You know that panicy, slightly sick feeling you get when you’re teetering on the edge of overwhelm? It may creep in like a fog as you look through your emails, or roll over you with a sudden sense of dread when you think about everything on your ‘to-do’ list.
It often comes with a sense of 'not knowing where to start', of the job being too big to see a single, manageable foothold to give you that first leg up.
Sitting at my desk yesterday I could feel that energy of overwhelm starting to bubble up.
My desk was a mess,
my inbox was out of control with work email,
I had unreturned Facebook messages and text messages.
My Skype was blinking at a million miles an hour.
My to-do list covered two pages in my notebook, the scale of what I ‘needed to achieve’ for the day felt completely un-doable and to top it all off I was a bit hormonal and felt like what I really wanted to do was curl up in bed and have a little cry. (Just as an aside, sometimes, that is EXACTLY what you should do. A good cry solves a lot of problems and releases a LOT of gunk!)
When the shizz is mounting up and things are feeling a bit out of control it’s time to pull on your lady boss boots and snap that overwhelm into line!
Step 1 - Look at the forest, not just the trees
Instead of crawling back under my bed covers yesterday, I took a breath and a moment to step back and look at my over-all objectives.
What am I actually trying to achieve today? What can I do that’s going to actively progress me towards that goal? Then I took out my to-do list and started to prioritise. As Marie Forleo teaches, clarity equals power - once you know what you’re trying to achieve you can implement a plan to get there.
Step 2 – Prioritise
I am a BIG list junkie. I honestly think that a good, thorough list is one of the keys to success in life; there’s no better way to gain clarity than to have everything laid out in front of you, even when it’s starting to look like War and Peace.
When you’ve got an epic to-do list I like to take my red pen out and start by putting timings and deadlines against all of the items, and to cross out anything that, actually, isn’t a worthwhile use of my time.
Make sure you’re realistic about what you can actually do within a day.
If there’s more in your ‘today’ deadline category that you can actually do in a day, then go over the list again, be brutal, and make the distinction between ‘urgent’ and ‘important’; if it’s urgent, but not important, then set it side for another day, or, better yet, cross it off the list completely.
Remember, where you spend your time and energy is an investment in your business, so what’s going to give you the biggest ROI?
Step 3 - Eat the frog
After assessing your priorities and defining your list for the day pick the one thing you really, really don’t feel like doing; the one item on the list that you know is important, and possibly also urgent, but makes you feel a bit like vomming.
Find that item, and that’s where you’re going to start. :)
Ever heard the term ‘eat the frog’?
I LOVE this concept; my husband first introduced me to it a few years ago, and it goes like this –
If you knew you had to eat a frog today, what would you do?
Most people would put it off, and put it off and do anything else first to avoid actually pulling out their knife and fork and eating the frog, right?
But all the while, no matter what else you’re doing, you’d be thinking about that damn frog. You’d obsess about it all day.
By delaying action you end up carrying the frog around with you; it weighs on your mind and the thought of what you still have to do causes ongoing anxiety and stress. The frog impacts your entire day.
On the other hand, if you sat down and ate the frog straight away it’s done and dusted, crossed off the list and you can move on with your day.
By eating the frog first thing in the morning you’ve freed yourself from it - you can then invest your focus completely in all the other tasks on your to-do list without that lingering frog clinging on.
AND, the other huge bonus is that ticking a big-ticket downer of an item off your to-do list gives you an amazing sense of achievement and productivity that will spur you on throughout the rest of the day. Winner!
So, what’s your frog? Work out what it is, (believe me, you’ll know if there’s one there) and eat up.
Step 4 - Just start
One of the best ways to unlock the grip of overwhelm is just to get stuck in.
Pick somewhere to start, whether it’s a frog, or it may be the smallest, easiest item to cross off your to do list, and get your Nikes on (aka just do it).
Taking action is the fastest way to get off the overwhelm train.
Yogi Bhajan, who is the pretty awesome guy who brought kundalini yoga to the West, said, ‘When the time is on you, start, and the pressure will be off’. Damn straight! Get stuck in and things will start to feel more achievable.
Step 5 - It’s all only energy
Overwhelm is a yucky place to hang out.
It makes you feel like shite, can derail your day, cloud your vision and leave you feeling wrung out before you’ve even begun.
When you’re getting stuck in overwhelm yucks-ville try to remember that that feeling - the sickly, nervous stomach, fuzzy brain - is just energy.
Emotion = energy in motion, and energy is in a constant state of flux. Your experience of emotion doesn’t remain the same for long.
Have you ever just allowed yourself to experience the full and complete effects of the emotion you’re feeling? The physical, visceral experience of ‘joy’, of ‘happiness’, of ‘sadness’?
If you completely surrender you’ll find that before too long the sensation has shifted. In fact, when you allow yourself to experience an emotion completely it only last between 7 and 12 seconds.
Next time you start to feel your breath shorten and the overwhelm rise take a breath and a step back – look at the bigger picture and list out your priorities and you’ll start to feel a whole lot better a whole lot faster than muffling through the fog.
What’s your experience of overwhelm? Have these tips helped? I’d love to know! And if you know anyone that might find this article helpful, please share it with them :)