Box of Crayons Blog


5 Tactics for Managing the Overwhelm

What if next year wasn’t quite as overwhelm-y as this year?

What if you gave up on this fantasy and had more impact but worked less hard?

Heads nodding, I know. But something has to change. It won’t just happen by itself or through your wishful thinking.

Here’s a short list – designed not to overwhelm – that might have something useful in it for you.

1. Declare a Project

Not just any Project. A Great Work Project. Pick the big thing you’re going to put at the heart and soul of your work.  This is the “let me tell you my epic story of courage, commitment and possibly even success” come this time next year, project. Give it time and space by holding time on your calendar. Tell people what you’re up to.

2. Become a Saying-No Ninja

Here are some ways to begin:

Start with the assumption that the answer is No rather than Yes.

Find someone to say No for you.

Say Yes more slowly – ask questions to get to the heart of an issue.

Accept that not everyone’s going to like you, if you’re saying No. Also accept that people won’t dislike as much as you might be thinking they will.

Stop explaining why you’re saying No. Master a phrase such as, “I’m going to have to respectfully decline…”

Remember what you’ve said Yes to – that Great Work Project – so you know exactly why you’re saying No.

3. Stop thinking doing email is work

Studies show most of your email is a complete waste of time. (In 2010 107 trillion emails were sent, and I know you think most of them ended up in your inbox).

Of all the many tips and tricks out there, from having discipline and rigor to declaring email bankruptcy and starting all over again. Here’s the one I like the best:

Stop making email the first thing you do each day.

You know what I’m saying. You get up, and before you even know it your device is in your hand and your scrolling and reviewing.

Give yourself the gift of 10 minutes thinking time each morning.

4. Ask this question

When faced with a challenge, mostly we seem to hare off in pursuit of a solution. It’s extraordinary to me how much we’re wired to Get Things Done and Move Things Along and Wrap Things Up.

And quite often, we’re solving the wrong problem. It’s a symptom, it’s a non-problem, it’s a projection, it’s a distraction.

Here’s the question that might change all of that for you:

What’s the real challenge here (for you/for me/for us)?

 Sitting with that, continuing to ask it until you “bottom out” and find what’s really there… that could make all the difference in the world for how you spend your time.

5. Be allergic to meetings

There’s a place for meetings, sure. But look at your calendar. And tell me, with a straight face, that they need THAT much space. Might any of these strategies work?

Cut the bottom 10%: those meetings where you’re not contributing or learning

Cut the number of people attending by half. They’ll thank you.

Halve the length of the meetings you run. Meetings expand to fill the time they’re given

Find a different way to share information.

Don’t sit down in the same room around the same table. Find a different place. Have the meeting on the move. Shift the environment to shift the experience.

Gird your loins

There’s no “silver bullet” to manage the overwhelm. OK, there is but it involves you quitting your life and retiring to a monastery. And even then, who knows?

Managing the overwhelm happens step by step, brick by brick, Bird by BirdLeo explains that better than most – you need to avoid the overwhelm ab0ut managing the overwhelm.

So read up on creating new habits. (My favourite two resources are here and here.) Pick where to start.

And start.

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