Photo: Mornings Like These
Do you ever feel like you have so many things to do, so many things that you absolutely must do, and there is no way you will ever get them done? That the tasks just keeps stacking up and time just keeps ticking away and you are barely making a dent in that to-do list? And worst of all that you are going to drop the ball somewhere or spiral into chaos?
If you answered yes to any of that you are in good company. Overwhelm is so common, many of us live in a low level state of it much of the time. And this time of year we all seem particularly prone to it with so many demands on our time and energy. It can feel exhausting!
Personally, this has been some of my hardest ongoing work–learning how to quell overwhelm and over-scheduling so I can get myself back to a place of receiving and spaciousness. But it has been SO worth it. Because what I actually value, so much more than doing lots of different things, is truly showing up. Savoring my days. Leaving room for the unexpected. And making ample space for the things I value most to flourish and shine.
Now most of us don’t naturally have the skill-set to catch our overwhelm in action and move out of it quickly. So we spend much more time than we’d like whirling around in that unpleasant feeling of inner chaos and doing less of what we love. But lucky for us, there are lots of helpful skills and tools we can learn and get better at. So when you find yourself slipping into overwhelm this holiday season, or anytime, try these 5 simple, but powerful tips to help get you back to thriving and shining.
1. Check Your Story. When you start to feel overwhelmed check in with the story line happening behind the scenes. Notice it. Make plenty of space for it. And do your best not to judge it. Every story has served a purpose for us, even if it’s not helping much anymore. My usual story when I feel overwhelmed is that I have SO much to do and there is no way I’ll ever get it all done. Next, gently and ever so sweetly remind yourself that you can tell any story you’d like. And it may as well be a helpful one. Lately I’ve been trying this on for size: “Time is the currency of my life and it feels abundant. I have fun crafting my days to reflect my values and the things I love most. And my days feel sweet and spacious.” Way more fun, huh? When I notice the less helpful story playing on repeat I stop, take a big deep breath, and repeat my preferred story to myself. It’s a great little trick for shifting my perspective from scarcity to abundance.
2. Clear the Inner Clutter. One of my absolute favorite tools for taming overwhelm comes from Marie Forleo. She calls it Creating Mental White Space. It’s quick, simple, and gives you an immediate surge of mental clarity and organization. Most of us have tons of things running in the back of our minds and taking up valuable space. When all of those things are floating around in your head, unorganized and un-prioritized, it feels pretty chaotic. This tool helps you get it all down on paper, and turn the chaos into wisely invested action.
• Take the next 20 or so minutes and write down EVERYTHING – all projects, tasks, to do’s, all the things you want to get done (at work and at home), all the things you think you should do, all those thing you keep saying you want to get done, and all those that just keep floating around in your head. Get it all out!
• Place every item into a time category – This month, Next 3 months, This Year, Next 5 Years. You’ll find a lot of the things that have been weighing on you don’t actually need to happen for months! So you can let them rest knowing you have it on your timeline.
• Cross anything off your list that you are not really excited about or does not align with what you value! Notice how many things you don’t get excited about putting into any time frame and you don’t actually need to do. A distinction has to be made here between things you don’t feel like doing, but you need to do in order to move your work or life forward. For example, you need to pay your mortgage if you want to keep that house you love so much. But that 3rd coffee date this week you are not that into? Or that event you feel pressured to go to but you don’t actually need to attend? Gone! Carve that list up like a thanksgiving ham! Leave only the meat.
3. Say No More. After you do the Mental White Space activity you may be tempted to fill your list up again and go back into overwhelm, but DON’T DO IT! This is where it gets real. This is where we have to bring our most adult self to the table and accept that we cannot do everything, we may disappoint people we care about sometimes, and maybe even miss out on things we wish we could do. But saying yes to ourselves and our values first is SO worth it.
4. Prioritize What You Value Most. Often the feeling of overwhelm and lack of time is less about how much we are getting done and more about the extent to which we are doing the things we value deeply. If you can create even a little bit of space for those dear-to-your-heart-things in a busy week, it can make a huge difference in how you feel. So in the midst of your full weeks and days consider how you can carve out little spaces for the important things. Or if you start to feel overwhelmed, ask yourself: which things you value deeply haven’t been getting any attention? That might mean exploring your creativity for 15 minutes on your lunch break, making sure you move your body daily, getting up early so you have peaceful time to drink your coffee, planning some dedicated quality time with your significant other or dear friend at the end of the week, or doing one small thing to get you closer to your dream job. Think about what really lights you up and weave it through your days–even if it’s only 15 minutes at a time.
5. Practice & Repeat. Living our days fully, whole-heartedly, and aligned with our values is a life long practice. But it’s the practice that makes all the difference in our sense of contentment and wellbeing. Luckily, we don’t need to be good at any of it. Simply practicing is enough. And makes you a huge inspiration in my book!
Now we’d love to hear from you in the comments below. What does overwhelm feel like to you? What helps you notice and get yourself out of overwhelm when it happens? What are your best tricks for being a time management ninja?