Seven things you MUST do when you’re overwhelmed

1. Get your mindset working for you, rather than against you. 90% of success is getting into the right mindset. Overwhelm is the enemy of productivity, so when you’re stuck, this is the number one place to start. Overwhelm is a state, just like happiness, stress, relaxation, enjoyment, worry. There are many different ‘states’ we experience and many people think they experience these states as a result of what’s going on around them. But not everyone does this. Some people choose their ‘states’ like they choose an outfit for the day. They realise that the way they feel is a choice, regardless of the situation they’re in. They have more control over their emotions and as a consequence, they experience far less stress than other people who feel that they have no choice. With a little practice, you can actually choose which state you want to get into or which emotion you want to feel, depending on the situation at hand. Overwhelm is not serving or supporting you and you have a choice. Ask yourself: “How do I know it’s time to get overwhelmed?” When you have the answer, then that’s the point that you can try on the new emotion. You don’t need to feel stressed.

For example, if you need to concentrate on something, then you would probably choose to get into a relaxed and focussed state, if you needed to do lots of manual tasks, then it might be helpful to choose an energetic ‘get things done’ state. So if you’re stuck in ‘overwhelm’, then just be aware that it’s a state, and you can choose other states. When you’ve decided what state you need to get into, then do whatever it takes to get you into that state. Everyone differs in how they ellicit their states, so you are the expert on what to do next. For example, when I need to get into concentration mode to write, I put on some Mozart but when I have housework to do, it’d be Rihanna or Bowie blasting from my iPod. Music is only one way to elicit your winning mindset, there are many other techniques. Remembering a time when you felt (desired feeling), or looking at images, or moving your body are just a few of many ideas. How do you get into your desired state?

Now the next six steps are easy! All you need to do is think about water, a plane trip, the North American Beaver and a walk in your neighbourhood to tap into your winning mindset.

2. Obstacles mean you’re on track: One sign of overwhelm is seeing too many obstacles in your path. Let’s re-frame this. If you didn’t have goals and big items on your to do list, then there would be no obstacles, would there? So obstacles only appear when you have a clear goal or goals you want to achieve. Since 90% of the population don’t even write their goals down, then you’re already in the top 10% – you’re winning! When you hit an obstacle that’s GREAT! It means you’re on path. Now you have a new name for your obstacles: signs that you’re on the right path.

3. Be Like Water: Remember that the most flexible component of any system always wins. You can easily get stuck when faced with an obstacle by thinking that there’s only one solution. What other ways could you use to get there? Can you go around / over / under / through? Be flexible and adaptive and you’ll win. What are you getting stuck on? How can you adapt and still get what you want?

4. Check your vision: Sometimes you get overwhelmed because you’re not clear on what you’re trying to achieve. You need to be able to SEE your goals clearly. Stop for a minute and picture yourself achieving what you’re trying to do. Can you see it? Do you have specific and measurable and attainable targets? Or do you need to break them down a little? Do you have the resources you need to get there? A vision board will help here – just cut and paste an image of your goal so you are completely in synch with it.

5. Be like the North American Beaver! Beavers are amazing little creatures, known for their industriousness. Even his name has been verbalised: to ‘beaver’ means to work hard in our vernacular. Next to humans, no other animal appears to do more to shape his landscape. Beavers build intricate dams that last for hundreds of years and yet they are really nothing more than clumsy little rodents! Despite the odds, Beavers simply stay focussed and continue ‘beavering’ away until eventually a relatively magnificent architectural creation, the dam, is built. If the beaver worried at the end of each day about the enormity of his end goal, he’d never have the courage to finish. Instead, he stays focussed on each day’s work, rather than what he hasn’t done. Break down your goal into bite sized, beaver like chunks.

6. Consider the flight path of your next trip: If you were on a flight from Melbourne to Hawaii, you’d spend a total of 4% of your time on your actual flight path. Consider wind currents, visibility, storms and other obstacles. Pilots need to be able to navigate the aircraft through all of this and often it’s a straight line might not be the easiest way forward. So if you’re feeling off course, just tell yourself that you’re not seeking perfection but momentum. Don’t get down about getting off track, just stay focussed on the destination and you’ll naturally correct the course.

7. Avoid the multitasking trap: the beaver is able to build the magnificent dam because he stays focussed on one task at a time. People who multi-task are WAY less efficient than those who focus on one project at a time. Every time you switch between one task and another, your productivity decreases by 20-40%. The time it takes your brain to resume the ‘flow’ or level of concentration on the original activity you interrupted is approximately 20 minutes – so every time you switch tasks, you waste at least 20 minutes. Give your brain a break and speed up your day, by focussing on one task at a time.