Maybe you feel it coming. That tenseness in your shoulders. Those swirling thoughts dancing in your head. That sensation in your stomach that feels like a legion of rats is scurrying about at high-velocity speeds.
For me, these are all surefire signs that overwhelm is rising to the surface and about to engulf me whole. The next phase typically involves screaming, writing HELP! in fat marker across my morning journal pages, and then collapsing in a tearful heap.
This is generally followed by a poignant question from my beau:
“Why do you do this to yourself?”
Alas, overwhelm is nothing new. Especially for Type A personalities that are known to be a bit, shall we say, ambitious. Overcoming overwhelm involves two steps.
- The first is the immediate fix of taking an honest look at your schedule to see if anything needs adjusting.
- The other is to take an honest look at yourself to figure out why overwhelm seems to be a recurring theme in your life.
Overcoming overwhelm by adjusting schedule
Immediate relief is a must when overwhelm hits, unless you’d prefer to continue weeping in a collapsed and frenzied heap. Immediate relief can come from looking at your schedule to see what can be pared down, delegated, moved to a different day or eliminated altogether.
A good example here comes from the overwhelm I suffered a few years back the day before my first trip to Las Vegas. Since Vegas is known for gambling, drinking and loads of nightlife, a person in recovery like myself could become a bit trepidatious. I was.
Add a ridiculous list of tasks to do before I boarded the plane, and overwhelm certainly had a solid place on it.
So I called my mentor in a tizzy. She calmly asked me to read her the list of tasks I aimed to complete before my departure. Her response?
Why on earth do you have to put together a massive 6-foot garden gazebo before you leave?”
The massive gazebo project was immediately moved to a future date upon my return. I suddenly had three extra hours in my schedule. My shoulders un-tensed in an instant. (And I had an amazing time in Vegas, btw).
‘Essentialism’ to overcome overwhelm
In addition to tasks that can be rescheduled, there are other tasks that can probably be removed completely. If you want no-nonsense tactics for doing this, check out Greg McKeown’s book “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.”
Just a few of the savvy ways to pare down your schedule include:
- The hell-yeah only rule: Unless something excites you enough to proclaim “Hell-yeah!,” it gets a no.
- The 90% rule: Evaluate every option you face on a scale of 1 to 100. If anything falls below a score of 90, get rid of it. Get it off your list and out of your life. (Gives you a bit more leeway than the “hell-yeah” rule.
- Setting strict criteria: Pick three criteria
that matter most of activities you want to pursue. Unless assignments meet the
criteria, they’re out the door. In the area of work, perhaps they must be
- Make you good money
- You enjoy doing
- Align you with good people who pay on time
- Daring to say NO firmly, resolutely and gracefully
- Saying YES only to the things that really matter
Whew. Being so discerning is a tough practice, as many of us automatically say yes to most anything that comes our way. But that’s one of the reasons we end up feeling overwhelmed.
The Essentialist mindset will have you saying NO to a lot of good things. But, as McKeown points out, that’s the only way you’ll have room for the GREAT things that come along.
Want even more help with priorities, boundaries and overcoming overwhelm? Schedule a free coaching session today.
Stay tuned for the next post, which will tackle the second part of overwhelm: the reasons it keeps cropping up in our lives.