How to overcome overwhelm
“Overwhelm: When you make the unhelpful decision to stop breathing, lose perspective, and forget you’re in control of your life.” – Jen Sincero
I struggle with how to overcome overwhelm almost daily.
Seriously, it can feel like a curse to be an “ideas” person.
So, how do you manage this constant overflow of ideas? It’s like we already have so many things going on and now we’re adding more to our to-do list?
I can really to spin myself into a tizzy trying to keep up with myself. When I’m in overwhelm I lose focus and feel lost.
This is not productive.
Too many ideas are one thing. But then add in all the daily life things that you’re also trying to manage and keep up with:
- Running and managing your career or business.
- Running and managing your home.
- Life in general: Eating well, exercising, nurturing relationships, having fun…
Oh boy! Talk about overwhelming!
How can we possibly get anything done with so many things going on?
Learning how to overcome overwhelm is all about mastering your mindset.
*A note about mindset:
There is no doubt that there will be times in your life that you have bitten off more than you can chew. But please remember this, time is relative.
I love this video that explains Einstein’s theory between space and time. Watch it. It will blow your mind.
Here’s an example – When I’m in a frantic rush to get something important done I tend to make lots of mistakes. Those mistakes make me have to go back and take the time to correct them. Which is more time (and money) wasted.
If I had slowed down and moved through the task with more thoughtfulness and intention I would then limit the amount of mistakes and therefore save time by not having to go back and fix anything.
Lesson here…slow down and you will save time.
Another example – When I’m worried that I’m going to be late for an event because of the old story that I tell myself, “Ugh! Traffic is horrible. I’ll never make it on time.” I’ll almost always inevitably be late.
If I shift my mindset to, “Everything will be fine. I’ll get there when I get there. I’m just going to enjoy the drive no matter how long it takes.” I’m almost always inevitably either on time or early.
That is the power of our minds, people! Use it. It’s amazing!
When you’ve got a million things going on inside your head and in your heart it’s really difficult to step back, get clarity and actually get the things done that you need to get done.
In this article I’m going to walk you through 5 powerful tips on how to overcome overwhelm and help you create more mental clarity.
Sit back and watch time expand!
#1 Create mental white space
When I’m the most overwhelmed it’s because I have so many things going on in my head that I can’t think straight.
I’m thinking about all the things that I need to get done and worrying about what will happen when I don’t accomplish everything.
I have my personal list, my business list, deadlines, bills, obligations, and appointments.
Take 10 – 15 minutes every morning while you’re drinking your coffee and write down all of it. I mean all of it!
What is it that you’re worrying about? What is causing you all that anxiety?
You’ll immediately stop feeling so overwhelmed and you can start figuring out your action plan.
This is called a brain dump.
#2 Red Line it
Draw a line through everything that you can’t control.
For example, you cannot control what other people are thinking or doing.
If it’s beyond our control we shouldn’t be spending time on it, therefore you shouldn’t let yourself feel overwhelmed by it.
Take 10 Minutes and cross everything out that is outside of your control.
#3 Do it like Dwight
Now that you have your new list of all the things that you can control.
Let’s organize and prioritize.
I like to use the Eisenhower Decision Matrix to help me do this.
I think it’s the key to growing a successful business and learning how to overcome overwhelm.
Separate all your to-do’s into four different categories:
- Urgent + Important
- Urgent + Not Important
- Not Urgent + Important
- Not Urgent + Not important
For example, let’s say you have these 4 tasks on your list:
- Write your blog and newsletter
- Answer emails
- Plan a dinner party with friends
- Buy a birthday gift for mom
The categories I would put these tasks into would be this:
- Not urgent, important: Write blog and newsletter
- Urgent, not important: Answer emails (some emails can be important but most aren’t)
- Not urgent, not important: Plan a dinner party with friends
- Urgent, important: Buy a birthday gift for mom
You want to spend most of your time in the “not urgent, important” quadrant. This is the area that’s going to help you move forward in your business (and your life!)
#4 Manage your Energy Levels
We have the same amount of hours in the day, every day. It doesn’t change.
What does change throughout the day is how much energy we have.
If we maximize our energy, we can bring our best performance to whatever task we’re working on and can achieve maximum results.
Our lives will always look different from one another and therefore comparing what one person can achieve within a day may not be the same as you.
Some of us have children, spouses, pets.
Some of us do not.
Some of us are juggling two jobs and a start up.
Some of us are dealing with a chronic illness.
You have to know what your energy levels look like throughout the day and be realistic.
- Do you have the most energy and focus in the mornings or at night when everyone has gone to bed?
- Do you have pockets of time during the day or week that are available to you?
- What are the obligations that you have every day that you can’t get out of?
Go back through your “brain dump” and look at how much energy each of those tasks require of you.
For example, answering emails may take less energy than writing a new blog post. So, write your blog post when you have the most energy available to you.
Personally, I do my best work first thing in the morning. I have the most energy and am the most focused.
Check out this article on the Muse to get 5 tips on how to utilize energy management tools so that you can learn how to overcome overwhelm by managing your energy.
#5 Multi-Tasking is not your Friend
We’re constantly taught, especially as women, that multi-tasking is the way to ultimate success and productivity.
But research shows that multi-tasking does not work. Listen to this great interview between NPR correspondent Lynn Neary and her guest John Hamilton.
We try to do it all…all at once.
For me, I get even more overwhelmed when I try to do more than one thing at a time.
I never feel good about myself when I can’t give something my full attention.
Think about how it feels when you’re talking to someone about something that is important to you, but as that person is listening they’re also looking at their phone or trying to read emails at the same time. Multi-tasking can be unproductive and rude at times.
The most productive thing that we can do is to focus on one thing at a time, “mono-tasking”. Complete the task and then move on to the next thing.
Final Thoughts on How to Overcome Overwhelm
Like I said at the beginning of this post, I am SO guilty of being consumed by overwhelm.
The ups and downs of growing a healthy and sustainable business isn’t a cake walk. We are all fighting to keep it together.
We’ll never stop having ideas and we’ll always have to take care of our daily obligations. But there are definitely things that we can do to make the job more enjoyable, fun, productive and successful.
All you have to do is shift your mindset and remember that we are in control of our lives. When we take control that’s when we can overcome overwhelm and start running our businesses without letting our businesses run us.
Did you find these tips helpful?
Let me know if you have implemented any of these ideas. Leave a comment below. I would LOVE to hear from you!