“Overwhelmed”. It’s a word I hear almost daily in my coaching practice. Heck, it’s a word I uttered daily to describe my internal chaos. Overwhelm is “too muchness”. Too many thoughts. Too many shoulds. Too many expectations. Like deer in headlights, we have so much to process that we freeze. Immobilized, we cry “overwhelm” in a desperate attempt to thaw.

There is a way out.

Empty your brain.

Grab pen and paper and unpack every task, thought, and idea. Reassure yourself that writing it down does not obligate you to complete it today, or any day. The objective is to make room.

Our minds are designed to create and creativity needs space. At the risk of crudeness, I advocate vomiting indiscriminately onto the page. Don’t make it pretty. Forget grammar. Evacuate.

Now walk away. Breathe in the relief that accompanies the spaciousness of your mind.

When ready, return to the list with a discerning mind. With speed, run through the list and categorize into: decide, delete, delay, delegate.

1. Decide – If the consequences for not doing it create more work, (like being 2,000 miles past the needed oil change could create car trouble and cost money), then this task deserves attention within the week. Decide what day, and what time this task will get completed.

2. Delete – Is this task or idea even worthy of our attention in the first place? It has been occupying prime real estate in our minds and yet when we see it on paper, we conclude it does not deserve our time. Phew. Let it go.

3. Delay -These tasks do not require immediate attention but we don’t want to forget it. It may become urgent next week but for now we can postpone. So simply store the information for later access.

4. Delegate – Is this task even mine? Am I the one best suited to complete it or can I pass this to someone else? Drop the martyrdom and really question the validity of the task as your responsibility.

The idea here is to capture the ideas on paper and store them elsewhere. Todoist is an online task manager I use to organize my tasks. It all starts with paper then moves into my task manager only if it has made the cut. For the tasks I decide are time sensitive and urgent (meaning to be completed within the week), I assign a date, and time for completion. The rest I simply record in pertinent projects and call up when needed during my weekly planning session. Evernote is also one of my trusted resources as a cloud based filing system and a great complement to my task management. We need to know our ideas will be safe and these tools give me that peace of mind.

Overwhelm is a habit and a Pavlovian reaction to “too muchness”. Every time you start to mumble the word, grab the paper and pen. Let it all out. Some clients adhere to the habit of brain dumping right before bed to alleviate the night terror of swirling thoughts and tasks left undone. Try it.

You see, peace of mind is our birthright but it is also a skill few of us have learned. Overwhelm is so familiar that it is our normal. There is nothing normal about being less than our highest version of ourselves. There is nothing normal about being paralyzed by our thoughts, buried by tasks, and more commonly, burdened by our thoughts about our tasks. Only when our minds are free can we create meaningful work and be fully present in our lives.

Check out this article from Providence Business News.


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