If you subscribe to my newsletter, The Hump Day Digest, you might know that I have taken on some extra responsibilities in my day job recently and that I have also embarked on the huge task of decluttering my house and reducing the amount of junk in my life. You might also know that I have been taking on a bit of client work lately and have been enjoying the positive feedback.
What you don't know is that I am also preparing for my mother and father-in-law to come and stay with us for three months, I have almost completed all of my Christmas shopping (even though it is still October), I have some pretty intense Pop Your Career goals that I am working towards (including publishing my first book) and I am still fighting chronic pain in my neck and arm!
Am I feeling overwhelmed? Nope! Was this always the case? Definitely not! A couple of weeks ago I had a moment where I could physically feel overwhelm creeping in, as I looked at my to-do list and wondered, "How on earth am I going to get it all done?" Thankfully, I recognised the feeling and was able to nip it in the bud by implementing a clear and proven strategy. This is how I am avoiding overwhelm - and you can too!
1. I am enough
You might have seen this mantra floating around on the interwebs. It is really gaining strength as I see more and more people jumping on the "I am enough" bandwagon. And for good reason. By admitting to yourself that you are enough, you are sending the message that you can only do so much. We are human, not machines and sometimes this means that not everything on our to-do list gets completed - this is totally okay.
It sounds easy, but "I am enough" does take some time to get used to as you might be fighting years and years of internal messaging that tells you "I have to do more". The great thing about it though, is that you can start today. Look in the mirror and say it with heart.
2. Dial it down
Once you come to the realisation that you actually might not be able to do EVERYTHING, you can check in with your priorities and start to dial it down. What I mean by this is acknowledging the things that won't get done, but focusing on the tasks that really need your attention. What are your non-essential tasks? Be realistic... will the world stop turning if you don't complete every item on your list? I doubt it.
For me this has meant being really intentional about where I spend my time. My job has to take priority. Even though this frustrates me sometimes, it is a reality. They are paying me to get the work done, so they move to the top of the list. My health is another big one - having had pain for the past 12 months, I know what will happen if I don't take care of myself. My husband, fur-babies and my family are also high priorities, for obvious reasons.
So this means that sometimes, Pop Your Career has to take a back-seat. Notice that I haven't published a blog post in the past little while? I have missed a few newsletters too. And I have even had to turn away a couple of clients who had short deadlines, because I knew it could leave me feeling overwhelmed. But guess what... nothing drastic has happened, I haven't suffered for my decisions and I fit my Pop Your Career work (like this blog post) into my schedule when I have the time and the inclination to work.
3. Self care
I know we touched on this and I have talked about self care in previous posts, but it is important to bring up again. If you don't look after yourself, you will get sick, stressed, burnt out or worse. Self care takes time and intention. Time and intention that you could spend smashing through your to-do list. If you prioritise self care though, your stamina and longevity will increase and you will seriously reduce your chance of overwhelm.
My self care plan is fairly intense, largely because I am battling an injury and I am really conscious of preventing future harm. I see my massage therapist, physio and now my pilates instructor weekly - I also have a pilates routine that I do on my own several times a week. I am working with a health coach fortnightly to help me improve my overall health and I have also just added floating in a sensory deprivation tank to the mix. I am planning to float monthly for added relaxation, stress management and a host of other benefits. My self care plan now also includes eating for health, to make sure I am making sensible, nourishing food choices rather than turning to junk food and eating for comfort. Like I said, my plan is intense and you certainly don't have to include all of these things in your own strategy. Instead, I would ask yourself, "What do I need to do to take care of myself and ensure I am functioning well, physically and mentally?"
Self-care takes time and intention, but without it, you risk sickness, stress and overwhelm
4. Ask for help
Asking for help is not always easy as it means that we have to admit that we can't do everything ourselves, but once you master the "I am enough", this one comes a lot easier. Asking for help could be in relation to your self care - I have engaged a team of people to help me take care of myself - or it could be in relation to completing the other tasks on your list. Do you know someone who has expertise in an area that could help you knock something off your to-do list more efficiently or effectively? Is there someone who you can share the load with, particularly on a task that will take a long time or a lot of energy for you to complete on your own? Do you just need someone to listen while you vent or brainstorm ideas?
Over the past couple of weeks while ish has been getting crazy over here, my husband and parents have been a huge help. Mum and Dad have been there for us with our decluttering, pitching in to help with some of the regular day-to-day household tasks, while we focus on deciding what to chuck. My husband has been a wonderful help when I have needed to whinge, whine and moan about situations that are out of my control but still incredibly emotional (read: when I haven't been able to get my way at my day job). Reaching out and asking for this help has been a huge part of avoiding overwhelm.
5. Reduce Decision Fatigue
This one is all about the planning. I first started to hear about decision fatigue recently and it made a tonne of sense! Throughout the day, every decision we make is depleting our energy. What should I have for breakfast? Should I exercise before work? What should I wear today? Should I drive to work or should I take the bus? Where should I park my car? These are just some of the decisions we might have to make, before our day has properly started.
By planning things in advance, you are taking away the need to make a decision. For example, if you have the same breakfast every day, that is one decision you don't need to make. If you exercise every day before work, another decision busted. If you plan your work outfit the night before, or even at the beginning of the week... well.. you get the point. When you reduce the amount of decisions you have to make, you reduce the fatigue that comes along with making lots of decisions, allowing you to maintain your energy, reduce your overwhelm and face your important decisions with a clear head.
Some people might think it is boring, but I have started having the same thing for breakfast, morning snack, lunch and afternoon snack - every day. Dinner is the only food decision that needs to be made and where possible I will outsource that to my husband or plan in advance. This seriously makes a difference.
6. Maximise your time
When you are completing a task, focus on that one task and nothing else. You have probably heard me talking about the Pomodoro method, where you set a timer and only do one thing at a time. This is really helpful for maintaining focus, as you know in the back of your mind that a break is just around the corner. You might also try scheduling tasks into your calendar or using one of these other productivity apps to help you stay on track with what needs to get done. If you aren't spending all of your time responding to notifications or scrolling through your Facebook feed, you will be a lot more productive.
How do I know? Well... I don't know where my phone is right now, perhaps it is in the bedroom? I have, however, managed to punch out this blog post that I have been procrastinating on for weeks, with limited distractions.
Another way to stay focused is to set yourself up for work before you start - grab a glass of water or a plate of snacks so that you don't have to get up and go to the kitchen every time you get hungry or thirsty. Take a toilet break before you start, so that risk is mitigated too. By making progress, you are taking proactive steps to avoiding the overwhelm monster.
I hope this post helps, my friend! Let me know in the comments if you have any other strategies to avoid overwhelm. I must say, I am feeling rather chuffed with myself for completing this blog post - now I am off to knock a couple of other tasks off my to-do list and then I think an afternoon nap might be in order... see you soon!