Do you ever feel like one of those X-Factor performers with one too many plates swirling in the air – knowing full well that once gravity has its way, one of those fine bone china saucers will come crashing down and bonk you on the forehead?
And then worse…nobody pushes their buzzer, and you awkwardly have to make your exit off to stage right hoping beyond hope that none of your friends tuned in to this week’s episode?
Have you ever felt like that? Overwhelmed?
After scouring the internet and listening to all the experts, here is the definitive list of what you can do to help beat the feeling of “overwhelm.”
It’s not all-or-nothing
What often causes overwhelm is looking at your list of To-Dos over on the right. Then looking at your calendar over on your left and realizing that something just doesn’t add up. There’s a disconnect. So your brain starts to spin out of control because the only way you can see yourself getting out of this mess is to get all the things on that To-Do list done. Anything less, you deem as a failure.
But nobody said that all the things on your To-Do list have to get done.
First step is to take a long hard look at your list. If you are like me, sometimes items land on my To-Do list simply because it sounded like a good idea at the time. Not that dissimilar to ordering that 3rd bottle of wine when you really should have stopped after the first.
But really? Do you need to alphabetize your pantry as per the latest Pinterest suggestion? Move that item to your “someday” bin. It doesn’t belong on your current list.
And even if you can stare me boldly in the eye and tell me everything on your list is important – hence your overwhelm, I’m still going to challenge you with, “bullshit.”
We are all way too dang hard on ourselves when it comes to these stupid “To-Do” lists. We’d be far better off committing to one priority item fully…than check off multiple things that just make us feel busy.
But what if you did know how?
Sometimes there are important things on your list that you know you should do because they contribute to your larger goal. But, you don’t know where to start, so you keep putting them off.
” I don’t know how” is just a diversion tactic.
Yeah, yeah, there is Google, but how do you know which of the hundreds of pages it spits out is the one you should follow?
I say it doesn’t really matter. Close your eyes, point at the screen and just start.
The crazy thing is that as soon as you take that first step, the next step appears like an oasis in the desert, as does the third and fourth and so on. Your task will begin to look like stepping stones in a pool of water. You hop from one to the next. And the great thing is…there are often several different stones to choose from. Maybe you go for the big one on the left or the small one on the right. Who cares. Just hop. Eventually, you’ll make your way across the pond. That’s the beauty of taking action. And if you fall in…fine. Go change your big girl pants and hop back on where you left off. Nobody cares that you fell in, just that you get the job done. And even then caring that much is debatable.
Whichever task you choose to start on, stay focused. Have you heard of the Pomodoro method? The Pomodoro method is simply a time frame during which you commit to undivided focus. Turn off all electronic notifications. Shut your office door. Whatever it takes, do not allow outside noise to spoil your concentration. Start with 25-minute time blocks and build from there. The masters are known to go up to 3 and 4 hours at a time. It’s very effective.
Give Yourself a Reward System
I am totally going to embarrass myself here but whateves… (side note…I actually feel my face flushing as I type this.)
I use a bubblegum mason jar. Yep, that’s my jar featured in the photo at the top. I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried. But yeah, every task I complete gets a bubblegum, and each bubblegum represents a dollar. I know…I know…I’ve been using this method for over two years and it works for me. I have my luxury item written on a whiteboard. Right now it’s the new iPhone 13 I’m gunning for.
I award myself one bubblegum per daily habit that I check off and five bubblegums for the one big thing that moves the needle – the one that I prefer to skip if given the chance.
At this stage…if you didn’t judge me…I’d wonder.
Creating constraints can be exceedingly useful in dealing with overwhelm. Think of constraints in the same way you think of rules. But I don’t like the concept of “rules” so for me…calling them constraints works better.
I learned this tactic from a podcast featuring Todd Hermann, author of “The Alter Ego Effect”.
Todd suggests that most of us suffer from decision fatigue because we don’t pre-plan. Having to make multiple decisions throughout the day just exacerbates the feeling of overwhelm.
Instead, set up pre-determined actionable time blocks and unless your house is on fire, and you are in it, you don’t deviate. There is no…” should I or shouldn’t I?” The decision has been made. That good friend who is tempting you with a poolside Pinot Grigio is just going to have to wait. Unless… he’s 6’1″ and has washboard abs. Then, have at it.
Done is better than perfect
Claiming to be a perfectionist is another way of procrastinating. Perfectionism is the fear that your work is not “good enough” so you continue to tweak it and play with it and work on it. You don’t want to launch in case it’s not 100% perfect, but there is nothing that is flawless. Perfection is a subjective concept. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure? So just do the best work you can in the time you’ve allotted and then move on.
You can always go back and tweak later. As my marketing guru crush, Seth Godin says…” Just ship it.” Meaning…stop overthinking it, stick a fork in it and consider it done.
Remember, spending too long on any one task just bottlenecks all the other tasks waiting in the wings.
Sometimes you procrastinate doing tasks because they make you feel uncomfortable. But as the late great Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing each day that scares you.”
Rumour has it that there are 7.8 Billion people on this earth. So for Pete’s sake, can’t someone else do it?
Outsource tasks as much as possible. I carried around two children for the combined time of 18 months…frig..the least they can do is fold some laundry. There are no rewards for martyrdom…that I’m AWARE of.
Give your Sleeping brain a task
Our brains are incredible organs. I think many of us don’t realize just how powerful the subconscious mind is. Studies have proven that our brains continue to work throughout the evening. Try this…every night, before you go to bed, give your brain something to ponder. The idea is the brain will noodle it throughout the night.
You’ll be amazed what comes to mind the next morning. In my experience, it doesn’t often come as a neatly packaged answer but…As I begin to scribble in my journal first thing, problems begin to unravel even though just 24 hours before, I was staring at a brick wall with no solution in sight.
What if your overwhelm is caused by uncertainty
Truth is… everything in life is uncertain. I chuckle when I hear travel companies talking about doing business in “these uncertain times.” Of course, they were referring to dealing with the pandemic but the truth is, there have never been certain times. We have today. That’s what we have and I think it’s important never to forget that.
Often, the idea of all the things that can go wrong are far worse than the reality.
The best news of all – discipline is a skill that you get better at over time.
The more you put these practices in place, the easier they will get. I used to HATE writing. The mere thought of it would cause sweat to bead on my upper lip. I would do anything I could to get out of writing. And now…there are days I write all day.
Anything to earn those 5 gumballs, I say.
What’s your best tactic to combat overwhelm?