I find myself feeling overwhelmed way too often.
When I am feeling overwhelmed, I act like a deer in the headlights – I have no idea what to do or where to run.
Instead of acting, I just stop. Sometimes I even find this is a great chance to catch up on Facebook as a matter of avoidance.
Eventually, I realize Facebook is not the solution and I need something more productive to help – so here is what works for me:
STEP 1 – Define the Problem Causing Overwhelm
Before I can fix my feeling, I have to figure out what is causing me to feel overwhelmed. It is usually one of these:
- Too much to do?
- Lack of clarity on what to do?
- Not knowing how to do what I need to do?
- The project at hand seems too big and monstrous
- Pure procrastination
Step 2 – Fix the Overwhelm Problem and Get Productive
Once I know the problem, I go to my overwhelm fix-it list.
Problem #1 – Too Much to Do
Fix: I have to prioritize. I ask myself two questions:
1 – What will my key customers want me to work on now?
2 – What will I wish I had started on sooner when the time comes for it to be done.
Problem #2 – Lack of Clarity on What I am Working Toward
Fix: Write it down.
What am I trying to accomplish overall? What is the big goal?
What is the next obvious step to get that done?
Do it now. Motion creates clarity.
Problem #3 – Not knowing how to do what I need to do
Fix it steps…
1 – Do I need to do it, or should I delegate? If delegate, find the person to hand if off to.
2 – If I need to do it, where can I find out how? Might be who I can call and ask.
3 – Go learn now.
4 – Redo step 1.
5 – Now if it is still on me, do the next simple step. Motion creates momentum and answers a lot of questions.
Problem #4 – The project is too big
Fix: Stop and break it down into steps. I often open up Evernote or my journal and just start thinking of the stupid simple steps. Then I set to do the first one.
Note – Often I have already broken the project down before, but as I get into it things change or I realize I have not broken it down far enough. This quick fix gets me moving.
Problem #5 – Pure procrastination
Fix it by setting my timer for 15 minutes and doing something. Just take action. What does not matter, I just have to get working on the project and get moving. The result is I often find I have done a lot in those few minutes and now have the energy to move forward.
Conclusion of the Overwhelm Trap
I know I am not the only person who suffers from the overwhelm gridlock. It, as well as many other soft skill issues, come up almost daily with clients who are taking part in our engineering management masters program.