How to Stop Being Overwhelmed by Everything You Have to Do
Are you overwhelmed by everything you have to do each week? Does the stress of your endless to-do list make you feel like staying in bed and pretending you’re unemployed?
A lot of us have just accepted that this is the way things are.
But it isn’t.
There is a solution that can turn your overwhelm into confidence and control.
But it probably isn’t the solution you’re thinking about.
Let me explain…
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First things first.
It’s important to recognize that you’re not the only one feeling overwhelmed by everything going on in your life.
This is important because it means the problem isn’t with you. There’s nothing wrong with you. You are, most likely, normal.
Here’s an example of the kind of email I receive on a near-weekly basis:
I am writing to you because I am struggling and I need some help. I enjoy my job, but I am constantly overwhelmed by everything I have to do. There are always more projects to work on and more demands on my time than I can accommodate. On the outside, I look successful. I make a good salary and I have a good position in my company. But my brain feels like it is running a mile a minute constantly. It is exhausting.
I do not even know where to start. How do I calm down my mind and also manage everything on my plate?
This is such a common question that it’s safe to assume this is the the default state among professionals.
People all around you—often people you admire and even look up to—are walking around feeling like their heads are going to explode any minute.
I’ve had stretches of time where I’ve been there myself.
And it’s no fun.
The Wrong Solution when You’re Overwhelmed
The most common solution to this problem is simply to do less, either by taking some time off to “get away” (only to come back to all the same problems later) or by cutting things out of your day (exercise, a healthy diet and sleep are usually the first casualties).
Now, for most of us, cutting out enough from our day to actually make a difference would mean we have to go further than sacrificing our health. We would also need to reduce the number of clients we work with, make fewer sales each month, and pass on great partnership opportunities.
And, let’s face it. That’s not realistic.
Most of us simply can’t eliminate feelings of overwhelm by doing less.
It’s like trying to get rich merely by spending less.
It’s not going to work.
So, we carry on, looking forward to that glass (or bottle) of red wine at the end of the day to alleviate the headache.
The Right Solution when You’re Overwhelmed
There is a way to combat feelings of overwhelm without trying to do less.
In fact, it’s possible for you to stop feeling overwhelmed by everything you have to do and also do more.
You see, technically speaking, the feeling of being overwhelmed occurs when the intensity of the emotions you experience outmatch your ability to manage them.
In other words, the feeling of being overwhelmed is not a task management issue; it’s an emotional management issue.
It’s true that reducing the number of tasks you have to manage often helps to reduce the intensity of the emotions you experience.
But, as I’ve already explained, that’s not a very helpful solution for most of us.
The right solution is to learn how to take back control of your emotions and then use those emotions to your advantage—to power up your productivity, not slow it down.
There are a few effective ways to do this. Journaling is one; planning your days and weeks better is another; and taking control of your time is yet another.
But no matter which way you choose to go, remember that, if you want to stop feeling overwhelmed by everything you have to do, you need to focus first and foremost on controlling your emotions, not only your tasks.