(More tidbits from my forthcoming book, “Getting Unstuck.”)
(This “trail” starts at distant Elk Lake, up through Hunter’s Pass shown here–and then straight up the rock of Dix Mountain. Very overwhelming–though I had no thoughts but the task at hand for one long 15 hour round trip. And still not near the summit yet!)
“I’m just overwhelmed!”
“All I do is work!”
“Something’s gotta give!”
Any of that sound familiar? You’re not alone. Here are three points to help.
I. The first and most important point to understand is that “overwhelmed” is not a situation. It is not just how things are. No. It’s a feeling. You are feeling overwhelmed. Perhaps for good reason–but it’s still a feeling, not an objective reality. And feelings can be changed–if you want to change them. Why “if”? Because often people like to feel overwhelmed. No, overwhelmed is not a nice feeling, but being overwhelmed often gives people a sense of importance, a work ethic, an identity. Overwhelmed is a feeling, and if you want, feelings can be changed.
II. Next come three areas commonly ignored, three areas to stop and take stock:
1) Stop trying to do everything yourself.
Ego, pride, embarrassment, and probably a few other emotions commonly stand in the way of this simple and frankly obvious point. You are not, whatever you try to tell yourself, the only one who can do what you’re trying to do. Stop going it alone. Forget the lone wolf argument–people are social creatures, and interaction with each other is how we are wired. Even people like me and you, who like our quiet alone time. Let others help you–they will be delighted.
2) Stop trying to control everything.
Instead of asking yourself “What should I do about this?” ask “Why do I have to do anything?” The Universe will continue without your aid. People will still breathe in and out. The sun will still rise and set. You are not the Boss of Everything. Let it go. Life will become so much easier, and run so much more smoothly, when you simply allow it to do so.
3) Stop taking on too much.
This ain’t rocket science. If you’re feeling overwhelmed because you have too much to do, you’re taking on too many things. Stop it.
Sure, I get that there’s a lot to do, and that a lot of it is important. But it makes no sense to daily plan what can’t possibly happen and then beat yourself up for not accomplishing what had no chance of getting done from the start.
If you’re doing too many things, do fewer things. Prioritize. If that means less than you want to do, fine. But decide which to do and do it, and feel glad of a good day’s work.
Remember–overwhelmed is a feeling. You at least will stop feeling overwhelmed.
III. And finally, there’s a difference between time management and getting unstuck.
First, time management. Lots of help available here. Probably at the top of the list is Stephen Covey’s approach, laid out in his book First Things First. This, however, is far more than allocating the 168 hours of each week into the various pieces that make up your time life.
Covey turns first not to the clock, but to the compass. Where do you want to go? What are your objectives? What is important to you in this life? Those are your organizing principles. Thus, your “big rocks” get placed first, then medium rocks, then smaller rocks, then pebbles, then sand. But don’t let a sandstorm keep you from getting to the big rocks. The important things–like relationships, or your children, or someone who needs help–take precedence.
Tim Ferriss, in The Four Hour Work Week, takes ideas like this much, much further. He challenges multiple assumptions about how we construct our work and our time, noting that much of our structured time (i.e., structured for us) is wasted, and often working from home can be far more productive (acknowledging that this isn’t necessarily true for everyone). He gives the examples of sales calls to business owners–an hour of calling from 8-9 and another from 5-6 accomplished more than calling all day. Why? He didn’t have to go through the secretaries on duty 9-5; the decision makers themselves answered the phone.
Take the Pareto Principle seriously: 80% of our results come from 20% of our activities. Invest time in isolating that 20%, and cut or minimize the 80%. Ferriss points out that this need not mean expanding your 20% (though you may well want to do so)–lateral moves can also be satisfying. What if you could make the same income you do now, even doing the same thing, but in half the time? The remainder could be spent doing things you love, rather than reinvesting in work pursuits. This in turn would give you considerably more energy during the time you do spend working–for even greater results.
The key is live the life you want to live–now. Alex Baisley, of the Big Dream Program, is a genius at challenging people to construct their lives around five principles (“Juicy Realizations,” he calls them), considering them as an ecosystem, where all five are required. I’ll let Alex explain:
Don’t get overwhelmed about getting unstuck from being overwhelmed. The point is simply that you have a wealth of options. Ryan Eliason suggests making a “Not doing now” list for the good ideas that you just aren’t going to get to for a while, if ever, and focus on the things you *are* doing. Do the ones you want, pass on the ones you don’t want, and come up with a wealth of your own. But recognize that you are not stuck, that you are experiencing a feeling only, and that change–even radical change–is not only possible, but also accessible.
Are you interested in hearing more about Wilderness Hikes as projects evolve in the future? Let me know here, so I have a list of those interested ready to go, by clicking here (and page all the way down to click “Sign Up” at the bottom):
Join the “Wilderness Hike” list.
If you’d like to hear about my “Getting Unstuck” book as it gets closer to release, let me know by clicking here (and you’re welcome to do *both,* of course–page all the way down to click “Sign Up” at the bottom):
Join the “Getting Unstuck” list.
October 2012 is a series of daily posts about “A Wilderness Hike,” taking readers through the healing of wilderness experience and glimpses of my work at Kwan Yin Healing and of my book, “Getting Unstuck.”
You can read the series from the start via the links here:
Oct. 1: A Wilderness Hike
Oct. 2: The Sixth Hour
Oct. 3: Snowy Mountain
Oct. 4: Letting Go of Baggage–the Wilderness Way
Oct. 5: “Bear” the Thought
Oct. 6: Mountain. Buddha. Impermanence.
Oct. 7: The Rewards of Rain
Oct. 8: Finding the Keys
Oct. 9: “I’d love to, but times are bad.”
Oct. 10: Attracting the Law of Attraction
Oct. 11: We are not our thoughts
Oct. 12: Honesty, Forgiveness, Healing
Oct. 13: Getting Unstuck: Feeling Overwhelmed
Oct. 14: Money is remarkably easy to come by, if that’s all you want.
Oct. 15: To be Time Rich, Learn to Be
Oct. 16: Changing Thoughts for Changing Work
Oct. 17: Finding and Sharing your Gifts
Oct. 18: Do you want to be the boss? Be sure you want to run the show.
Oct. 19: Finding jobs within jobs
Oct. 20: Bright Mountain Dream
Oct. 21: Escape the Wilderness of Addictions
Oct. 22: The Importance of Spiritual Direction
Oct. 23: In Search of Enlightenment
Oct. 24: Relationship Thoughts from the Wilderness
Oct. 25: We learn in realtionships
Oct. 26: Chrysalis
Oct. 27: Self-Healing, part 1
Oct. 28: Self-Healing, part 2: Time for a new perspective
Oct. 29: Dix Mountain
Oct. 30: The Mist-Filled Path
Oct. 31: From Wilderness to Wondrousness
This is exactly what I needed to read this afternoon! I have three small children (the oldest just turned three, the youngest is almost 10 months with a 2 yr old thrown in for good measure), I stay at home to take care of the kids and the house, and last year, I started selling my crochet. A few months ago, I realized that stress is an emotion and can be controlled just like happiness. However, I’ve not been able to really out things in proper context yet to overcome the perpetual feeling of stress that I seem to live in.
Thank you so much for writing these thoughts down. I will be coming back to this post in the future as I work to create an unstressful life for myself 🙂
Thank you, Sarah. Yes, stress isn’t what happens to us, but how we respond to what happens. There’s much more on this in the book, of course–I just took a few excerpts to share.
These are great points. Everyone would do well to remember these. Thanks!
It’s my pleasure–thank you for saying so, and feel free to share!
Enjoyed this one, including the video. I really enjoy the simpleness of both. I have been to plenty of trainings where if you did not take plenty of notes you probably wouldn’t be able to get anything from the program after any length of time. you hit it perfectly by reminding us that overwhelm is a feeling, not too much to do. I know I have been overwhelmed without having much to do at all.
Mark, what a great observation — “I know I have been overwhelmed without having much to do at all.” You’re right, of course–thank you for adding the point!
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