“Wow! I’ve Bitten Off More Than I Can Chew.” That’s what I said when I wrote down all the projects that I have on my plate some time ago. No wonder I had been feeling a little overwhelmed and felt it a little difficult to keep my head above water. And I’m not the only one. In fact, in March 2010 there were tens of thousands of people who searched on Google for some variation of the keyword overwhelm. That’s a lot of people feeling overwhelmed.
As I gazed at the list I realized that… “Not only are the projects numerous but they are huge.” Many of them I have been working on for months and I simply, optimistically, thought I would have them done before these new projects came into being. That left me feeling more than a tad bit overwhelmed. Reality collided with time. I needed a plan and I needed one quick.
Jane Herman says in her article Avoiding Overwhelm that “Many times we are reluctant to acknowledge to ourselves or admit to others that we are feeling overwhelmed because we view it as a sign of weakness.” I certainly know that is the case for me. I told myself more than once, ‘Why would anyone want to work with me if they know that I too have weaknesses?” So this is a big step here – I’m being “human” and posting it right here for the world to see. “I can’t do everything. I’m not super-human!” Ahhh. What a relief!
Jane outlines specific reasons that people feel overwhelmed. Among those reasons, “Everything that you need to do seems to be at an equal level of priority so it is not obvious which needs to be tackled first.” For me, that is a primary reason why I felt overwhelmed the past few months. The problem – most of my projects involve other people and they are all projects that are a number one priority for the other people.
According to Jane I’ve got to find my focus by reestablishing my priorities. And thankfully, Jane outlines some of those tools you can use to find to do that. No doubt, that works for most situations. However, in this case, I only took on projects that were already keeping with my mission and purpose. They all, are I still believe, fairly equal in priority.
So I needed a different strategy.
I took steps to reduce the overwhelmed feeling I was experiencing. I Set Limits. I stopped taking on new clients until I’ve finished up some of these larger projects.
I Scheduled Down Time – I set limits on how many hours a day I’ll work so that I do take a little time off to recuperate.
I Asked for Help – a big HUGE step for me. I’m a perfectionist who bought into the belief that “if you want something done right do it yourself.” Although, similar to the outsourcing step below it is a little different. One is proactive, and one is simply opening the door for resources to flow to you.
I Developed, Set and Outlined Clearer Expectations – I am working on outlining clearer exceptions with business partners etc. so we are clearer on who does what and establish time lines we can both agree with.
Created Better Systems – Created additional systems to better handle some of the recurring tasks and built more systems into our home educational system.
I Delegated More – Delegated out more of the household chores to the rest of the family. For example, now each person in the house in charge of one dinner a week.
Developed Better Client Education. For example, I found that one of my clients thought that what I considered to be one of the last steps on the project was one of the ones they thought should be done first. That set me up for automatic failure unless I educated them properly on why it was best as one of the last steps.
Created Better Communication – For example, I communicated with a client and found out that they were feeling just a rushed and overwhelmed by the joint project and that they were really wanting to extend the project deadline. We set more realistic deadlines and extended the project out several months.
Created an Outsourcing Plan – Figured out what needs to be done, who’s the best person to do it and when each piece of the projects need to be done by in order for me to meet my goals, and I’m working on finding the right people to assist.
Fourteen Strategies for Getting Rid of that Overwhelmed Feeling
Determine your priorities first. Then work to determine what it is you can do and want to do, within those priorities. Focus on those things that are the highest priority.
Take some time to do nothing. Yes – nothing. Let your mind step back and relax. Sit down and relax. Then as thoughts flow just notice them and let them drift on.
Take a Nap
I am amazed at how often taking a nap can restore my outlook about life and my situation. It gives your brain your body a chance to release extra chemicals and your brain chance to process what’s been on your mind.
Spending just 10 minutes a day in meditation can help train your brain on how to look at the problems in your life.
Andy Puddicombe asks: “When is the last time you did absolutely nothing for 10 whole minutes? Not texting, talking or even thinking? It the following video mindfulness expert Andy Puddicombe describes the transformative power of refreshing your mind for 10 minutes a day.
Success Tip: I struggled with meditation for years. But the Headspace app, developed by Andy Puddicombe greatly helped with that. It is a great meditation tool.
Schedule Down Time
Get consistent rest, exercise, and time away from those projects that feel so overwhelming.
Determine what is the most important things you can do within our various roles and then place a limit on the rest. For example, if you are a mother or a father with young kids you can choose to spend time with them watching TV or reading a book. Choose the things that will have the longest-lasting impact on your relationship – chances are that the time spent reading one-on-one to a child will far outweigh the TV time. Set a limit on those things that do not have as much of an impact
Let people know you are feeling overwhelmed and ask for help.
Change How You Think About Your Stress
Recognize that Stress is Not Necessarily a Bad Thing and Give Yourself a Break. In fact, studies have now shown that simply believing stress is bad for you is much worse for your health than the stress itself. This video will provide some additional insight into that.
Set Clearer Expectations
Make sure everyone you deal with knows what you expect and what they can expect from you. Renegotiate those deadlines if necessary.
Develop Better Systems
Systems can help put your life on autopilot. Develop systems for every aspect of your life and business.
Delegation is similar to asking for help, but it’s not the same. Asking for help is just that a request that you hope someone else will answer? On the other hand, delegation is a deliberate plan of action to get the help you need. Examine every area of your life and ask yourself if someone else could be doing that task and then decide who could. Just brainstorm at first. For example, when it comes to laundry you could have everyone do their own laundry, you could hire someone to come in and do it,you could assign batches of laundry to others in the family, you could reduce your workload by having someone fold the laundry and put away what you wash, you could take it to the cleaners. Start by writing down all the ideas as some may work well and some may work later – or you could use a combination of several.
Educate Those You Are Involved With In Your Various Roles
Make sure you are all on the same page as far as expectations are concerned. Educate others on what you are willing to do and when you are willing to do it.
Refine Your Communication
Communicate with others. Often you will find out that the other people involved in a project are feeling just as overwhelmed. Perhaps it’s because of an unrealistic deadline that needs to be reexamined. Perhaps people have resources to help.
Create a Delegation or Outsourcing Plan and Follow Through
Once you have determined what can be delegated and outsourced figure out a way to make it happen. Planning without action isn’t simply going to leave you full of those overwhelming feelings.