Feeling Overwhelmed? There are Solutions!

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Almost everyone I know, at some point comments how overwhelmed he/she is given the 24/7 nature of our commitments to our businesses, families, communities, etc. Brigid Schulte, decided to do something about it: as a writer, she interviewed people to gain their insights and shared the lessons in Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No-one Has The Time.


Obviously, all of us have the same 168 hours per week in which to do things. We’re overwhelmed because we consider too many things important and put them all on our plates, and expect to get them all done. So they experts, tell us to prioritize what’s important, so we reduce the number of items we’re stressing ourselves about, create “chunks” of time in which we focus on one activity (with times ranging from 25 minutes to 90), and not allow other things (like emails, phone calls, etc.) interfere when we need to concentrate. Indeed, I teach my clients and students principles like this, and can attest that they really make a difference. (Indeed, I did a special lecture on this for students when I taught this summer in China which was incredibly well received.) One key lesson is to recognize any “ambivalence” we may have about an activity – because it robs us of the energy needed to accomplish it efficiently


We also need to recognize our own personality styles and biologies. Ellen Ernst Kossek, an organizational psychologist, notes that some people are “integrators” of work and home activities, able to combine work on them in time units, while others are “separators” who keep their work and personal lives separated. The degree to which people do it varies; Brigid finds she is an uber-integrator or a “fusion-lover”. When I teach people to plan their days’ and weeks’ activities, I focus people on their bio-rhythms: some people get are more creative in the morning and go through a “refractory” period (sluggishness) in the early afternoon. For them, creative writing would be an appropriate morning activity and the afternoon can be used for other activities, including energetic conversations which will keep them awake!

One interesting perspective is the concept of Time Horizons. We may all have the same 24 hours in today – but how many days, months and years we think we have ahead of us affects how we prioritize things in our lives. The shorter the horizon, the greater the importance in determining what’s really important. As time horizons grow shorter, we start to see the world differently; the little time to smell the roses or write your book becomes more precious. It’s like the instant coffee theory of life; when we start we take heaping teaspoons; as we get to the bottom the teaspoons have less coffee on it; similarly, we learn to savor the quality of our experience of time.


A few key lessons:

  • Time is power; don’t giver yours away.
  • Banish busyness
  • Do good work and have quality time in your relationships
  • Ambiguity is the enemy – in the workplace and home – and it fuels the overwhelm. Define your mission, set clear parameters and performance measures to lay out how much is enough.
  • Shorten your time horizon – to make sure you do what’s really important
  • Live an authentic life.


What lessons of time and life management have made your life richer? Share them!