5 Steps to Conquer Overwhelm
In this busy world of things to do, people to see and goals to reach — do you ever feel overwhelmed? Do you ever compare yourself to someone else whom you perceive as better or more successful than you? Or add the extra pressure of what your life (or work) “should” look like?
I do. And it is no surprise that we get overwhelmed.
One of the leaders I coach, recently experienced a significant growth in her organization, has been feeling enormously overwhelmed and wonders how she can possibly achieve her professional goals and still have a personal life. Overwhelmed does not need to be our normal state.
This is where focus steps in. Focus in life is not restrictive, it is about making the most of our available time, energy and attention. It is about creating space, disconnecting from distractions, and choosing the things that matter in addition to the things we can control.
It is about making conscious choices that match your intentions rather than allowing urgencies to invade your priorities.
Here are some steps that have helped her and others to conquer “overwhelm.”
1. Only do what only you can do. Most leaders spend too much time doing things that other people can and should be doing. Stop doing everything just because you can. Ask yourself these two questions; “Am I the only person who can do this? Should I be the only person who can do this?” If your answer to either question is no, then do not do it. And if your answer to the first question is yes and the second is no — then hire or train someone to do that task and delegate it to them.
2. Make meetings count. As the leader, it is your responsibility to make meetings worthwhile and that everyone knows TTOG — topic, time, owner, goal. Consider asking these qualifying questions: What are we talking about? How long will we spend on it? Who is responsible for leading the discussion? Why are we discussing it?
3. Challenge assumptions. Too often, we do things both professionally and personally out of habit and because we assume “we have to” or “we have always done it before.” Start to challenge the things you feel are overloading your “to do list”, wasting your time or yielding minimal return on your investment (of time, energy and attention.) Ask yourself: Does this really need to get done? What will happen if I do not do it? I think you will quickly discover what you can stop doing.
4. Flex your “no” muscle. The most overwhelmed people simply struggle to set reasonable boundaries for themselves, and usually overcommit to much more than they can ever accomplish. Get comfortable saying “no.” If you need a more thoughtful and gracious option you can say, “that will be difficult, due to my current commitments; let’s figure out another way to get it done.”
5. Get real support. When you are feeling overwhelmed; it is easy to get off track, complain or take on a “poor me” attitude. Instead reach out to your external support system; ask them for the strategies which help them cope with overwhelm. Engaging others is often satisfying for both of you and far more positive.
Remember even just one of these steps can make a huge difference to how overwhelmed you feel and create more space for what is truly important.