8 Practical Steps to Reduce Overwhelm
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Stress and Overwhelm
Do you ever feel overwhelmed and that no matter how much you do, it’s never enough and you just can’t get ahead? Do you have too much to do in too little time?
Close your eyes and feel what overwhelm physically feels like. Some people experience it as a heavy feeling, as if they’re drowning or as if something is pushing down on them or smothering them.
However you experience overwhelm, I’m going to share with you some simple and practical steps to help, but first some important background information.
When we experience overwhelm, our adrenaline and cortical (stress hormone) levels rise. The problem with this (other than the fact that our bodies can become addicted to these higher levels) is that it inhibits our intellectual abilities; it actually dump’s us down. Usually however, instead of taking time out to address the problem most of us continue to push through, thinking that we’ll deal with it later. ‘Later’ of course, rarely comes and that is exactly why it is crucial that you take some time out during overwhelm to address it; spending an hour a week to help yourself will save you more than an hour on the long run and probably add years to your life; more importantly, it will significantly improve your quality of life.
Now before we start digging into the details I’d like to tell you a short story.
“One day a boy was walking in a forest when he came across a man who was chopping down a tree with an axe. The man wasn’t making much progress because the axe had worn blunt from years of use.
The boy sat down and watched the man for a while and then said ‘Hey, mister, if you go down this little footpath here there is a stream. By the stream there is a whetstone to sharpen your axe.’
The man paused, looked at the boy and said, ‘Can’t you see I’m busy?’”
What does this story have to do with overwhelm? Everything!
Whether you prefer EFT, meditation or breathing to help centre yourself, playing music or spending time in nature, I’m going to share with you some practical steps that you can implement to prevent and overcome overwhelm.
But let me save you some time right away: if you’re not willing to spend an hour on implementing the steps and save yourself hours of overwhelm, don’t read any further. The steps will only work if you implement them!
1. Become the Boss
The first and most important step is to meet the real boss – you! Put a ‘THE BOSS IS IN’ sign up on your desk or just imagine becoming the boss; sit, think and feel as if you are the boss. Think about it ... If you aren’t the one making decisions about your life, who is?
If you work for someone else we’re not talking about taking over their role and losing your job in the process! If you have a boss that decides your work priorities that just means they’ll do one of the most important tasks (prioritising) for you. And you can still use the other steps to manage your time more effectively and reduce overwhelm.
2. Get It All in One Place
Write down everything on your wish-lists and to-do lists in one place. Using something like Excel works really well for this but paper is ok too.
Now ask yourself... ‘Why am I doing this task? Why is this important to me? What does it mean to me to complete this task? ’
Unless there’s a good reason to do it, why do it at all? How important is it really to clear out that bottom drawer in the kitchen or to re-arrange your CD collection? Would you really rather do that instead of spending time with your friends?
It’s OK if that is true for you but at least this way you are making a conscious and empowered decision rather than just mindlessly going from task to task, getting more frustrated and de-motivated as you don’ seem to ever finish anything.
3. Break Goals into Tasks
Check every item on that list; if it’s a big or general goal like ‘Refurbish house’ rather than a specific task like ‘paint front room, break it down to individual tasks, for example
1. Decide on wall colours for all rooms.
2. Buy paint and paintbrushes or, if you’re not the one that will be doing the work (we’re going to talk about that later), find a good decorator.
3. ... The reason why it is important to break down your bigger goals into manageable tasks is to keep it manageable and achievable – else it can easily become overwhelming and procrastination sets in! Even by the very act of breaking it down you are already starting to reduce overwhelm as you build confidence in your own ability to accomplish these individual tasks. It also helps you identify which tasks you are able and willing to do, and which tasks are best given to someone else.
A word of warning; don’t break down the tasks into too small steps, don’t break down ‘Buy paint’ into mini-steps like getting into the car, driving to the hardware store, getting out of the car, walking towards the store etc!
What If I Cannot Break The Goals Into Tasks Yet?
If the goal is really big or you’re not ready to start it yet, it may be that you don’t know yet what the individual tasks are. If you’re unable to break down a goal into tasks because you’re not sure what the tasks are (because the goal is huge or because you’re not quite ready to start this yet), you can either:
a) Write down a simple task that you can do to begin like ‘Do 30 minutes of research on the internet’ or ‘talk to my friend Barbara who knows about this’.
b) Move this to another page called ‘Ideas’ – which are meant for those ideas that you want to keep track of and will get to once the other, more immediate tasks on your list are complete.
Make sure that every task has a measurable outcome.
A task of ‘Relax more’ does not have a measurable outcome which means that you will never know when you’ve actually completed it. ‘Spend at least 30 minutes in the park this week’ does have a measurable outcome which means that you’ll know when you’ve achieved it and as we all know, success breeds success; the more you complete your tasks and achieve your goals (no matter how small they are!) the more confidence and natural momentum you’ll have towards achieving those bigger goals.
4. Allocate Time and Responsibility
It has been said that we underestimate what we can achieve in a lifetime and overestimate what we can achieve in a year. How true!
-Estimate how much time each action will take and then add 25% to it to make room for those things that life tend to throw at us from time to time; this ensure that the tasks and deadlines you choose are achievable, it totally reduces the pressure of looming deadlines and then, if you accomplish the tasks quicker than planned that means you get to do whatever you want in that time!
-Now go through each item on the list and, based on how long each of these items will take you, decide if this is the best use of your time?
If you can earn £20, £50 or £100 an hour doing what you do, doesn’t it make it make more sense to pay someone else £10 an hour to do a task for you, especially if it’s a task you don’t like doing or you’re not particularly good at? For sure it does!
If you’re thinking you can’t afford to pay someone to do this, here’s two new ways of looking at it.
-Think what it’s really costing you to do this task (in terms of wellbeing and more importantly, what it’s keeping you away from) and then ask yourself ‘Can I afford not to pay someone to do it?’
-Instead of saying I can’t afford to pay someone ask yourself ‘How can I afford pay someone to do this?’
Framing the question that way it helps your unconscious mind to help you find a resolution rather than just blindly assuming that you can’t afford to pay them.
5. Now Take These Tasks Off Your To-Do List!
Once you’ve decided which tasks you really want or need to do yourself, and you’ve estimated how long they’re going to take you, it’s time to do something radical: take them off your to-do list! Now if you’re saying ‘What?’ don’t worry I’ve not gone mad .... take them off your to-do list and put them in your diary. This accomplishes a few things with one magic master stroke:
-It brings perspective which prevents overwhelm. Seeing that all the tasks on your list will take you, let’s say 4 weeks, or 8 weeks, or 3 months, you can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that you have all that time to accomplish the tasks.
-It also means that if you go to bed tonight and it’s not all done yet, you can relax knowing that’s ok and that you still have all that time to complete it! A great deal of overwhelm is caused not by a shortage of time, but by expecting ourselves to achieve the impossible.
-It helps you focus. If your diary says that you’re meant to do 30 minute of research at 10am then at 10am you know exactly what you’re meant to be doing towards your goals; when you wake up in the morning, instead of overwhelm, it’ll be all there, waiting for you, a clear layout of your day and the tasks you have chosen. [there’s a special trick to helping you stick to this, more about this later!]
-It helps you to prioritise. As you put the tasks in your diary and you notice that the way things are now you’re going to get to ‘Book birthday party venue’ 2 weeks after your birthday, you know it’s time to re-prioritise; something that got slotted in earlier must make way for this more important task.
Instead of just cramming more tasks into your day, prioritising helps you to understand that everything can’t be done in a day, and that some things, well, they just have to wait! It means you get to do the most important things first which means things don’t become urgent which means ... less overwhelm.
Allow a good couple of hours for this if you have a long list; spending this time up front will pay off in the long run and more importantly, you’ll feel in charge of your life rather than it being it in charge of you!
Now remember to build in at least 25% extra time to cover those unexpected events when things, people and events won’t always line up the way you want them to; also remember that you are not a machine (even though some days you think you are!) and that you need rest, recreation, exercise and sleep to function optimally. If it’s important to you to spend a lot of time on emails, or Facebook, or exercise, build that time into your diary so you can do what you love without feeling guilty or thinking that you ‘should’ be doing something else.
6. Now Say Goodbye To The Boss (Just For Now!) And Get On With It
Now here’s the magic trick that I talked about earlier. Once you’ve completed your planning, let go of being the boss and become the employee, and pretend that the employee that does not have the authority to question the boss’ decisions! Trust that the boss has the bigger picture of what’s most important.
Often when people complain that The Law of Attraction does not work for them, it’s because they miss the most important step – taking action!
Every time you look at your diary and you don’t feel like doing something or you’re not sure if that’s the right thing to be doing now, simply remind yourself that you do not have the authority to override the boss, get your head down and get on with it! In the end you are doing it for you, aren’t you?
At the end of every day take a look at the tasks on your calendar and notice how you completed task after task after task. Acknowledge yourself for a day well spent and tasks(s) well done – and celebrate all successes!
7. Re-Invite the Boss At Least Once a Week
It’s important to invite the boss back from time to time, maybe at the beginning or end of each day, or maybe once a week to re-evaluate your current priorities are still appropriate, re-adjust them as necessary and then, as tempted as you may be to remain ‘the boss’, let him or her go and once again, become the employee, trusting that ‘the boss’ has the bigger picture and knows best.
There are some very simple energy tapping techniques that can help you with overwhelm; these techniques are quick and easy to learn and you can apply them to yourself when you need it the most – in the moment.
Here are the steps again:
1. Become the boss.
2. Get it all one place.
2.1. Get it all in one place.
2.2. Why is it important? If it’s not, take it out or move it to your ‘Ideas’ list.
3. Break goals down into tasks
3.1. Break genera or big goals into tasks.
3.2. Give every task a measurable outcome.
4. Allocate time and responsibility
4.1. Allocate time.
4.2. Add 25%.
4.3. Decide if that’s the best use of your time or get someone else to do it.
5. Move the tasks from your to-do list to your calendar (critical!)
6. Say goodbye to the boss and get on with it.
7. Re-invite the boss.
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I find these steps work for me but only 100% of the time and I hope that you found this useful. Please visit www.deepliving.com for free tapping suggestions.
Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange your free 20 minute discovery session to help you overcome overwhelm.
Bennie Naude Stress & Overwhelm Expert & Possibility Coach
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