Reviving your overwhelmed spirit

Have you ever had an overwhelmed spirit? I’m not talking about the times when you feel the pressure of a deadline and you suddenly kick into high-gear. I’m talking about when you feel so daunted by what you need to get done, that it knocks you on your rear. You’re discouraged, depressed and just want to escape—but you know that’s not possible, at least for now. You’re not just whelmed, you’re overwhelmed.

As a self-professed scanner (see my post on the Barbara Sher term), I’m enamored by variety. That’s why management consulting is such a good fit for me. Every day I get to work on a different set of challenges for a variety of clients. As an strategist and visionary I can generate a gazillion ideas; some of which are actually good. Some find their way on to my to-do list. Others are left for a good-ideas-that-can-wait list. (I had some fun recently with this concept by creating a tee-shirt to express it).

I’m usually very good at keeping my to-do lists updated on my task management program. But recently, my activity level has picked up so much that I’ve been writing things I need to do on Post-It notes and other scraps of paper. One night, after gathering these scraps of paper together and looking at all the commitments I had made, I began to feel hopeless. It probably didn’t help that I hadn’t made as much progress on my goals as I had hoped that day. But what started out as enthusiasm in the morning turned to despair by evening. I not only felt overwhelmed by all I needed to do, I felt like it was going to be impossible to do it. Moreover, I felt like a failure. How many times have I reset the due date on those important to-dos?

In the past, I probably would have spilled into bed, hoping I’d feel better in the morning. But since I’ve taken up journaling, I decided to spill my discouragement onto paper instead. As I wrote, I rediscovered that my to-dos are not the problem, but rather my thinking about what I’ve already to-done. So I decided to take an inventory of what I’ve accomplished this year. I hesitantly wrote a few bullets, then a few more. Pretty soon, I filled two pages of accomplishments. I was amazed that the simple act of taking stock of my progress so quickly revived my spirit.

Sure, I still had my to-dos in front of me, but acknowledging the miles I’ve already walked revived my spirit for the road ahead.

How about you? What have you found helpful to revive your overwhelmed spirit?

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4 thoughts on “Reviving your overwhelmed spirit

  1. When I’m feeling overwhelmed by everything that’s on my ever-expanding to-do list, I pause to remember why I love what I get to do everyday. Not HAVE to do. GET to do. Then I put on some inspirational background music, ignore my email inbox, rid my desk of all but one project pile (I put the rest in a “I am coming to this next folder” or delegate them, if possible), and, with that one project in front of me, set to it. I often get through it much faster than anticipated–which is inspiration enough for me to plough on ahead into the next one!

    Another trick that works for me is to think, “What would I do today if I had someone shadowing me?” With the thought of someone observing the impact and value of my work, my focus dramatically improves and my productivity skyrockets as a result.

  2. I wrote on this topic myself this past Monday. I woke up totally unable to focus on one thing. Frustration set it quickly. I worked through it and found calm. What worked for me that day Included writing those scattered thoughts down (in my journal) as well.

    I was allowing myself to be overwhelmed by a volume of good things. Not used to that in the last year or so. Thanks for the confirmation that what one of the things I did that morning, was a good choice.

    I viewed as being, In over my head. Thanks again brother!

    • Hey Dan. Thanks for your comment. I like to think about this as forcing myself to be overwhelmed with good thoughts rather than the discouraging ones that keep me focused on the half empty part of the glass. Something I need to do more often. Glad you found it useful.

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