Feeling Overwhelmed? Working Harder Is Not A Solution
March 3, 2021
In mentoring conversations I have, many friends often share with me their feelings of overwhelm.
” I am running meeting to meeting, call to call. There are so many things to do, and I am worried that if something slips, I’ll be in trouble.”
” My calendar is full every day, and I don’t feel like I am in control. I wait for the weekend to come so that I can take the much-needed break and relax.”
On one dimension, I tell my friends, it is always better to be busy and overwhelmed than being jobless and ignored. Being busy means people around you value what you do, and it is good in a warped way.
That said, why do we feel overwhelmed and stressed?
It is not the actual work that is the root cause of the problem. It is the confusion that stems from not knowing what is important and what is not. Because you don’t have a mental sense of the relative importance of different activities you do in a day, everything looks like it needs equal focus and attention.
Your inability to prioritize your tasks every day is the root cause of all feelings of overwhelm.
Here is a simple hack I have learned through the years to feel in control of your days without feeling overwhelmed.
Define The Most Important Task For The Day
In the morning, every day, go through your to-do list or task list and isolate that single most important task for the day. If you can pencil out the most critical task for the day, you will immediately realize that all the other tasks or activities suddenly feel less urgent and important. I have written about the ABCDE Principle earlier, which you can refer to isolate your most important priority.
That Most Important task for the day becomes the force multiplier that renders every other task less critical and more comfortable to deal with.
The other tasks- they may be begging your focus and attention, but you don’t need to feel stressed, even if you slip up on some of them. At the risk of sounding irreverent, I would argue, it’s absolutely ok to slip up on those tasks.
The answer to feeling overwhelmed is not in spinning more plates or doing more. It is in defining the most critical priority or priorities and focussing your energies on those without letting the other minor stuff overwhelm you.
If you feel like you don’t have time, the truth is you don’t have priorities.
Think harder on your priorities. Don’t work harder. It is rarely the solution to feeling in control !!