Theme: Overwhelm is a clever eogic strategy
This is clearly a very current topic (or at least in this household).
I was listening to something recently and heard the famous Desmund Tutu quote ‘How do you eat an elephant?’. The answer being ‘one bite at a time’. I immediately resonated with this, having felt high levels of overwhelm in life and business of late.
Imagine my surprise, when I’m sitting in my husband Matt’s power business coaching call and he proceeds to tout the very same phrase. I couldn’t hide my disbelief! In staying true to the blog I intended to write, I’m sharing my view on this and if you’d like to hear Matt’s perspective, be sure to check out his Amplify Your Business podcast via this link.
Back to the subject at hand.
Some days, despite having a highly detailed 90 day business plan, a life that is highly diarised and organised, software and support to schedule things like social posting, newsletters and business admin support, I still feel a sense of total overwhelm.
The big kids jump on the bus at 7.50am and I turn back into the house, looking around at the decimated kitchen, still in my pjs and the toddler gazing up at me, asking me what fun activities mummy has planned. I spy my laptop on the kitchen table, still open from last night, exactly where I left it when my three year old woke early and needed extra cuddles and reassurance to get back to sleep. Fast forward 8 hours and it’s a new day and my tasks from yesterday are not done, and there’s a whole new set of tasks due for today … AND a little person who needs me too.
We have worked really hard as a couple to structure our business so that they work around our life and our family. With 3 young children, we wanted the ability to attend sports carnivals, orthodontist appointments, plays in the park and parent teacher interviews without having to ‘take time off’ or seek permission. We have created businesses that allow us to work autonomously and that are geographically independent. So long as we have access to fast (enough) internet, we can work anywhere.
Trust me, this is amazing, and we are very grateful that we have been able to leverage our business to support us and our family priorities.
But what other sole business owners may not tell you, is that it then rests solely on your shoulders to get the work done in the windows or gaps of time that are afforded. These are not always ideal times either. They might be at 10pm when you’ve just collapsed on the couch after finally getting the ever chatty 10 year old to sleep, it might be at 5am so you can fit in the call before the family rises. It might be on a Sunday afternoon when the employed world are enjoying their much anticipated ‘weekend’. Weekends don’t really exist for business owners.
I’m not saying I don’t have structure. I do. But it can seem at the times, that the amount of time I have available compared to the amount of time my task list asks of me, is never enough. It can feel as though I’m barely keeping up, and I am neglecting either my business, the children or both when I’m stuck between the two worlds.
This is when the word overwhelm sneaks in. Suddenly, the task list seems impossible, the kids are demanding too much and I don’t know where to begin. This is when the subject of my blog becomes very important as a reminder…. One bite at a time, Tash.
So what do I do when overwhelm kicks in? Here are 5 simple strategies that always help to get me out of overwhelm and back into flow:
- Write it all down
A great tip is to just get it all down on paper – out of my head! Simply write down anything you can think of that is buzzing around in your ‘to do’ list. Don’t do anything else at this point (no crossing off, don’t worry about prioiristing). Sometimes even just getting this out of your head is enough to reduce the overwhelm. Sometimes you realise the list is no insurmountable, it just feels like it when it’s bouncing around your brain.
- Pick the thing/s that will most moves the needle
Now use the list above to choose 3 things only that you will commit to getting down that day. When choosing them, pick the 3 things that will move the needle the most (especially if this is a business task). I know I can get caught up doing the urgent but not important tasks as they’re waving in front of my face. So, be discerning here. What are the 3 things that are non negotiable for the day? Go and do them. If you’re doing well and get them done, you can come back and select another couple of items. But not before those 3 are executed.
- Move my body
As I know overwhelm can be a sign of my ego wanting to hold me stationary and the more I stay there, the less I flow. So sometimes, in fact, when I have the most resistance to it because there are more important things to be done, I stop and move my body. This can be as simple as a walk, a quick home yoga flow or something more vigorous like a freestyle dance session. I tune into what my body wants and do that. Then, when those endorphins are pumping and I’ve moved some off some of the excess stress response, I get back to the list.
- Use my weekly breakdown
As I mentioned before, I have a clear 90 day plan and I like to diarise all our family events and appointments. For each quarter, I plan week by week what is required of me into a micro level. Then, each Sunday, I sit down and pull those weekly tasks into my journal and focus only on those items for the week. If you have a life partner/spouse, it’s great to do this together and cross reference any logistical arrangements, such as child care, extracurricular activities or joint engagements.
- Pause and be still
Sometimes, when overwhelm comes knocking, I know I just need to pause and be still. This means different things to different people, but for me, it means – reading my book quietly, listening to a meditation, or walking in nature. I choose to switch off, not take any action towards my task list and just let myself be. Some of my best inspiration and ideas has actually come to me during this ‘down time’. Simply by switching out of my beta brain, I can allow my intuition and imagination to come into play.
I hope these strategies help you when you feel overwhelmed. I’d love to know of any other strategies you use to get you through those times when you are trying to eat the elephant as a whole!
Above all, don’t take it all too seriously. This is a good reminder for me, so I’m sure it will be a good reminder for some of you too! Life’s too short not to have a laugh at ourselves.
Live, Love and Laugh,