How to Beat Overwhelm
I'm so excited to welcome Beth Anne from Brilliant Business Moms to the blog today. She definitely knows what she's talking about when it comes to time management and productivity. Her advice for how to beat overwhelm is so helpful. I'll let her take it from here.
Overwhelm… that swirling, spinning, heavy-weight on your chest feeling that comes for us all at one point or another.
What I find incredibly discouraging is how many women feel overwhelmed on a daily basis. Many of us live our entire lives in this crazy state of spin and swirl.
Yet, when we take a minute to breathe and try to figure out what we can do about it, we often wind up with no answers.
Our children need us, after all. Our spouses and friends and family need us.
We need to achieve and we need our kids to achieve and every little thing in our lives feels so incredibly important.
Or are they?
When I've been faced with overwhelm in my own life, what helps the most is radical, drastic change.
Take a deep breath, because we're about to take a little trip together.
It's going to get a little dirty and messy, but when we emerge on the other side, there are grassy meadows and sunshine and air that we can actually take the time to breathe.
The journey, dear friends, is worth it.
Let's beat overwhelm, once and for all.
YOU CAN'T FIX THE PROBLEM IF YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT IT IS
The first step to curing overwhelm is to honestly look at where your time goes each week so that you can make adjustments.
We tend to be so unrealistic with ourselves.
We assume the problem is that we're not working hard enough or fast enough or making the most of those 10 minute-intervals to cram in another enriching activity for our kids.
In reality, the problem isn't with us, it's with time itself. We only get 168 hours a week. That's it. Nothing more, and nothing less.
So let's get down to business and figure out where in the world all those hours are truly going.
Grab the 168 Hours Worksheet and track where your time goes for the next week.
If you're really in a hurry – you can mentally shuffle through your week and write down all the tasks you do on a regular basis.
Don't forget to leave hours for sleep, meals, travel, and all the other mundane chores that can't be left off.
What did you find?
When I've guided other women through this exercise, most often, they breathe a sigh of relief and say, “No wonder I always feel so overwhelmed! There truly isn't enough time to get everything done!”
Finally, they're realizing that the problem isn't with them – it's with their unrealistic expectations.
We can't conjure up more time and we can't turn you into a superhuman robot, so the only way out of the overwhelm is to change what's on that piece of paper.
SOMETHING'S GOT TO GIVE
We've already discovered that the problem isn't with you or your abilities – the problem is all of those commitments and “should-do's” and “have-to-do's” on that Hours in a Week sheet of yours.
They are the problem. Not you. Doesn't that feel incredible to say?!
Now, if you're going to come up with a long-term solution for the overwhelm, you'll need your loved ones on board too.
So it's time to gather round for a fun family night of the “Only the Best” game 🙂
Grab my “Only the Best” Worksheet and answer these 6 questions:
1.) What tasks or obligations do I dread doing each week?
2.) How can I eliminate or outsource some of those tasks?
3.) What brings me the most joy in my life?
4.) How can I add more of these things back in?
5.) What matters most to me?
6.) How can I make those things a priority during my week?
How can you truly eliminate some of those culprits of overwhelm?
Maybe if you were able to work a few more hours (something you love) you could afford to hire someone to clean your house every two weeks (something you dread).
Maybe your child isn't quite as keen on lacrosse as you'd hoped they'd be. And you can both eliminate a joy-stealer by crossing that one off the list.
Maybe you're only volunteering at school because the president of the perfect mommy club said you should, and you've finally realized that not even your pinky toenail cares what she thinks of you!
Phew! Doesn't that feel better?
ROCKS IN FIRST
Now that we've eliminated some of those joy-stealing, overwhelming obligations, there's still more work to be done to have the kind of life we love – a life that makes us wake up excited each morning instead of overcome with dread.
You've probably seen this time exercise before, but it bears repeating: If you try to fill your time jar up with all the little, inconsequential things first (think cleaning and groceries and bills) your entire jar will get filled with sand and you'll have no time for the things that really matter.
Instead, you've got to put the rocks in first.
What are the rocks?
They're the things that matter most to you.
Perhaps they're your family, your work, or your faith.
Maybe you have a hobby that you're crazy about, and it lights you up to spend time on it each week.
The only way out of the overwhelm is to put these things into our time jar first – to protect them with everything we've got so that the sand of silly to-do's doesn't take over.
What does this look like in practice? Grab my time-blocking worksheet so you can map out your week.
What we're going to do first is block off time for all the things that matter most to you.
Again, what those things are is up to you, but put them on your weekly schedule first, before anything else fills it up.
After you've made precious time for the things that are most important, then and only then can you add in smaller items, appointments, and to-do's.
Now, you've got yourself a realistic week full of life-giving activities, instead of another whirlwind week set on making you feel anxious and overwhelmed.
BE ALL THERE
It's not just our stuffed schedules that make us feel overwhelmed. Even when we simplify, it's often hard to turn off the constant turning in our brains.
Feeling as though we should always be doing something else is the fastest way back to overwhelm.
Here's the thing: We COULD always be doing something else. We always have many choices in front of us, and that makes us incredibly privileged.
But if you want to truly enjoy life, you've got to fully commit to whatever it is you've chosen to do.
If you've chosen time with your family, be all there.
If you've chosen to go to work, be all there too.
No more ambivalence about being at work but wondering if you should be home with your kids.
You've made your choice, now passionately commit and enjoy that choice of yours.
No more distractedly checking your email and social media while you half-heartedly play with your kids. You've chosen that play time matters to you. Now dive in – Donald Duck impressions, crazy dance parties, and airplane rides down the hall. Be there and do what you do with gusto.
Being present is much easier said than done, but start with baby steps if this is difficult for you.
Set that phone down and time yourself for 10 minutes of crazy play.
Set that phone and email down at work and time yourself for 20 minutes of focused, important work.
As you practice the art of being present, you will get better at it, I promise. And you will REVEL in the joys of life that are right in front of you as a result.
SCHEDULE TIME TO WORRY
For many of us, a huge source of overwhelm are all the worries that tear us up inside, keep us awake at night, and make us wonder if we're really doing everything we need to do.
We worry that our kids aren't getting enough intellectual stimulation.
Then we take them to the science museum and we worry that they're not having enough fun.
We worry that they have trouble making friends.
Then we find out they're passing notes with friends in class and we worry they're not focusing enough on school.
We worry about them while we're working and wonder if we should work less.
We worry about them while they're right there in front of us because we're not sure we're connecting with them as well as we should.
The worries are endless, and they can tear us apart if we let them.
Here's my solution: Make an appointment with yourself to worry every day.
YES, you read that right!
I WANT you to worry, but only at a set time each day.
Once you've made your appointment, make a worry journal for yourself, and use this time to write down everything you're worried about – big or small – it doesn't matter.
If you're worried that your pinky toe is really quite unattractive, write it down.
If you're worried that your spouse is about to lose his job, write it down.
Dig deep on your worries too – asking yourself to imagine the worst thing that could happen if those worries came true.
Sink into those worries for a bit.
And then…. let them go.
If you're a Christian like me – pray about them and release them to God.
If you're not a believer – release them to the universe and move on.
Yes, of course, you might re-visit some of them during your worry appointment the next day, but until then, no more.
When those worries spring up throughout your day, remind yourself, “This is not the time to worry about this. I'll worry about it tonight.”
Take a deep breath, and go about your day. You can breathe easy because you now have set time to mull over everything that's bothering you (and maybe even problem-solve some creative solutions while you're at it!)
What do you think? Are you starting to see your way out of overwhelm?
Are you breathing deep and easy for the first time in years?
I hope so!
One thing I know for sure: You're amazing, and you care deeply about the people around you. This overwhelming feeling is not your fault, and the solution isn't to just “be better”.
You're doing the best you can. Free yourself with a life of less swirling and more joy by following these steps.
1.) Start by using my “Hours in a Week” Printable to map out all the different activities, chores, obligations, and priorities that take up your time each week. Solving the problem of overwhelm starts by taking a realistic look at what's causing it.
2.) Next, use the “Only the Best” Worksheet to gain clarity on the areas of your life that bring you the most joy, and the ones that don't. Sit down with your family and find ways to eliminate or outsource those tasks that are causing overwhelm and taking away your joy.
3.) Use the Time-Blocking Worksheet to plan out your week by adding the most important things first. Once you've protected time for family, friends, and everything else that matters most, then you can add in all your other appointments and to-do's.
Note: You may find that not all your to-do's will fit into your week. No big deal. Figure out which ones you can put off, which ones you can eliminate, and which ones you can outsource, just as you've done in Step 2.
4.) Practice the art of presence. Whatever you choose to do with your time, be all there and ENJOY it! Overwhelm won't stop if you constantly allow your brain to churn with all of the things yet to be done.
Accept the fact that your to-do list is never wiped clean. Vow to be fully present regardless, because that silly to-do list can wait.
5.) Make an appointment to worry. For many of us, worry and anxiety will always be part of our lives. So why not embrace it rather than shove it down?
Set aside time each day to write down everything that's worrying you or stressing you out. Dig deep and imagine the worst that can happen.
Sit with those worries and work your way through some solutions, if you can.
Finally, let them go.
When worries cloud your mind during the upcoming day, remind yourself that it's not time to worry about those things yet. You'll worry about them later.
6.) That's it! By following these steps you'll be well on your way to beating overwhelm, once and for all.
You got this, brilliant lady!
Beth Anne Schwamberger is a big dreamer, adoptive mom, and military spouse. She has a blog and online shop at BrilliantBusinessMoms.com Beth Anne is passionate about helping women to discover their deepest calling, and then take practical steps towards making that calling part of their everyday lives. Her brand-new, Brilliant Life Planner is now available on Kickstarter.
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K Ann Guinn Says
Oh, my. Did you look through my window today or listen in on my phone-call with my sister??? 😉
Today for some reason I felt TOTALLY OVERWHELMED! I am also a Christian, so I have NO doubt that it is not a mistake that I read Beth Anne’s post. In fact, I was over on her/your (who do I speak to when commenting on a guest post, anyway?), site, starting the 5 Days to a Brilliant Life Challenge (late), so perhaps I’m supposed to be hearing these messages.
I love this advice! It is so timely, and I’ve been working at my time use and schedule for awhile.
One thing I’m struggling with right now is being in transition (since finding out I was “no longer needed” after ten years of being a teacher’s aide a couple of years ago), and have had both extra time off (a lot of it spent job-searching), and several, short-term jobs. Not to get into too many details, but let’s just say that I haven’t had a set schedule for a long time! Do you have any advice for doing this planning when we have a schedule that keeps changing?
Thanks for writing another excellent, practical and encouraging post! And thanks to Laura for hosting!
Great post!!!! Soooo easy to get completely overwhelmed! I love the idea of breaking down your week by the hour!!! I’m going to do that!!
This is a great post. Going to try out your worksheets. Thank you!