Our work lives have become more demanding, presenting us with more complex challenges at a relentless pace. Add in your personal needs, family needs, and other commitments, and it’s easy to feel always overwhelmed. For most of us, the typical response to growing workloads is to work harder and put in longer hours, rather than to step back and examine and find a new way of operating.
The cognitive impact of feeling overwhelmed continuously can range from mental slowness, forgetfulness, confusion, difficulty concentrating, or thinking logically, to a racing mind or an impaired ability to problem solve. When we have too many demands over an extended period of time, cognitive fatigue kicks in. The effect makes us less productive and leaves us feeling even more overwhelmed.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, here are some key strategies to try:
Have the courage to stop what you’re doing. Give yourself the time and space to slow down, so you can see the bigger picture and get a handle on things. Regather yourself. Center yourself so that you have the energy to make wiser, healthier decisions.
Get clear on your priorities.
Taking time to contemplate your priorities is key to having focused flow. What’s most important to you right now? How do you want to run your business and live your life on a day-to-day basis? Look at the bigger picture and how you want to spend your time and energy.
Lin Yutang said, “besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom in business consists in the elimination of nonessentials.” What don’t you need to do? What can you automate, delegate, or eliminate?
Commit to less.
Having too much to do often has to do with unrealistic goal setting and over-committing your time and energy. Are you overly ambitious? Are you not being realistic about your goals and what you can do?
Say NO more often.
People who are overwhelmed spread their energy too thinly. Often, it’s hard for them to say “no” because they fear disappointing others. When you feel scattered and pulled apart in a lot of different directions, are you willing to pull yourself back in and say “no” to others? Are you ready to get more comfortable saying no?
Be willing to focus on just a few things at a time. Put limits on certain activities that aren’t important. By limiting your time and energy for specific endeavors, and not allowing yourself to get lost in the day-to-day, you can create more time and space in your life. Limit the number of emails, FB time, talk time, any activities that consume the unproductive time in your life. The paradox is that by creating more discipline and limitation in your life, you create greater freedom.
Re-imagine a new schedule.
Imagine a new lifestyle from scratch. If you made your business effectiveness, health, and happiness a priority, what would a perfect day look like? What would an ideal week look like?’
Being overwhelmed is not a fact — it’s a state of consciousness that limits your freedom and happiness. It requires a shift in perspective. Often, when you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re over-thinking everything that needs to get done. You’ve lost yourself, and you’re no longer present.
Instead of seeing the things outside of you having power over you, be willing to stop and regather yourself. Bring yourself back to the present moment. Remember that you have a choice about the way you want to feel.
Ever wonder why so many of us have to hit rock bottom before we find a breakthrough?
Let me explain… from working with others I’ve discovered a pattern. Typically after a huge disappointment, fear of failure disappears. When fear of failure disappears taking a positive action becomes easier, yes!?
Once a major low is hit, the realization that any action that is taken must lead to something better. Think about that for a moment… “any positive action taken leads to something better!” Make sense?
Waiting for a major breakdown to get to a breakthrough.
- Maybe you’re satisfied with mediocrity?
- Maybe you believe you will fail and subject to the opinion of others?
- Maybe you are addicted to worry; the past or to drama?
- Maybe you let overwhelm and distractions get in the way instead of taking the next right action.
- Maybe you succumb too often to those 5 words that kill more dreams than any other: “I don’t feel like it!”
For the vast majority of folks I’ve worked with, the answer to the question, “why don’t you do what you have to do to get what you want?” Can be summarized in 5 dream killing words:
I don’t feel like it!
And that feeling stops you from taking positive action, keeps you from being consistent. It’s the one reason you’re not getting what you want. Your feelings overpower your commitment. Your feelings overpower your ability to take positive action.
Act opposite your feelings.
The story of Mario Lemieux:
There are many athletes who have played through or returned from life-threatening illnesses. Others have come back from debilitating injuries that would have forced mere mortals to give the game up.
And then there is Mario Lemieux, who not only suffered from Hodgkin’s lymphoma but also endured chronic back pain throughout his career.
With his puck-handling dexterity, long reach and accurate shot, Lemieux won three Most Valuable Player awards in the NHL and six times was its leading scorer.
Lemieux is the only player to average more than two points a game (2.01). His goal-scoring percentage of .823 (613 goals in 745 games) is the best for players with 150 games.
I know there where many times Mario “didn’t feel like it” yet his commitment was greater than his feelings.
When your commitments overpower your feelings that’s when breakthroughs begin.
When you take action despite your feelings that’s when breakthroughs begin.
So whose in charge YOU or your feelings?
What would happen if you never tolerated inaction in yourself? Think about that for a moment, what would happen if you never tolerated inaction in yourself?
From the book, Atomic Habits, there is a common mistake that often happens to too many of us. The mistake has to do with the difference between being in motion and taking action. They sound similar, but they’re not the same.
When you’re in motion, you’re planning and strategizing and learning. Those are all good things, but they don’t produce a result. Action, on the other hand, is the type of behavior that will deliver an outcome.
Here’s a couple of practical examples:
- If I outline 20 ideas for articles I want to write, that’s motion. If I actually write and publish an article, that’s action.
- If I email 10 new leads for my business and start conversations with them, that’s motion. When I actually set an appointment that’s action.
- If I search for a better diet plan and read a few books on the topic, that’s motion. If I actually eat a healthy meal, that’s action.
Sometimes motion is useful, yet it will never produce an outcome by itself. It doesn’t matter how many times you go talk to the personal trainer, that motion will never get you in shape. Only the action of working out will get the result you’re looking to achieve.
If motion doesn’t lead to results, why do we do it?
Sometimes we do it because we actually need to plan or learn more. But more often than not, we do it because motion allows us to feel like we’re making progress without running the risk of failure. Most of us are experts at avoiding criticism. It doesn’t feel good to fail or to be judged publicly, so we tend to avoid situations where that might happen. And that’s the biggest reason why you slip into motion rather than taking action: you want to delay failure.
It’s easy to be in motion and convince yourself that you’re still making progress. You think, “I’ve got conversations going with four potential clients right now. This is good. We’re moving in the right direction.” Motion makes you feel like you’re getting things done. But really, you’re just preparing to get something done. When preparation becomes a form of procrastination, you need to change something. You don’t want to merely be planning. You want to be practicing.
Some ideas to get out of motion and into action:
- Work expands to the time you give it: Set a specific time for each task.
- Set a schedule for your actions: Basic time blocking.
- Pick a date to shift you from motion to action: set hard deadlines.
- Ignore, switch your feelings: “I don’t feel like it” to “Let’s get this done!”
For some goals, setting a daily or weekly schedule doesn’t work as well. This is the case if you’re doing something that is only going to happen once: studying for your broker exam or getting your GRI. These things require some planning upfront (motion). They also require plenty of action to complete them. For example, you could set a schedule each week to study. In a situation like this, research shows it’s best to simply pick a date. Put something on the calendar – like the test date. Make it public. This is when X is happening. In other words, set a HARD DEADLINE.
Research shows that people who make a specific plan for when and where they will perform a new habit are more likely to follow through. Too many people try to change their habits without these basic details figured out. We tell ourselves, “I’m going to eat healthier” or “I’m going to write more,” but we never say when and where these habits are going to happen. We leave it up to chance and hope that we will “just remember to do it” or feel motivated at the right time.
Hope is not a strategy!
An implementation intention sweeps away foggy notions like “I want to work out more” or “I want to be more productive” or “I should vote” and transforms them into a concrete plan of action.
Many people think they lack motivation when what they really lack is clarity.
One simple way to apply this strategy to your habits is to fill out this sentence:
I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION]
- I will follow up with 4 leads a day for 30 minutes at 9 a.m. in my office.
- I will complete part 1 of my project investing twenty minutes at 10 a.m. in my office.
- I will exercise for one hour at 5 p.m. at my gym.
- I will make my wife a cup of tea at 7 a.m. each morning in the kitchen.
Give your habits time and space. The goal is to make the time and location so obvious that, with enough repetition, you get an urge to do the right thing at the right time, even if you can’t say why.
To put it simply: planning out when and where you will perform a specific behavior turns your environment into a trigger for action. The time and place trigger your behavior, not your level of motivation.
Motivation is short-lived and doesn’t lead to consistent action. If you want to achieve your goals, then you need a plan for exactly when and how you’re going to execute on them regardless of how you feel.
There are some lessons that the only #failure can teach. Failure is not the problem… inaction is… procrastination is.
Let’s commit this week to move from motion to action.