Overcoming Overwhelm

DSC00362While use of the word overwhelm as a noun is grammatically incorrect, I am going to use it here to describe the state of being overwhelmed.

Weekend retirement stands in direct opposition to the overwhelm many of us face in a typical work week. While we may not be able to change our work assignments or the unrealistic expectations that are often thrust upon us, we can take specific actions to overcome the overwhelm.

Journalist Brigid Schulte tackled this state head on in her book Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love,and Play When No One Has the Time. Schulte, a writer for The Washington Post, interviewed experts from the fields of time management, neuroscience, and productivity as well as behavioral science, anthropology, and leisure. She mentions in her preface that if readers don’t feel they have the time to read all 354 pages, they can turn to Part 5 of the book and learn how she went from experiencing “time confetti” to “time serenity.” Here are some tips from that section of her book.

One major concept she learned from a Time Triage workshop she attended was that you can’t manage time, you can only manage the activities you choose to do in time. If we wait until we clear our plate, we will never get to the good things we want to do with our lives. So the answer? Decide what is most important to you, then create a system and routines to help you do it. Schedule the most important pieces first, then fit the rest in around what is most important. Realize, too, that you will never get it all done.

Here are some other actions Schulte found useful in her journey from overwhelm to serenity:

  • Clear your desk to give your brain a rest from the visual clutter.
  • Notice if you are obsessing about something. If you are, take 5 minutes and write down everything you’re thinking about. Capturing it on paper gets it out of your head.
  • Work in 90-minute blocks of time, then take a break.
  • Pick several focus areas–for her they were Write this Book, Have Quality Time with Family, and Be Healthy. Everything else goes under The Other 5 Percent, stuff that should not take more than 5 percent of your time.
  • List your daily to-do items on a Post-It note. Everything else goes on a master list.
  • Carry a small notebook or use your iPhone to capture random thoughts and ideas.
  • Avoid decision fatigue by creating rituals around your activities. For example, she lays out her running clothes the night before so the decision is already made that she will run and wear that outfit when she wakes up.
  • Look at email at specific times of the day rather than whenever a new message appears.

Which of these actions could you take this week to reduce the overwhelm in your life?

-G.

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Outsourcing to Maximize Your Time

Outsourcing to Maximize Your Time

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Optimize to Maximize Your Time

Optimize to Maximize Your Time

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Automate to Maximize Your Time

Automate to Maximize Your Time

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Weekends This Coming Year

Weekends This Coming Year

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Maximizing Your Energy

Maximizing Your Energy

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How to Feel Like You Have More Time

How to Feel Like You Have More Time

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Setting Gamers’ Goals

Setting Gamers’ Goals

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Taking on an Alias

Taking on an Alias

So how can taking on a secret identity or alias help you do more or be more? Well, according to to Jane McGonigal, author of SuperBetter, having a secret identity can help you focus on your strengths and achieve more than you think possible. Just as video games involve avatars, those heroic characters we play… Continue Reading

Inviting Friends to Play

Inviting Friends to Play

This week we continue our exploration of the strategies put forth by Jane McGonigal, author of SuperBetter, by discussing allies. Gamers use allies in helping them overcome obstacles and complete quests. In everyday life, we, too, can enlist the aid of friends and family. What’s different about the concept of allies in SuperBetter is that… Continue Reading

Meet Gail

Gail Pentz, author

My work experience spans Fortune 500 companies to nonprofits. As a corporate trainer, I have delivered training throughout the U.S. and in 18 other countries. I designed and wrote hundreds of instructional materials for numerous industries, and worked as a teacher and staff in private schools. I also have experience with small businesses. I was a founding partner and Director of Operations for T.W.I.C.E. Educational Services, Inc., a Sarasota-based continuing education firm serving mental health professionals.

Having worked 60+ hours a week for several decades, I know what it’s like to be on the proverbial hamster wheel, using weekends to catch up on what I didn’t get done and preparing for the week ahead. Like me, you may be ready for at least two days each week that are filled with activities you find satisfying and fulfilling. Less time working (or preparing for work) translates into more time for recreational travel, self-care, and personal development. I firmly believe that as we take better care of ourselves, we are better equipped to share our gifts with the world (and especially the quality of effort we bring to the workplace).

You can begin enjoying a retirement lifestyle this weekend. Let’s get started!

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