Overwhelm is a pernicious productivity detractor that affects us all in varying degrees. In my definition, overwhelm is a buildup of stimuli that creates anxiety which, in turn, blocks action or clear decision-making.
For many, it’s too many tasks or projects and feeling of being time deficient to complete those actionable items in the time available. For others, it’s a flood of indecision that comes with which path is the right one.
No matter how overwhelm affects you, there are antidotes for you to address overwhelm with greater flexibility, resilience, and positivity.
If you take on too much work and become overwhelmed, this is always an opportunity to renegotiate those commitments. Talk to your employer or supervisor, friends, and family members to whom you’ve made those commitments and create new plans to create more reasonable, workable solutions. Remarkably, this works most of the time to reduce overwhelm and more gets done, faster for having a candid conversation. Also, take heed of why you took on so much commitment in the first place!
Another key to overwhelm is setting standards too high–for yourself, and for others. You must set a new standard for yourself. Easier said than done, but start small.
I believe that sometimes overwhelm comes from not just over-thinking the larger abstract problem but instead, under-thinking the fundamental components of the problem. Reflect and/or introspect on the sources of your overwhelm, not the topic at hand about which you’re overwhelmed. See the logical fallacies and biases that feed your overwhelm and how progress can be made. I have what I call my “progress imperative”: progress is perfection! It’s rare that action doesn’t beget great clarity and less overwhelm, and it’s even rarer that you cannot correct course.
The antidote to overwhelm is typically thinking less about controlling the situation outside of you, and focusing on shorter horizons (what small actions can you take today and instead of the project outcome three months from now) and soliciting help and support from those around you.
All in all, overwhelm doesn’t have to be overwhelming if you relegate it to its place in your productivity system–the trash.