Let’s Outsource Overwhelm

Posted by on Feb 7, 2012 in Personal Performance, Self-Leadership | 0 comments

Let’s Outsource Overwhelm

Is It Time to Out Source Your Overwhelm?


a)  To overcome completely in mind or feeling: she was overwhelmed by exhaustion.
b).  To load, heap, treat or address with an overpowering or excessive amount of anything: they were overwhelmed by the number of commitments they had made.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been overwhelmed, but I know I have.  And it can leave you feeling totally wrung out and not knowing which way to turn.  I know that my ability to think straight and be effective takes a major nose dive as my mind darts here and there trying vainly to do everything at once.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned the hard way it is that if you want to thrive you have to be able to get out of overwhelm.  Being overwhelmed leaves you feeling helpless to succeed no matter how hard you try – and the harder you try the more hopeless it seems that you’ll ever get it all done.  Then, as one ‘helpful soul’ once said to me, you’re told that you just have to get better at multi-tasking!   Suddenly any thoughts of thriving are buried under a pile of ‘To-Do’s’ and a growing list ‘should have’s’ that make you feel ever more like a failure because you can’t do it all at once!

Personally I don’t think that’s anyway to go through one’s days.  So maybe it’s time to ‘out source’ overwhelm and let the Universe deal with it.  At least that was my decision some time back.  So now when it threatens to take over I move to ‘cut it off at the pass’ before it can mess with my head and I take action to regain control of my time with a few simple actions.

So in case you’re ever in danger of falling prey to overwhelm, here’s a series of steps that might help you send it on it’s way – they work for me:

1.    Stop everything – right now.  You heard me – stop running around in your mind – it doesn’t accomplish anything useful and leaves you feeling exhausted.  And you don’t even have the satisfaction of calories burned or weight loss as compensation.

2.    Take a deep calming breath and relax.  You’re not going to accomplish anything when you’re too flustered to think straight.

3.    Get organized.  Sit down and make a list of everything you ‘think’ you have to do.  Then circle those things that need to be accomplished to meet job requirements or home responsibilities and put on a separate page.  Cross off anything that would be ‘nice’ to get down, but there is no burning reason that you have to commit time to doing them right now.  Also move anything that you don’t have the resources to do now to a separate list, unless it falls under the ‘required to do’ list then mark it with a star for follow up with people who can help get the resources you need to do it.  And definitely cross off anything that you have no power to make happen – but you feel you ‘should’.

4.    Prepare to prioritize.  Now take your (hopefully much shorter) list and identify deadlines that are not negotiable (you know, things like submit your tax return, hand in the monthly financial report, buy tickets for flight to sister’s wedding, what ever these are for you) and those that have some flexibility.  With these in front of you,

5.    Prioritize.  Once you are clear on what deadlines you are dealing with you can prioritize your work requirements.  Then, starting with the highest priority activity, you need to subdivide the work required in each commitment down into chunks of tasks that are easily doable in short time frames  I’ve found that for me, being able to complete smaller chunks of a large project or job gives me a sense of accomplishment and moving forward and allows me to make progress on several different tasks so that I don’t feel overwhelmed by what I’m not working on.

And don’t beat yourself up because you think you should be accomplishing more by increased multi-tasking.  Research has proven that the human brain is actually less efficient and effective when forced to multi-task.  Our brains work best when they can focus on one concept at a time – but I’ll write more about this later.

6.    Let’s celebrate.  Celebrate the completion of each task and recognize that you are making forward progress.  I used to think that until I had completed everything that had to be done in a project there was no reason to celebrate.  I felt that I had to keep my nose to the grindstone and plug on until completely finished, but this approach used to leave me feeling exhausted and depressed, which didn’t help my productivity!

So work in small manageable chunks and celebrate each completion – it’ll leave you feeling much better about yourself and more eager to move to the next ‘chunk’.

7.    Have an even bigger celebration.  When you do complete a project, write it in your day timer or agenda, take time out for a BIG celebration (but don’t go too crazy and take off for the Caribbean!) and give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.

8.    Maintain a vigilant watch for the ‘Overwhelm Beasty’.  Continue working through what must be done, but don’t get dragged back into the land of overwhelm.  You’ll find new projects that must be added while there may be some that can move off your high priority list altogether.  And if things start to spin too fast, go back to Step1 AND REPEAT!

These are steps I take to keep out of overwhelm.  They may not work for everyone, but take what works for you, tweak areas to better suit your circumstances and add and subtract steps to suit your style. And please feel free to add any suggestions you for what works for you – I’m always interested in learning new tactics to keep me out of overwhelm!

But whatever you do, don’t let yourself remain bogged down in overwhelm – you’ll never thrive that way.  If it seems to daunting on your own – seek help, ask a friend, a mentor, or do what I’ve done for years, get a coach.  If you’re unsure of your next step, let me help.  Drop me a line and let’s have a conversation.

And good luck – let me know how it goes.


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