Tag Archives: overworked

Overwhelmed by Work:What’s Too Much?

  • Someday Lesson: Unless you know exactly how long your to-do list is you can’t make objective decisions about what to work on.

Valentin.Ottone on Flickr.comSince December is Planning Month on Someday Syndrome let’s tackle a Someday Challenge that’s planning related. Specifically let’s look at Angela’s problem with being overwhelmed with everything she has to do.

Angela suffers from I’ll Get Around To It Someday. She knows what she wants but can’t seem to find the time or energy to follow through. She says “Someday I’ll find the time and energy to fulfill my dreams.” The thing is she’s not very specific about what those dreams are. When looking one year into the future however, she’s much more specific saying that she will have implemented some of her programs, have produced the show she wrote and be able to support her children financially.

The problem is that she’s so overwhelmed by the normal anxieties of life that she can’t see clearly. It seems to be so much stuff that she’s paralyzed by all the stuff. She moved her office in-house so that she could work on things 24/7 but that hasn’t worked which isn’t surprising. Bringing the office into the home is likely to create more anxieties not fewer. Without a clear separation of work life and home life the stress and guilt of working or not working 24/7 multiples exponentially. Every moment at work outside of regular hours takes away from family time and every moment with the family is one less moment striving for the work-related dream.

In our go-go-go world this sense of paralysis is common and it’s something many people suffer from. It happens when you allow your to-do list to get longer and longer which results in panic and paralysis.

Angela mentions anxiety at all the day to day stuff. That especially happens when you keep it all in your head – it builds and each item seems unrelated to anything else. As well, as I said working on things 24/7 is not the best way to get things done. I take plenty of time off and I’m one of the more productive people I know. I focus on relaxing when I’m not working and when I do work I don’t fritter because I know I have time to relax later.

So what does Angela need? She needs a plan. She needs to know what she’s working on when. However, she can’t create that plan until she knows exactly what she wants to work on. Yes, in her one-year-in-the-future vision she hints at what she might work on now, but the ideas are still very abstract. They’re results, not actions.

When looking into the future, it’s important to focus on actions. Outcomes are great, but they don’t motivate well because they leave a gap between the current state and the future outcome. That gap can only get filled by action.

Taking Action

And what actions does Angela need to do? What actions do you need to focus on if you want to achieve your dreams? How can you choose any one thing when there the to-do is longer than a line up to buy U2 concert tickets?

You might just pick one random item and work on that. Or you might pick the top three things that have reached crisis mode.

Or you might take a bit of time to plan out your actions, which first requires some research.

In this case, research doesn’t mean going out and looking up information or talking to others. For this type of research you are going to interview yourself. Using a blank piece of paper or a new document on the computer, write down the numbers 1 to 100 (if you’re using paper, you might need two or three sheets). Now fill in all 100 slots with everything you do during the day – both work and non-work related. Don’t forget as well those things that you want to/feel you should get done but haven’t gotten around to yet.

Why? What will Angela get out of overwhelming herself even more? How will this exercise help you?

Right now Angela feels overwhelmed by all of her to-dos. These to-dos however are only in her head. Just like in last week’s Someday Challenge, Angela needs to clear her head of the overwhelm and getting it out on paper does just that. Plus by giving yourself a goal of 100 items you’ll likely have a hard time reaching the goal and you’ll realize that you don’t actually have as many things to do as you thought, taking off some of the pressure.

By emptying your head of your to-dos you’ll also be able to look at all the items objectively. When they sit in your head they all seem equally important and necessary.

What Next?

So now you have a list of items that you do (or want to do). How do you take this list of actions and turn them into a plan that works for you, gives you time to relax, and moves you towards your dream?

You prioritize, delegate and delete items from the list. You whittle it down until it fits into a schedule that’s manageable and comfortable.

And no, it’s not easy. In fact this sort of Someday Challenge paralyzes many people.

You need help. You need the outside objectively of someone who isn’t so intimately connected to the actions, someone who can help you decide priorities and what doesn’t really need to get done after all.

You can get that help by filling out a Personalized Someday Assessment. It takes only a few minutes and just might mean the difference between being overwhelmed and being happy.

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Are You Working Yourself Too Hard?

ontwerpplus on flickr.comI’m going to answer this for you with a resounding YES.

There are very few people who don’t work themselves too hard, whether it’s with traditional work, with family commitments, or other things we “have to” do.

Why am I so sure of it?

Because we all use the words “have to” every day pushing ourselves to do things that we don’t want to. I’ll even go so far as to call most people have-to masochists.

According to the dictionary, masochism is:

gratification gained from pain, deprivation, degradation, etc., inflicted or imposed on oneself, either as a result of one’s own actions or the actions of others. (source: dictionary.com)

Now, think about your live. Are there tasks you don’t like? Things that cause you pain, make you feel deprived of joy or even degraded as a person? Things that you choose to do or let others inflict on you.

It doesn’t matter if you’re doing it to pursue a dream or because you feel your commitments to others require you of it. If you use the words “I have to” you’re working yourself too hard and being a masochist.

The question is: do you want to remain one?

I don’t really enjoy pain, deprivation or degradation. You?

In every dream we pursue there will be some things that we don’t like to do, however, I believe that we can cut out many of those painful or dehumanizing tasks.

Often we accept this pain because it’s easier. In many cases it’s the devil we know, it’s familiar or “everyone” expects it.
Saying “no” takes work, creates confrontation and requires creativity. Standing up for ourselves asks that we step away from the crowd and insist on being treated like a person who deserves respect.

And who’s the worst taskmaster in this? Ourselves.

All too often we purposefully choose to do things that we, at best, find distasteful because we think it’s what we have to do to reach our goals. It’s the old story of the end justifies the means.

I challenge you to stop being a masochist and to stop doing those tasks which make you feel less of a person. There are many ways to do so without harming the chances of reaching your goals:

Stop doing it: This simple answer often creates fear in people, but the reality is that most tasks do not involve life or death situations. If you really hate doing something stop doing it. Period.

Find someone else to do it: Everyone has different likes and dislikes. What is torture for you might be nirvana for someone else. This is especially easy in larger offices where many people share multiple duties.

Pay someone else to do it: A variation of the above and the more common option for self-employed people and for things in our personal lives, like cleaning house.

Figure out another way to do it: This is where you need to apply some creativity. If the obvious answer to how to reach a goal includes things you hate doing then find a different way to go. For example, if you hate flying, you’re not going to take a vacation that requires flying. You’ll look for a holiday closer to home which involve driving, taking the train, or staying where you are.

Remember: our reactions to what the world presents us is a choice. The words “I have to” do not exist – they really mean “I choose to.”

And why on earth would you choose to cause yourself pain?

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The choice of too much

  • Someday Lesson: It’s OK to choose to ignore all the ‘right’ advice and do what we want to anyway.

Ever had too many good ideas and you don’t know which to choose? Of course you have. It’s an epidemic.

I’m overloaded with them right now. You see, over the last year or so, I’ve been putting out feelers for writing ideas: fiction, non-fiction, magazines, and of course this blog. Plus I have my English teaching and upcoming mentoring services (in development). And then this month, WHAM! it all came together at once.

  • I got hired to write for an online magazine
  • I got hired to write a small business manual
  • My teaching hours got upped
  • I regained my interest in fiction writing
  • I started the Someday News newsletter and
  • I got hit with just the most fantastic anti-procrastination mentoring idea.

Oh, and somewhere in that all I fit in Raul, friends (real and virtual), fitness, making connections, downtime (because if I don’t take downtime I’m a disaster), and worry for my mother who spent two weeks in the hospital with pneumonia (she’s home again where the cats can take good care of her).

If I were mentoring myself, I’d say that it was time to drop something, but I realized this morning that I have no intention of doing so. The business manual contract wraps up in May, I’ve figured out how to move my fiction forward bit by bit (thanks Brett!) and for the fantastic anti-procrastination mentoring idea, I’m going for outside help to launch it.

My only question is: because I’ve chosen to by hyper-busy, does that mean I don’t have the right to kvetch about it?

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