Posts Tagged ‘overwhelm’

Clear Your Plate:Knowing When to Say “When!” in Life and Work

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

It is the close of the school year and all the usual chaos and craziness that ensues for those of us with children– dance recitals end of season sports tournaments, endless school parties and graduations galore.  Those of you without kids are not spared. You get invited to all of the above mentioned craziness, plus the pressures of May deadlines before the summer ghost town phenomenon of vacations, retreats, and sabbaticals begin. In the midst of all this are the ongoing issues and concerns that have remained for the last few days, weeks or months and they are piling up.  At some point you realize that you took on too much, or that you should have thought before you agreed to take on that extra piece of work from the boss or client.  In any case, it has all become too much and now you need an out!

Does any of this sound familiar? We all experience this overwhelm at some point in our lives and most of the time we can muddle our way through successfully.  Every once in a while though, the water appears to be rising over our heads more quickly than we realized. It is at that point that we have to learn to stop, breathe and clear our thoughts so that we don’t make poor decisions in the midst of a stressful situation.

Step Away from the Situation. While it may be common to advise someone to “push on through”, this actually could be counterproductive during moments of overwhelm. Even if there is a deadline looming, it is always helpful to clear your head if only for a minute.  This can be done quickly and effectively by stepping away from the problem/situation, taking a quick walk outside, calling a friend or colleague to vent, or simply closing your eyes and turning on some music for five minutes. If more time is warranted or available, engaging in your favorite hobby or watching a movie may be just the distraction that you need.

Allow Yourself to be Distracted. It is during this time of “distraction” that we give our brains a break and the opportunity to re-boot, to deal with the issues we are facing.  My personal favorites are chocolate and a good non-business magazine.  The more pretty pictures, the better! And now that I can reflect with a little more calm and perspective, I can be honest that it is time to “clear my plate” because there are too many items on it and trying to do so is causing more stress than enjoyment or pleasure.

Time for Reflection. I am generally not good at leaving a project unfinished, personally or professionally, and thus find it difficult to even advise anyone to do so.  However, if your health and/or safety are at stake, then all bets are off and you simply need to do whatever is necessary.  “Clearing your plate” can take on many forms– from delegating to complete deletion, it is basically giving yourself permission to let go of those 20% items that are taking up 80% of your time and causing you that tickle of anxiety every time you think about it.  It is amazing how freeing it is to look up one day and realize that you are not clenching your teeth, dreading the phone ringing or the sound of a “ping!” from your email.  But instead you can actually– breathe.

Follow Through. Recognizing when we need to step away from the madness– and then actually doing it– is an important step not only in self-preservation, but to making you a better spouse, parent, manager, friend. And once it’s done, we realize it was not as scary or as hard as we first thought it would be to do.

So, what items do you need to clear off of your plate today? Mid-year is a good time to ask this question so that you can be prepared for what the remainder of 2014 has to offer!