Excerpt from my new book "What the F*CK Should I Do Now: How to Manage your Money when Money Stops Making Sense"
Let’s say that every struggle that comes to you right now is like a dragon. You have your sword, and you are ready to fight. You are strong enough to handle it, and you know exactly what to do.
If there was just one dragon, then it would be simple. You put on your armor, and you go and get ‘em. You could totally take him, but if 10 dragons are coming at you from different directions, then it doesn’t matter how great a fighter you are. You can’t take on that much at one time.
But the reality is that every day will present you with high-stress problems that you will need to deal with, and they are like the dragons. Each one must be slain but you can’t take them on all at once.
It’s emotionally overwhelming to try and deal with everything, every day. What you need to do is learn how to prioritize and compartmentalize.
Your priorities should be set by both urgency and importance. If you deal with only the urgent issues, then other critical issues will get pushed to the end of the list. On the flip side, you can’t just deal with the big important issues, as the small daily actions that need to get done will pile up. There will be some overlap.
List the five most urgent issues that you need to deal with.
Now list the five most important long term issues you need to deal with.
Try to create a daily routine where you get up every morning and begin to deal with these issues. Use a calendar or note pad to schedule which items you will deal with each day. If you can handle more, then do a little bit extra, but only if it doesn’t stress you too much.
The reason this system works is that it gives you small wins every day, and it leaves you some mental and emotional space to feel like you are “done for the day.” You need that break, or else this will feel too heavy and weigh on you all the time.
To do this, you need to employ a technique called “compartmentalization.” It is a psychological coping mechanism that you can learn to apply. Essentially, what you are doing is taking the issues that you can deal with, and letting those be on your mind, and then you are taking the rest of the thoughts/worries/issues and pushing them to the side for a little while.
What works for me is to picture my mind as an actual filing cabinet. In my mind, it has drawers, and those drawers are meant to store worries that I can’t deal with at the moment. I’ve got my list of urgent and important issues right now. When something comes up that I know needs to be taken care of, but I can’t deal with it today. I “put it in a drawer.” Because I have a list and a calendar, then I know that it WILL be dealt with, and I can relax. This is very different than totally ignoring something or being in denial.
The difference is that you have a plan, and you stick to your plan, and you keep it manageable. It might seem counter-intuitive, but you won’t get more done by trying to do it ALL every day. You will get less done.
Being overwhelmed causes people to shut down, but what you need in a crisis is to keep a steady pace and always be working.
Read more about coping with a financial crisis, read my book "What the F*CK Should I Do Now: How to Manage your Money when Money Stops Making Sense"