Feeling overwhelmed at times feels like the new normal. With so many things coming at us, we have to be a master to filter, focus, and find peace. Although feelings of overwhelm may not be as serious as anxiety, stress, or depression, overwhelm does impact us. It compromises our ability to engage, to be effective, and to be decisive. Over time, it can also have a negative impact on our relationships, health, and well being.
Fortunately, there are several actionable strategies we can embrace to avoid the effects of overwhelm at work and in life.
- Learn to Manage Your Bandwidth: I’ve said it before and will say it again: If you want to deal with overwhelm, you first need to learn how to manage your bandwidth. Bandwidth management isn’t just another strategy for mitigating overwhelm. It is the foundation required to engage in other overwhelm-reduction strategies, including preparation. This is because bandwidth management is about controlling, preserving, and managing your energy to focus on what matters most.
- Prioritize Preparation: There is an old proverb that says, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will do.” But without a destination and map, focusing your time, energy, and attention is also difficult. To avoid overwhelm, intentionally prepare. This applies to both one’s work and home life. The more energy we put into preparation, the less likely we are to find ourselves feeling unable to cope, even when our workload spikes or we’re thrown a curve ball on the home front.
- Rethink How You Think: We’ve all heard about high-intensity interval training (HITT). What about high-intensity interval thinking? As discussed in a recent Forbes article, “Strategic planning, number crunching and writing all give our brains a different kind of workout. And, just like muscles at the gym, our mental muscles get fatigued…To perform at our best, we need to learn to engage in a series of mini-mental sprints each day. These are high-intensity periods of deep thinking — what we call purposeful struggle — followed by periods of release, during which we shift our attention.” The benefits of interval thinking are twofold. First, when we engage in interval thinking, we expand our capacity for analytical and creative thinking. Second, we reduce the likelihood of overwhelm by balancing purposeful struggle with periods of rest and recharge.
- “KonMari” Your Home, Office, and Digital Life: Marie Kondo created a cult-like KonMari following (and popular TV show) based on decluttering tips. Try applying similar methods to the workplace and even to your digital life. Her philosophy is deceptively simple—declutter and you’ll create more function and focus. In the process, you’ll also reduce overwhelm by adopting the filters, systems, and habits needed to ensure your life isn’t cluttered with stuff and information that serves no purpose and brings no joy.
- Start Delegating: Overwhelm has many root causes but failure to delegate is nearly always part of the problem. Unfortunately, if you’re already feeling overwhelmed, it can be difficult to get a line of sight on what needs to be done and to effectively delegate. In other words, failure to delegate is both a cause of overwhelm and overwhelm can make it difficult to delegate with impact. The challenge is to break the cycle and start delegating on a regular basis, even and especially when you don’t feel overwhelmed at all.