In my experience, being overwhelmed goes hand in hand with saying yes to too many obligations at once. Even with the most enthusiastic, optimistic, positive attitude, there’s only so much time you have to spend on any given day. Overcommitting yourself and saying yes to every opportunity that comes your way leads to friction and anxiety in your life. No amount of effort can add more time to your day. Sure, you could pull some all-nighters, but that’s not a sustainable long term.
The trickiest part about finding yourself overcommitted is the feeling of overwhelm that takes over you and adds another layer of stress and resistance on top of your problem. You have so much to do in one day, that you end up doing nothing because you’re too overwhelmed by the weight of it all. It’s a cycle really. Somedays you feel like you can conquer the world, other days you want to drown in your own tears. And it’s unpredictable. Maybe you had a bad dinner last night or slept on the wrong side of the bed or a hundred other micro decisions that lead you to feel like staying in bed.
When you’re overcommitted, you’ve got three options I know of:
1. Take things one at a time.
Forget everything that’s on your to-do list and focus on the one priority that’s in front of you, brick by brick.
2. Burn everything down.
This is the, ‘light the bridge on fire and walk away slowly while an explosion panorama’s behind you. There’s no going back from this usually.
3. Burn down the nonessentials.
Ask yourself, ‘what’s something I could burn down right now and I wouldn’t miss it?’. Or put less aggressively, ‘If I dropped everything I’m doing right now, what would I be relieved that’s gone?’ (If I dropped everything, what would I miss?’
If you dislike something you are doing, it’s doing to drill down into why you are doing it. Are you doing it out of sheer obligation or expectations of others, or are you doing it because the alternative is terrifying?
Losing a job is a terrible experience. Staying in a job you dislike for the rest of your life is a crime. There’s working towards a goal, and then there’s using work to mask or run away from uncertainty and fear.
Whatever you end up choosing, or not choosing, the one thing to know about handing overwhelm is that you always have a choice. Perhaps the choice is a bad choice, but it’s still a choice.
Stay BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner