I was at a business breakfast recently with interesting and diverse entrepreneurs, consultants and coaches. The subject over coffee was how overwhelmed, tired, and burned-out many of the people were feeling due to the “too much to do / can’t stop now” syndrome; exacerbated by a looming year end in a VUCA world.
Are you one of those people who can’t seem to stop “doing?”
I have yet to meet anyone who hasn’t felt overwhelmed from time to time. And of course, at year-end, it feels like this reaches its peak. Since it tends to feel uncomfortable, if not downright unpleasant, we tend to view it as negative and as a weakness. We don’t dare to admit we are overwhelmed or dare to talk about it, which can leave us feeling isolated and alone, further exacerbating the feeling. We often deny we are feeling overwhelmed because we do not know how to stop the frenetic behaviour that leads to this feeling. So, we do nothing. Our employers, colleagues or friends often do not help support us to stop overworking.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Primarily, this syndrome occurs in our work life, but it can carry over to our personal and family life, and it frequently does. Focusing on projects often begins with good intentions but we can quickly and easily be overwhelmed if we do not have a plan to minimise and balance our work. Getting the project finalised for your team, writing the copy for your website, designing the new sales brochure or completing the 90-day marketing plan are extremely important – but having a balanced, health life is equally important.
This stressful pattern is telling you to change your life! Once you get this message, it is easier to identify the steps you need to take to shift out of the behaviour quickly.
Following are helpful strategies gleaned from my personal experience and from my work with coaching clients who are burned out, growing cranky, feeling frustrated and even depressed. These strategies immediately diminish feelings of being overwhelmed so you can refocus and make some work/life balance decisions.
Stop what you are doing for a few minutes and take a break. Go for a short walk, sit outside under a tree, meditate, breathe deeply, go to a movie, call a friend to have coffee and share what is going on.
Get a piece of paper and make two columns. In one column, list urgent things you need to do this week. In the other column, list those projects that you can delegate, hire or barter to be done.
Eliminate, eliminate, eliminate. Unsubscribe to unnecessary e-mail, organise your desk, home office environment or office to decrease clutter, stop attending meetings, get off committees and decrease volunteering unless you have a total passion for the organisation and the cause. Get selective and clever with your choices.
Do not spend time with people whom you do not like. Look at your friendship circle and assess your friends and business colleagues. Do they support and honour who you are? If they are negative and don’t share your vision for your dreams, cut down the time you spend with them.
Decide what is most important in your life. If you want a balanced life, you will have to make changes in your life to allow this to happen. That takes some time and planning, but it will be well worth the improvement in your life!
You will always have emails in your inbox, a long to do list and never-ending requests for your time. Your body is a finely tuned machine. Without the fuel to run it, it will run dry. Find out what fills up your tank and do it. If you have leave due to you, take it!
Take an action step today to make change in your life. Call a friend who will support you, take a class to get organised, or work with a coach who will support and motivate you to have a more balanced life.