The 5 Worst Things To Do When You’re Overwhelmed

1. Pick any one minute and relatively unimportant detail of any one minute and relatively unimportant task and focus on it with laser intensity as if your entire business depended on getting it perfect. Spend hours on this tiny, unimportant task, so that by the time you come up for air, you’re still overwhelmed but now have several hours less with which to work.

2. Buy another ebook or ecourse that you convince yourself holds the solution to your problems–overwhelm and everything else. Unless you drop everything else to read (and implement) that book or course immediately–and none of us do that, let’s be honest–it just gets added to your list of Things That Need My Attention And Which Overwhelm Me. Consumer Urge: 1, Productive Steps: 0.

3. Play another round of Bejeweled, Farmville or any other digital game that allows you to click your mouse a lot and thereby simulate the sounds and motions of productivity without the pesky side effect of, you know, actually accomplishing anything.

4. Set up a new to-do application under the guise of solving your overwhelm issue once and for all, and proceed to spend a few hours frittering with it instead of doing anything on your to-do list.

5. Commit to additional projects, tasks or clients without resolving how you’re going to deal with your current overwhelm, nevermind the additional overwhelm from the additional project, task or client. Play ostrich and assume that if you avoid confronting your overwhelm, eventually it will just stop existing.

The 5 Best Things To Do When You’re Overwhelmed

1. Step away from what you’re doing for 10 minutes so your traffic jam of thoughts have a chance to unclog and start moving again, rather than becoming totally gridlocked. Grab a glass of water, stretch, maybe even poke your head outside–use the 10 minutes to do the stuff you know you’re supposed to do during your work day that none of us actually do often enough.

2. Ask yourself: “What is the single most important, valuable or pressing task on my plate, and what is the one single step I can take on it right now?” Then do that one thing. Once that one thing is done, ask yourself the same question, and do another one single step. Do this five times or for 30 minutes, whichever comes first. Then get up and give yourself a 10 minute break. Repeat as needed.

3. Give yourself the right space in which to focus and make progress. If working in a crowded coffee shop with lively music and myriad aromas is adding to your overwhelm, leave. If the silence of an empty room is making you crazy, make friends with Pandora. Don’t let your environment add to your overwhelm.

4. Stop looking at “Done” as your light at the end of the tunnel. “Done” is a myth. “Done” is the tomorrow that never comes. Look at the completion of any one task on your list–no matter how tiny–as your goal. And when you meet that goal, pick another. Who needs one “Done” when you can have a dozen (perhaps small) goal accomplishments instead?

5. Remember overwhelm is temporary. Overwhelm can mimic panic, and make you feel like it’s unending, unbeatable. It’s not. It is temporary, it is situational, and you have the final say in whether your day is defined by it.

★ What are your best and worst things to do when you’re overwhelmed?

Image Credit: Rob Friesel | CC License

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