How to be Productive | One Simple Tip for Creatives to Fight Overwhelm

I woke up this morning with a sore throat, stuffy nose and anxiety weighing on my chest for all the tasks I needed to get done - being sick can really throw a wrench into chasing dreams. It's easy to get overwhelmed with all the very necessary items on your mental list of things to do, but what's not always as easy is coming up with a game plan to overcome that anxiety in a productive, stress-relieving way.

So what can you to do to still be productive and chase your dreams, even if you're overwhelmed? If you're sick? If something comes up with your family? If you just don't have the time?

How to be productive, one simple tip for creatives to fight overwhelm


Yep, it's that easy (okay not really). But it can be! Making a list sounds like a silly way to give yourself more time and make your priorities more clear, but trust me when I say (or type out...) that lists are one of the best ways I keep myself on track. 

Here's how I keep my priorities in order, stay on track of tasks, and fight that overwhelm. 

1. Start With The Big Tasks

What do you ABSOLUTELY have to get done, like, right now. Think the big scary stuff you wanna hide from, like calling that client who's invoice is past due for a payment, or telling your client you need an extension for the project they paid you for already. Put that at the top of your list and don't move on to another task until this one is complete or at a place where you can't possibly do anything else for it at this moment (you're waiting for a call back, you have to wait for the paint to dry, etc.) 

Sometimes these mammoth sized tasks on your to do list can seem to be the most intimidating, but sometimes they just feel massive because the particular situation makes you nervous. Clearing these biggies off your list will give you space to focus on what really matters.

2. Move On To The Smallest Tasks

The easiest way to fight overwhelm is to make your list as small and as manageable as possible. Honestly, I write things down on the list that are silly - things like take a shower or put the dishes away. Crossing those little tasks off the list even if they don't involve my business helps to make me feel more in control of the anxiety associated with all my tasks.

3. Tackle The Middle

Getting the biggest and the smallest tasks out of the way first will make room for the real stuff you gotta worry about - so at this point you should mostly have medium sized tasks that need to be completed. Maybe it's updating your website, or planning your Instagram posts for the month. These are things that don't need to be done today, but could use some attention soon. 

Break those tasks down into tangible, approachable things to do. For example on updating your website, you could break down that task into multiple parts - in concrete terms, what do you need to update?

  • New about page
    • What do I want my clients to know about me?
    • Find a photographer to update my headshot
    • Find someone to look over my copy

You get the idea. Break it down to each individual task within the larger one, and you'll be done before you know it.

Just to recap - you'll want to make a list with everything you need to do from the biggest to the smallest thing imaginable. Accomplish the big tasks first, move on to the smallest to free up mind space, then tackle the medium tasks that are broken down to their smallest size.

Additional Resources

Katharine Hannah

Katharine’s work has graced the walls of institutions such as The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Harold Washington Library of Chicago, and local galleries such as Dreambox Gallery, Siragus Gallery and Blick Art Materials. She has also been featured on websites such as the Huffington Post, Phlearn, Fstoppers, Tigress Magazine for Girls, Bitchtopia, and Golden Boy Press.

In addition to photography, Katharine has been a mentor and educator in the arts since 2013. She has worked with students in various organizations and projects over the last two years, including Hive Chicago’s PROjectUS initiative and Digital Youth Network’s Digital Diva’s and Chicago City of Learning programs.