Head pain or chest palpitations?
The nagging sensation that you’ll never get it all done?
What does overwhelm look like to you?
And what do you do about it? How do you cope?
In a recent podcast with Tim Ferriss, author, marketer, and speaker Seth Godin talked about how he copes with overwhelm, saying that overwhelm was a “systems problem. Drinking from a firehose is a really bad way to get hydrated. . .So what I chose to do to get out of it is to not let the world erect boundaries for me, but decide to erect my own.”
In other words--ready for some tough love?—overwhelm is a choice.
Don't like overwhelm?
Change your systems.
It may seem as if everything that is required of us in a day is a non-negotiable obligation or responsibility, a "have to." But the truth is, somewhere along the line, we made a decision. A marriage, kids, a mortgage, working on your Master’s Degree? All of these are good things and they have their benefits, but once they are in place, they can make it seem like we are drinking from the firehose. And who needs--wait for it--the pressure?
So what’s the solution?
As Godin suggests later in the podcast, one possible approach is to remove the things you can (he uses the analogy of a zero-based financial budget as an example) and then add back the things that fulfill you, make you happy, or that you feel you need.
But let’s be clear: He’s not saying it’s time to jettison your spouse, leave your children on the hospital doorstep, or to sell your house and live under that giant oak tree in the park.
But here’s what we CAN do. . .
We can keep track of how much time we spend on Facebook. Instagram. Pinterest.
Count how many hours we spend watching Game of Thrones on HBO, Riverdale on the tube, or Miranda Sings on YouTube.
Police ourself as we play those endless games on our phone.
If you’re like me, this is where you go, “but wait! That’s my ENTERTAINMENT. That's the only time I DON'T have to think about all the other stuff."
And I get that.
But isn’t it also possible—work with me here—that those things are simply habits? And in some case, like maybe mine, actual addictions? I had breakfast with a friend today, for example, and about an hour in to our meeting, I told him that not going for my phone since we both showed up at the restaurant was perhaps a recent personal best for me.
And if, even for awhile, you MADE THE CHOICE to reduce or eliminate some or all of those activities, how much time would you open up for yourself so that you could tackle the other "have tos"?
And then when the "have tos" were done, how much time would you free up to give back to yourself as a gift?
And how quickly would the sense of overwhelm abate?
It’s really a very simple process.
Look at your calendar.
Track how you spend your time.
Look for the habits, the mindless activities, the “addictions” (literal or figurative).
Cut some (or all) of them out.
Free up time.
Make the choice to spend your finite time on this planet on something that makes you profoundly happy, rather than sharing another political meme or cat video on social media.
Your time is yours. No one else can decide for you.
As Seth Godin told Tim Ferriss, “It’s up to us. How we make these choices informs our days.”
And if I know you, and I think I do, you can make choices that better honor who you are and what you want* TZT
*Like most of my blog posts, I’m mostly talking to myself here. If it resonates with you as well, then all the better.