Tag Archive: overwhelm

Understanding Overwhelm

WomanInOverwhelmOverwhelm. Overwhelming. Overwhelmed. So, what is overwhelm anyway? I guarantee it’s not what you might think it is. So many people experience overwhelm.  If you could look at the inside of your head when you experience overwhelm, it would probably look a lot like a messy desk.

We’ve all experienced it before and a couple of the indicators are the feeling of suffering and not being able to get ahead. Emotions like stress and anxiety are involved.  Your physical environment may start to become disorganized, with things piling up and things won’t be getting done as planned, for sure.

So now, let me ask you something…what do you think overwhelm is?

The dictionary says it’s “upset or overthrow; to cover over completely; submerge; to overcome by superior force or numbers; to overpower in thought or feeling.” That definition is not completely correct. I’m about to say something that you’ve probably never heard.  Overwhelm is not an emotion. It’s a conversation,  not something that you feel, and to overcome it you have to remember that.  You have that conversation with yourself, and as I call them, the people in your head. When you start to think about all that there is to do the thought process grows.  You start to think about what might not get done the impact or the fallout and it starts to make you feel a particular way.  It may be that you feel stressed, frustrated, inadequate, and like you’re not in control any more.  It’s the thoughts you have that produce the emotion and you believe that you are feeling overwhelmed, when in fact, you are feeling, stressed, frustrated, inadequate and out of control.

Once you understand and acknowledge that, you can move to the more traditional solutions to dealing with the things that are causing you to have the conversation. Gain some perspective by dividing the list of things to do asking yourself what things have to be done right now and what things can wait. Identify the priority items. Commit to those things and schedule blocks of time to get them done, and be realistic about what you can do and when.  The next time that you think you’re “feeling” overwhelmed, I want you to remember what I’ve shared with you. It may be a rather intense one, but still it’s just a conversation.


It’s that time of year again and now that the holiday season is in full swing, things are getting crazy.  This is the time of year when things (and people) get insane, it becomes harder to manage everything there is to do and the overwhelm conversation begins in your head.  Let me stop you right there.  “Tis the season, but not necessarily for what you think. ‘Tis the season to delegate and say “no”!

The holiday and its madness don’t have to be synonymous; they do not have to coexist, but they will if you let them.  Some people get wound up just at the thought of the holidays and become exhausted just at that point.  Although it may be hard to manage your usual work day so that your business can keep running and fit in your holiday to-do items, it doesn’t have to be crazy.  This is a good point to step back and look to see what you can delegate to someone else.  Figure out who’s a good for for the task, give great instruction and a deadline and give it up.  This is also a good point in time to start saying “no” if you’re not already in the habit.  Before you agree to take something on, look to see if it fits your focus and if it fits into your schedule.  If it doesn’t, the answer is “no”.  When it comes to the holiday stuff, take inventory and reconsider the things that you always do that you don’t necessarily want to do.  Give those things up and if the list of things you have to do gets too long, delegate some of the things on it as well or ask for some help.

Take a long look to see which things make sense and which ones don’t and if something’s not important, get rid of it.  This includes those things that you consider to be tradition too.  Do they make sense?  Make the time to take that long, hard look at your usual holiday season and make some choices to get yourself to the point where the insanity isn’t part of your holiday festivities.  Your holiday season can be a sane one, but you have to be the one to make it that way.




We all know that as Fall approaches the focus is on back to school and back to business. Parents take their lists and stand in line to get supplies for their children so that they’ll have everything that they need.  Going a step beyond that, they also get their homes and children organized and ready for the school year.  As the back to school season dust settles, it becomes time for adults to shift the focus to productivity, which means finally letting go of summer, the family activities and looking towards the end of the year and the year to come.  If you’re going to accomplish anything, you’ve got to do the planning.

Before you begin to look at what you’d like to do next year, take inventory to see what you’ve accomplished this year and whether or not you’re where you planned to be at this point of the year.  Look at the list of things you wanted to accomplish during the course of this year and in these final months.  What’s left to do?  Do you have time to get those things done before year’s end?  If not, choose one that’s most important to you and get it done during the home stretch.  Move the other items to your January calendar.

Once you have your bearings for the remaining months of this year, you can begin to look forward and plan for next year.  It’s important to start thinking and planning your upcoming year before the holiday season begins.  If you don’t start planning before hand, then start after the hustle and bustle of the season.  It will make the process a lot easier for you.  You will have more clarity and be able to be realistic about what you can accomplish.  Create a list of the things you want to accomplish next year.  Don’t be vague; make your list specific and clear.  For example, if you want to increase your client base or sales, be clear and state how many new clients you want or the dollar amount or percentage of new sales.

Once you have your list, you can begin to set deadlines for yourself. With your calendar for next year in front of you, set a deadline for each item on your list and place it in your calendar.  Next, break each item into smaller pieces or tasks and place those in your calendar.  Consider each item like a meal before you.  Each smaller task is a bite of the meal.  Remember this analogy as while breaking things down into tasks that are realistic.  Continue the process until everything is in your calendar.  If you have a system for managing your time, then you already plan on a weekly and daily basis.  If not, now is a good time to start.  Each week that you plan, look at each task you created and assign a block of time to work on it. At the start of each day, look to see what’s on the agenda.

Now, realistically you won’t be able to do all of your planning in one session, because, after all, it is a lot.  To avoid overwhelm, schedule a few planning sessions so that you can get the job done.  If you have an assistant or another employee who is key in accomplishing your objectives, include them in the process.  It may take you what seems to be quite a bit of time, but it’s an investment of your time and time well spent.  Think about the time that you stand to waste if you don’t plan for the things that you want to accomplish.  You know what they say, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.


Of all the people in business, many of them are running things by the seat of their pants.  Things are done at the last minute, deadlines are barely met or missed and with no support systems in place, eventually things start to fall through the cracks.  To be in business and to really mean business you have to be on top of things and handle your business.

Doing so means being organized and having systems set up within your business that support you.  Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

  • You waste time looking for things because your paperwork isn’t organized
  • Your tax returns aren’t filed on time because you can’t find all of your receipts
  • You incur late fees due to bills not being paid on time
  • You miss connecting or following up with prospective and current clients
  • At times you feel overwhelmed
  • You’re working plenty of hours but nothing’s getting done

Unfortunately, these things happen quite often and are a way of life for a lot of people in business.  Typically business owners get caught up and lost in wearing multiple hats and as a result, their business suffers.  Because you wear multiple hats and because life moves at the speed of sound, you have to create systems that support you in running your business.

So, what do you need and where do you begin?  My next couple of posts will get you there.  First we’ll look at eliminating the #1 culprit–paper.

There is always more to do, no matter what hat you wear in life.  Everyone from domestic engineers/stay at home Moms to top CEOs can relate to that.  At times it’s difficult to get things done because of the overwhelm conversation.  That conversation that we have with ourselves will keep us from accomplishing things unless we remember that it’s a conversation and deal with it accordingly.

Recently I was asked to contribute my thoughts on overcoming overwhelm.  I was one of 106 professionals who contributed to the Productive & Organized blog.  Click to see what I and 105 others have to say about overwhelm.

Come back and leave your thoughts, comments or post a question for me here.

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