelming tasks.
Filling my deck with wood gave me lots to think about as I head back to school. At least I have a warm living room to sit and ponder this task!
What do you do to overcome big tasks that seem overwhelming to you? to your students?