How to stay motivated when everything is overwhelming

Trying to stay motivated when everything is overwhelming and there are just too many things on your to-do list can be an impossible task.

When I have a to-do list that is a mile long I will shut down and not do any of it. Literally nothing!

The total opposite of what I should be doing.

Then at the end of the day, I feel guilty for not doing what I was supposed to be doing. But, will still feel so overwhelmed that I won’t do it tomorrow either. 

It’s a never-ending cycle. 

Breaking the cycle is key to be able to move on with your to-do list and feel accomplished at the end of the day, not guilty. 

It can be hard but there are a few tricks to help break that cycle.

If you are feeling more than overwhelmed, more burnt out, check out my mommy burn-out post.

What to do when you are overwhelmed

How to stay motivated when everything is so overwhelming

Set a timer

When I start something I will usually stop halfway through because I started something else (I would win the gold medal for this if it was in the Olympics). So now there are 2 things on my list that I have started and not finished. Why keep going?

I have found if I set a timer and focus everything just on that one task (ok not everything, I am still a mom you know) I will do nothing but that.

Like when the dishes are overflowing in the sink and I have told myself for 3 days to just start (and I still haven’t) I will set a timer for 10 minutes and only do dishes for those 10 minutes. 

No jumping to start the laundry because the rag I left in the sink (again) needs to be washed. Just the dishes.

Then when the 10 minutes are done I will feel accomplished and not so overwhelmed because I have a batch of dishes washing and I feel like I can move on to the next thing (or take a break because I actually started and finished something).

Schedule it into your day

This kind of goes hand in hand with setting a timer. If you schedule in your day the time that you are going to do something it will feel more doable instead of having it feel so out of control. 

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How to stay motivated when everything is so overwhelming

So if you need to go grocery shopping and get the oil changed and come home to make dinner (and so on and so on). It can feel like there is so much to do and no way you can get it done so why try. 

But if you schedule it into your day, like at 12 you can go get the oil changed and at 4 you can go grocery shopping and 5:30 you can start dinner (or whatever you need to get done).

It won’t feel like you have so much on your plate and you won’t feel so overwhelmed. 

Make a list

It’s so hard to get a few things done only to just then realize you have more to do that you forgot about. So make a list.

Put things on your list that are easy and simple like, let the dogs out or get dressed. Things that are simple, that you can cross off and feel like you accomplished something to get your momentum going. 

Because once you get going it’s easy to check things off of your list. 

So start out with something easy that will only take a few minutes just to give yourself that sense of accomplishment to continue. 

And if there are just too many things on your list and looking at it makes you feel even more overwhelmed then:

Spread it out over a couple of days

Not everything needs to be done all at once. You can break it up over a couple of days.

But Ash, I need to get everything done on my list today!

Do you really? Think about it. Somethings probably need to get done today but not everything. 

I know there are things I put on my list that I feel like need to be done right this minute and all they do is stress me out so I won’t do them (like dusting, seriously though, who likes to dust?).

Maybe you can get that oil changed tomorrow so you can cook dinner tonight. Or get takeout so you can get your oil changed today. Just look over your list to see if what can be moved around.

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If when you take a look at your list and you can’t decide which one to move around. Play Eeny-Meeny-Miney-Moe. The one you land on is the one you are going to move to tomorrow (learned that trick from Llama Llama. See, it doesn’t hurt for you to watch those shows with your kids!).

Give yourself some downtime

After working on my list all day it makes it even harder to get started the next day because I feel so burnt out from all the running around. 

You can’t go go go and expect not to crash. For me, I have to schedule downtime every day (or I get depressed and then things really don’t get done, then I get even more overwhelmed).

So since you are now scheduling your day (see I used the tip from before) you should schedule some downtime in your day as well.


You know yourself better than anyone, so schedule it in your day when you will need it the most or make sure its somewhere that won’t derail all of the progress that you are cruising on (does anyone else do that? No? Just me?)

That way you don’t feel so depleted from all the work you have already done and you can keep going. 

Give yourself some slack

Let’s be real every day is different and every day is going to bring different challenges, so, if you don’t get all of the things done on your list (or any for that matter) you can try again tomorrow.

Now don’t go to bed feeling like a failure (or even more overwhelmed than when you woke up), give yourself some slack. 

Things happen. Let it go (let it go! Can’t hold it back anymore! …sorry…).

Don’t quit because you had one bad day. That’s like slashing the rest of your tires after one flat (I know you’ve heard that one before). 

Just try again tomorrow. You can do it!

When things get overwhelming remember they aren’t going to last forever.

So try some of these to help get you moving. Let me know how they went in the comments!

how to stay motivated when everything feels overwhelming

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