Overwhelmed? Strategies to Tame the Overwhelm Gremlin…

UPDATE NOTE: Check out my new book: Ease – Strategies to Manage Overwhelm in “Times of Crazy Busy”. Tons of tips and really super simple ideas to help you tame the loads, manage the stress and bring more well-being into your life — even in times of ‘crazy busy’. See more at the book website here. 

Are you like most people these days – overwhelmed, stressed, too much to do and too little time? This has become an epidemic. A Globe and Mail poll found that Canadians endure an average of 14 stress periods a week. According the latest report from the Canadian Index of Wellbeing one in five people are experiencing high levels of  “crunch” time – described as periods of overwhelm due to overcrowded inboxes and jammed weekly schedules.

Roy Romanow, the former Saskatchewan premier and current chair of the Canadian Index of Wellbeing Advisory Board said (in a Globe and Mail article this weekend), “We are paying a steep price for this time crunch” and has called for a national dialogue on public policy. Scientists are affirming this need as well. Why? Because there are major implications on our health and wellbeing – and it’s affecting us both personally, professionaly and also as a society.  We’re heading for trouble if we don’t get that work-life balance back in gear.

Tell me about it!!! I see this ‘overwhelm’ pandemic everywhere I go. With clients, friends, family — and in my own life. Yeah, I’m not embarrassed to admit it: overwhelm – that’s my achilles heel. I work hard and am constantly stretching myself. Sometimes a little (or a lot) too much. So I coach what interests me and ‘taming the overwhelm gremlin’ is pretty high on that list. I work hard to walk my own talk and over the years have developed many  strategies that I find helpful – as do many of my coaching clients.

Here are just a few that you  may find helpful too.

 Write it Down: Everyone has got loads to do but trying to remember everything can add undue levels of frazzle and clutter in your head. It’s a waste of energy and takes you away from being present. More to the point: it’s exhausting and distracting!  So instead, make a habit of “writing it down”.  This is a survival tactic for me – and I’m often surprised when I hear others haven’t developed this habit. So, make a list and get your ‘to-dos’ out of your head (so you can focus on the task at hand).  Then of course, don’t forget to check what you wrote down often enough to keep you on track.

To-do Lists  are great, but don’t forget the ‘TA DA – DONE LIST’ too:  As per above, To-Do lists are important to stay organized but they never end, do they? And often we pay more attention to what hasn’t yet gotten done and too little attention to what we have accomplished. It’s very common for people to scratch off their tasks and focus on what’s next or what hasn’t yet been done. That in itself is exhausted and can take the wind out of our sails. You know what I mean if you can picture yourself (or others) sighing in exasperation of all that is still yet to be done.  Stop the insanity (as Jon Stewart might say:). Take some time to notice and acknowledge what you did get done. No task is too small. Heck, this weekend, I changed the vaccum cleaner bag — whoo hoo!!! Well, hopefully you get the point.

Action Tip: make a habit of writing down (or minimally, reflecting) on everything you did get done in a given day (or week)  And accept the fact that the to-do list will always have new stuff or even old stuff that needs to be rolled over to the next day. Pay attention the energy you get from ‘owning up’ to what you did get done vs. the energy drain from exclusively focusing on ‘what’s next’ or ‘not yet done’.

Learn to Say NO. Ahhh, one of my favorites. Are you, like many others, addicted to the yes habit? This week, start to pay more attention to what you are saying ‘yes’ to and what you need to say ‘no’ to more often.  We often get into ‘reactive’ mode and ‘yes ourselves to overwhelm’  Saying no may sound easier said then done. I get that — and presented a webinar on this topic. You can check it out (it’s free and easy to access). It’s called: “Are You Addicted to the Yes Habit?”  All you have to do is register online at the CICA page (they hosted this webinar)  to see/hear the archive. It only takes a few seconds and voila, you can watch at your leisure.  Oh – that’s right, not much leisure. Well, try it anyhow:)

You can also check out a column I wrote (Are you Addicted to Yes) on this topic for the CICA CareerVision newsletter.

Ask Yourself the Right Questions: I’m a huge advocate of being a ‘question-thinker’ and learning to ask the RIGHT questions to help you get the results you want. Here are a few that can help with that ‘time crunch’ and overwhelm issue:

-How can I take more responsibility for the choices I am making and what I’m saying yes to?

-What can I say ‘no’ to – starting today?

-What can I delegate?

-What are my top priorities and what can I really let go of?

-What does balance look like TODAY (or insert another time frame like ‘this month’ or ‘this week’)?

This purpose of this last question is to acknowledge that balance is an ebb and flow thing and doesn’t necessarily look the same all the time. Make the appropriate adjustments to your expectations of what balance means as you live/work in different periods. For instance, fall is always a very busy time for me. So balance in September is going to be different from what balance may be in June or July. Still, no matter how busy life gets, there is always some form of balance. The key is to be aware and then make the commitment to create it.

Folks, I’ve got many, many more tips and strategies (check out this blog for more!). As well, I welcome hearing from you on what your favorites are. But for now, it’s time to carve out a bit of white space for me….speaking of which, how are you doing on that ‘white space’ thing? Check out the post I wrote a little while back.

P.S  before I sign off for the evening, I am going to take my few seconds to check off ‘write blog post’ from my ‘TO-DO’ list and put it on my ‘TA DA – DONE!’ list…….DONE. Ohhhh that feels good.

To a TGIM Work Life!

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