Monday, February 22, 2010
We lead very busy lives and are quite skilled, for the most part, at dealing with a never-ending stream of deadlines. But every once in a while I get overwhelmed (God forbid!) with all the projects I am enjoying but have looming deadlines. This post recognizes some of the symptoms of being overwhelmed. But more importantly, recently I had a huge realization that really helped me see the cause of this overwhelm, thereby providing the solution for it.
Some of the symptoms when I feel overwhelmed are:
Frozen: In moments like this I feel like I can't move, "frozen" is a good metaphor I recently heard someone use to describe this state.
Distracted: Another symptom of being pulled in different directions is that I loose focus completely and start flitting from one unnecessary task to another and not doing any of the tasks I should be attending to.
Emotional distress: All kinds of emotional reactions such as anxiety and stress can result from being pulled in different directions. For the most part I go into “no motion” mode but I have seen others around me get pretty stressed.
Physiological symptoms: Again, this doesn’t really apply to me, but some physiological symptoms include headaches and loss of sleep. I am tempted to blame any weight gain to this. However, I think weight gain may be more due to the next point.
Overeating and other negative consumption behaviors: Very often when I am working to meet several deadlines, food is the only entertainment I can have without stopping to work. So dark chocolate. Yes that’s an addiction. But I think it is a good one because it has anti oxidants and I am learning to make my own chocolate with raw cacao etc. But that’s another story. I am sure others may fall back on other addictions during times of stress.
The BIG Insight that may be your solution to dealing with Overwhelm
Ok here goes. Ready? This is really cool.
Recently I started several projects at the same time along with many deadlines. Result I am “frozen.” So I am in the kitchen cooking (that helps me distress and nurturing my family is a priority) when I realized I am feeling stuck and overwhelmed, not because, I have multiple deadlines but because, I was putting priority on the wrong things. Let me explain this a little more because it is a very important point. Lets say I have external deadlines for tasks A and B and C is important but is a self imposed deadline, so more flexibility there. Because I had external deadlines for A and B, I was focusing on those but not feeling like working on either. Don’t get me wrong, these are things I love and very close to my heart, so its not like I was undertaking tasks I don’t want to in the first place. When I realized that I was not moving forward on any of the tasks because the order was wrong, I felt so much relief and the next time I was at work I started with task C and found I was moving forward with such focus and speed, completely shifted the frozen energy.
Here is a summary of the guidelines based on the realization that can set you free from ever feeling overwhelmed again
1) Listen to your body wisdom. If your body is hesitating in the direction of the tasks you are currently working on, there may be a good reason for that. If you feel overwhelmed or stuck, pay attention to the tasks you are focusing on and if there is something else you should be attending to. You will Know when you are working on the “right” task because work will flow easier, despite the many deadlines.
2) About multiple deadlines. So you know what is the right task now to attend to, but the mind is still playing its games and every now and then it will creep up to remind you about all the other deadlines you have. At that point remind your mind this, after taking long deep breaths:
• There is only one of you
• There is only this moment, here and now
• The one you is doing the best it can in the here and now.
• Nothing more can be done.
• So why worry?
No really, nothing more can be done in this moment, more than you already are. This is a logical and biological fact of life. Why do we create resistance and stress about something that is so obvious: you only have this moment and you can only do what you can do in this moment. If something else didn’t get done because you were working on what’s more important in the moment, then there really isn’t anything you could have done anyway. The stress will probably slow you down further.
Of course, you can learn from the past and choose differently in the future. Maybe be more careful when undertaking projects, etc. But what I am talking about is cases where we can finish the multiple projects within the allocated time, but we don’t because we are focusing on work that is not a priority at the time. This creates resistance within and you slow down or loose focus. But these are all signs that you are NOT doing what you should be doing.
Next time, when you feel stressed about multi tasking, ask yourself: Am I doing what I should be doing right now? When you find out what it is you should be focusing on, you will be surprised how easily work flows from that place. So listen to yourself very carefully. This insight can help you move in life with more ease and get more done.