As the semester rushes to an end are you buried in papers, projects, and final exams to grade? The reality of all the things you promised, to yourself and others, now looms larger than ever. If you’ve met all your semester obligations, are satisfied with your research and writing progress, and have final exam grading under control, congratulations and enjoy your holiday semester break!

If not, are you feeling overwhelmed and/or discouraged by the mountain of work left in such a short time? Is the DESIRE to finish distracting you from finishing? If so, please consider using this technique to regain your needed focus and finish!

Save for Future Frenzied Moments

You may not be experiencing that overwhelming longing to escape the reality and challenges in front of you today, this week, or even this semester, but likely the concept isn’t a foreign one. When those times emerge, this technique will get you back on track and moving forward.

SAVE: Designed for those pressure-filled days when the list is impossibly long, the mind is racing, confusion abounds, and progress seems impossible.

1. NOTICE the symptoms of the overwhelmed, chaotic state.


  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Frustration
  • Confusion


  • Looking for quick and easy wins to feel productive—email, complete something quick, run an errand, file something, print something, take a survey.
  • Seeking a distraction—check Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, watch a cute video on YouTube, read a newsletter or blog
  • Eager to commit to something with structure—a meeting, a workshop, a course
  • Looking for something to ease the agitation—snack, drink, Netflix, connect with a friend (call, text, virtual chat)
  • Running from and ignoring challenging work and even pressing deadlines.


  • Ongoing frustrates come to mind readily
  • Ironclad excuses to explain your behavior surface easily
  • List of circumstances and people to blame emerge effortlessly
  • Unpleasant thoughts loop continuously through your mind
  • Every possible barrier surfaces: There’s not enough time today. I’ve had too many meetings this week. I had this unexpected thing happen. So and so needs me right now. I must catch up on the little things first and tackle THAT tomorrow.


Noticing your feelings, actions, and thoughts provides conscious awareness that you’re off track. Awareness that you’re in an overwhelmed and chaotic state matters because you can’t grade, nor do focused and creative work in this state. Remember, focused and creative work move the needle on your research, writing, designing, and creating.

Doing the hard stuff requires calm and intention.

Awareness is the vital first step in getting there. With awareness, you can take action to alter your mental state. But first, simply ACCEPT that you’re feeling chaotic and distracted. Criticizing yourself accomplishes nothing but regret, guilt, and avoidance. Plus, self-criticism generates more negative thoughts and feelings, which fuel the defensiveness and procrastination that leaves you stuck.

3. SHIFT from Chaos to Calm

When you ACKNOWLEDGE and ACCEPT that you’re off track, you alert your rational self to take over from the reactive, “fight or flight” self.

You can calm the sympathetic nervous system, which stimulated this “fight or flight” response you’re experiencing, by activating the parasympathetic system, which brings calm, relaxation, recovery.

  • Take a few deep breaths.
  • Bring your awareness/focus to the present moment.
  • Notice the room temperature, sounds, and your visual field.
  • Try a quick body scan, noticing signs of tension, tightness, and discomfort. Don’t focus on changing anything but rather observing what is.

Stopping the reactive mind and returning consciously to the present moment by noticing your physical body and physical surroundings can return you to neutral and engage your rational self.

Take Action

From this neutral place reconnect with where you intended to be today. Review your weekly goals and daily intended actions (these two are the gold standard for living intentionally and taking charge of your time). This will quickly reacquaint you with what mattered most to you when you set the intentions. The chaotic mind distracts and obscures this vital piece—your intention. Choose an item on the list and get going! The calm and focus will emerge as you work with intention on one thing without distraction.

Don’t wait to feel calm and focused—create it! If you don’t have weekly goals and daily intended actions to return to then check out this vital first step.


Photo by Pop & Zebra on Unsplash