“Wow! I’ve Bitten Off More Than I Can Chew.” That’s what I said when I wrote down all the projects that I have on my plate some time ago. No wonder I had been feeling a little overwhelmed and felt it a little difficult to keep my head above water. And I’m not the only one. In fact, in March 2010 there were tens of thousands of people who searched on Google for some variation of the keyword overwhelm. That’s a lot of people feeling overwhelmed.
As I gazed at the list I realized that… “Not only are the projects numerous but they are huge.” Many of them I have been working on for months and I simply, optimistically, thought I would have them done before these new projects came into being. That left me feeling more than a tad bit overwhelmed. Reality collided with time. I needed a plan and I needed one quick.
Jane Herman says in her article Avoiding Overwhelm that “Many times we are reluctant to acknowledge to ourselves or admit to others that we are feeling overwhelmed because we view it as a sign of weakness.” I certainly know that is the case for me. I told myself more than once, ‘Why would anyone want to work with me if they know that I too have weaknesses?” So this is a big step here – I’m being “human” and posting it right here for the world to see. “I can’t do everything. I’m not super-human!” hhh. What a relief!
Jane outlines specific reasons that people feel overwhelmed. Among those reasons, “Everything that you need to do seems to be at an equal level of priority so it is not obvious which needs to be tackled first.” For me, that is a primary reason why I felt overwhelmed the past few months. The problem – most of my projects involve other people and they are all projects that are a number one priority for the other people.
According to Jane I’ve got to find my focus by reestablishing my priorities. And thankfully, Jane outlines some of those tools you can use to find to do that. No doubt, that works for most situations. However, in this case I only took on projects that were already keeping with my mission and purpose. They all, are I still believe, fairly equal in priority.
So I needed a different strategy and here’s the steps I look to reduce the overwhelming feelings I was experiencing…
- Set Limits. I stopped taking on new clients until I’ve finished up some of these larger projects.
- Scheduled Down Time - I set limits on how many hours a day I’ll work so that I do take a little time off to recuperate.
- Asked for Help – a big HUGE step for me. I’m a perfectionist who bought into the belief that “if you want something done right do it yourself.” Although, similar to the outsourcing step below it is a little different. One is proactive, and one is simply opening the door for resources to flow to you. For example, I asked for help when I set-up a page for guest blogger guidelines and announced I am accepting guest bloggers.
- Set and Outlined Clearer Expectations – I am working on outlining clearer exceptions with business partners etc. so we are clearer on who does what and establish time lines we can both agree with.
- Created Better Systems – Created additional systems to better handle some of the recurring tasks and built more systems into our home educational system.
- Delegated - Delegated out more of the household chores to the rest of the family. For example, now each person in the house in in charge of one dinner a week.
- Better Client Education. For example, I found that one of my clients thought that what I considered to be one of the last steps on the project was one of the ones they thought should be done first. That set me up for automatic failure unless I educated them properly on why it was best as one of the last steps.
- Better Communication – For example, I communicated with a client and found out that they were feeling just a rushed and overwhelmed by the joint project and that they were really wanting to extend the project deadline. We set more realistic deadlines and extended the project out several months.
- Created an Outsourcing Plan – Figured out what needs to be done, who’s the best person to do it and when each piece of the projects need to be done by in order for me to meet my goals, and I’m working on finding the right people to assist.
So perhaps some of those steps will work for you when you are feeling overwhelmed.
So here is those steps…
Ten Steps to Getting Out of Overwhelm
- Prioritize - Determine your priorities, but then work to recognize what it is you can do within those priorities. Focus on those things that are the highest priority.
- Schedule Down Time - Get consistent rest, exercise, and time away from those projects that feel so overwhelming.
- Set Limits – Determine what is the most important things you can do within our various roles and then place a limit on the rest. For example, if you are a mother or a father with young kids you can choose to spend time with them watching TV or reading a book. Choose the things that will have the longest lasting impact on your relationship – chances are that the time spent reading one-on-one to a child will far outweigh the TV time. Set a limit on those things that do not have as much of an impact
- Get Help - Let people know you are feeling overwhelmed and ask for help.
- Set Clearer Expectations - Make sure everyone you deal with knows what you expect and what they can expect from you. Renegotiate those deadlines if necessary.
- Develop Better Systems - Systems can help put your life on autopilot. Develop systems for every aspect of your life and business.
- Delegate – Delegation is very similar to asking for help. However, asking for help is just that a request that you hope someone else will answer? Delegation, on the other hand, is a deliberate plan of action to get the help you need. Examine every area of your life and ask yourself if someone else could be doing that task and then examine who could. Just brainstorm at first. For example, when it comes to laundry you could have everyone do their own laundry, you could assign batches of laundry to others in the family, you could hire someone to come in and do it, you could reduce your work load by having someone fold the laundry and put away what you wash, you could take it to the cleaners. Just write down all the ideas as some may work well and some may work later – or you could use a combination of several.
- Educate Those You Are Involved With In Your Various Roles – Make sure you are all on the same page as far as expectations are concerned. Educate others on what you are willing do to and when you are willing to do it.
- Refine Your Communication – Communicate with others. Often you will find out that the other people involved in a project are feeling just as overwhelmed. Perhaps because of a unrealistic deadline. Perhaps the people you are working with have resources to help.
- Create a Delegation or Outsourcing Plan and Follow Through – Once you have determined what can be delegated and outsourced figure out a way to make it happen. Planning without action isn’t going to dig you out of the sea of overwhelming feelings.
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