I came back from holidays this week. Every year I struggle a little with going back into work mode after 2 weeks of complete relaxation. This is compounded by the fact that we go on holidays, we visit my parents in the South of France. It’s warm and sunny there, and my mum does all the cooking and housekeeping. So during our 2 weeks all I do is read books, swim, and hang out with my family. Heaven!
So when I come back, not only do I face the many tasks that running a small solopreneur business entails (and all the stuff that has accumulated whilst I was away), but I also feel the full weight of being back in my role as the CEO of my family bear on my shoulders too. It feels heavy. In the past, I have often felt very grumpy for a few days.
However, within a day or two I sensed the overwhelm creep in. I felt procrastination at even the idea of writing all the things I have planned to do. The works things and the family things. I held it all in my head and it felt like there were so many tasks I didn’t know where to start. This time though, I was able to recognize the signs and put an action plan in place to overcome it.
This is partly because I embarked on a journey to reduce overwhelm about three years ago (read about that here) , and because earlier this year I started working with joyful productivity coach George Kao.
The biggest two learning points in my de-overwhelming journey and process are as follow:
- Put the self care in the diary first
- Decrease the size of the mountain
1) Put the self care in the diary first.
I know this is going to sound counterproductive, but it really work. If you, like I used to do, wait until you’ve done all the stuff in your to-do list before you allow yourself to relax and take the time to do the things that make you feel good (in my case, swimming, drumming, and dancing) then you will never find the time to do these things and are likely to remain stuck in the overwhelm cycle. You cannot create spaciousness from a place of scarcity. If you feel you never have enough time, the way to create more time is to experience what it feels like when you feel spacious and relaxed.
I’ve also started reflecting in a journal every time I feel stressed or overwhelmed. I write for 5 min, simply starting with “what does my soul wants to tell me today”. Usually it tells me the above, that when I feel there is too much on my plate I actually need to slow down not flog myself harder to work faster. Funny that hey?
When you feel stuck or stressed or overwhelmed, rather than trying to push through the stuckness, which usually doesn’t work, you can choose to do something that involves a bit of movement, and that makes you feel good instead. For me this means a walk in the woods, a swim in the river (I usually think “fuck it I’m going for a swim!”) or a short 5rhythms dancing session. This ALWAYS results in the stuck energy moving through and being able to start working again from a refreshed place.
Building up your sense of achievement rather than focusing on what you aren’t doing is also important. Another practice that I’ve found transformative is to use a “ta-da!” list. At the end of each week I write everything I’ve done that week work and family wise. I’m always surprised by how much I have accomplished, even when I’ve felt that this wasn’t a very productive week.
I have had such an incredible journey doing this that I plan to create a course to help others do the same. I am offering one to one mentoring sessions to start with so I can get feedback and experience. Do get in touch if this is something you would be interested in.
2) Decrease the size of the mountain.
Since I started working with George Kao I’ve learnt the importance of capturing the process whenever I start anything new. This is for three reasons:
- It helps understand the large numbers of steps and time involved in creating something (see Ta-da list above)
- It saves time for the future, as you already have all the steps and tasks captured if you want to do it again (for example, creating an online course)
- But most importantly, it decreases the size of the mountain. It helps to break down the impossible ascent into tiny, do-able steps. It creates a path where there was none before.
Imagine that you are facing climbing an enormous mountain. Or that you have to carve a track in a deep jungle with a machete. All the tasks, the thoughts about the tasks, they all get jumbled in your head and all you can feel is this enormity. You feel exhausted and you don’t know where to start or even want to start. It feels heavy, overwhelming and scary. Running away feels easier. Or pretending it’s not there. Yet you feel the weight of the “unclimbed mountain” on your shoulders all the time. Sounds familiar?
This is because you cannot see your way through. You just see the top, or the impossibly far destination. And this keeps you stuck in your position.
If you decrease the size of the mountain, as in capture the tasks at hand in small dividable steps, and then decide to maybe only do one, as soon as you start to move, it creates a path, and the overwhelm gets resolved almost instantly. The energy starts to move, and you realize that the anxiety about doing the tasks was much bigger than the task itself. In fact, very often as soon as you start taking steps towards doing the task, the anxiety dissolves and you realized that you made a much bigger deal about it than it was.
Often, I’ve found that when I procrastinate, if I start writing a list of what needs to be done rather than doing the actual task, it feels more doable to write that list than to do the task. And then when I’m ready to tackle the task, the list I’ve written creates a simple path I just need to follow, so I no longer procrastinate about it.
Does this resonate with you? If so I’d love to hear about it.