Sometimes I see everything clearly and have no problem forging ahead. But often I feel overwhelmed and get stuck, frozen like a kangaroo in the headlights.
When I get like this I just can’t seem to act because it all seems too much and there seems to be so many things on my to-do-list and yet none of them feel like they get me far enough ahead to bother with. It’s problematic because there really IS a lot to do and it’s a shame to waste a good night of progress just because my brain decides to clam up.
Here’s some ideas that I use to deal with overwhelm in order to unfreeze and move things along.
1. Go Back to the Plan
You know – the plan that you wrote? Or maybe you didn’t …
If you have no plan, better write one. That’s the action that will move you ahead.
I used to spurn the plan. I still agree with some of that post (especially not liking complicated plans) but I do think you need one. Lately I have been writing my plan as a simple flow chart so I can visually see what it is I am trying to do.
Going back to your simple plan that you wrote when you were feeling clear and focussed is a great way to overcome feelings of overwhelm, this way you can see where all those micro tasks are taking you, step-by-step without feeling like it’s all too much.
2. Cull Projects
If you are anything like me you have wild tendency to start each day with a clear plan of things that need doing on EXISTING projects only to get all inspired by some new shiny idea and go running off down an entirely new rabbit hole chasing it.
While it’s great being creative, it sucks being poor and creative and this is a recipe for poverty that I previously served up to myself over and over. Now, while I am not yet 1st-world-rich, I am doing-much-better-thanks by making myself keep my projects to a minimum.
And God it is hard. I love ideas and I pop them out like nobody’s business, but I make myself keep to a very small (for me) list of projects at any one time. And it is still probably too many. The best number is probably one.
3. Mind Map it Out
If I am feeling overwhelmed I find that using a mind mapping software tool (or if you prefer, old fashioned textas and paper) helps me to see that actually it isn’t too complicated and it all connects and makes sense.
I like to use Bubbl.us as I find it intuitive and easy to use. I don’t write it as a To Do List. I draw it out as a map of connected departments.
For example, everything in my plan goes under my major career focus – my One Thing, which is to build an awesome business around the brand Seamus Anthony.
The three main deliverables of this brand are 1 – music, 2 – writing and 3 – inspiration. Inspiration obviously comes into the music, and both writing and inspiration come into this brand Rebel Zen.
Then there’s Rebel Zen, which is a blog (writing), and has products (ebooks and meditation recordings). Then things start to link up. Meditation recordings need music. They all need social media and other forms of promotion.
And that’s about it. After looking at that visually I do not feel so overwhelmed. (Probably as clear as mud in written form!)
Meditation is a truly bodacious way to clear the mind and regain clarity. It is by nature a literal exercise in focusing.
I also find that when I meditate just before bed, I sleep better and wake up much more refreshed.
This usually means I am able to think much more clearly and deal with the complexity of life without feeling like it is all too much for me.
5. Get Some Rest
Watch some telly. Hang out with the kids. Sleep on it. Tomorrow you’ll find you’re able to think clearly and cope again.
6. Write “To Do’s” Down When You Remember Them
Remember “Getting Things Done”? The book that was all the rage a few years ago? Well even though I found it a bit boring and geeky for my tastes, I did get one very clear message from it: you will feel less overwhelmed if you capture all those things you need to do (open loops) at the exact moment they pop into your head (usually at inconvenient times like in bed, while driving, in the shower) and then have a way of delegating these things a time to get done, person responsible, etc.
I find this helps me feel much more secure that I haven’t forgotten something vital. As soon as a client suggests something we should do, I write it down, that way I know I won’t forget about it (like I regularly used to).
I use Remember The Milk because I am always in front of the computer but on the weekends around the house I revert to good old pen and paper (and then transfer to RTM later).
That’s it. Post over. Stop reading blogs and go kick some butt!