How Do You Tackle Overwhelm?

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No, this is not my desk.  But it is a visual of what the inside of my head feels like today.  A wee bit messy and overwhelmed.  I’m tackling it with a written to do list prioritized with A/B/C and lots of coffee.  And asking for your help…

So, leave me a comment and don’t forget to fill in the URL field so I can credit you for your brilliant strategy!

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  1. Hmm…I’d have to say lists, bubble baths, jazz music, and wine — and NOT necessarily in that order. :-)
    Traci Hayner Vanover recently posted… 10 Ways to Segment and Slice Your ListMy Profile

  2. I feel your pain, Michelle. I have been dealing with a lot of overwhelm recently.

    When I feel like I want to start crying, I get up from my desk, spend 15 minutes doing something non-work related, then come back and take a few moments jotting everything down that needs done. I keep three little notebooks; one each for high, medium and low priority. It keeps me from getting things confused. Things can be crossed off, a new page can be started, etc. without different priority tasks getting jumbled.
    Angie – The Work at Home Wife recently posted… Can I Work From HomeMy Profile

  3. Hi Michelle,

    After some major changes recently I have been feeling a lot of overwhelm (I think mostly created in my mind).

    One thing I decided this week was to limit the amount of time with social networking (which definitely gets away from me). My friend and I discussed the following schedule:

    Wake up at 6:30am – get outside and walk or run or whatever I feel like (I’m not calling it exercise, I’m re-framing it to “ME TIME”)
    7:30 – shower & get dressed
    8 – 9am Have breakfast and spend 60 minutes on social networking, both doing things on my business and catching up on friends/family. 8:59am – log off facebook (actually LOG OFF)
    9-12 – work on my client’s work
    12-1 – rest, lunch, re-charge
    1-5 – work on my client’s work

    Haven’t figured out the rest. I have full time client work, PLUS I’m trying to build my own business. I figure from 8-9 every day is really for that. I want to spend another hour each weekday on my business (either blogging, working on my product, writing my book or whatever) then four hours over the course of the weekend.

    Wow, this is therapeutic! So glad I could share it with someone.

    I think when I was “chained to a desk” I believed being on my own, self employed, accountable to only me would be perfect. What I realize now is that all of that is true, only if I be the boss I need to create structure for managing my day (and thus relieving stress).

  4. The only difference for me between a busy week and overwhelm is how I looked after myself. When I schedule what I call my “feel good” activities first before everything else? Everything flows. When I don’t? It’s not pretty!

    Some of my “feel goods” include:
    * at least one date with a friend per week
    * mani/pedis make me happy ;-)
    * time alone and silent (all ringers, bells and whistles off)
    * one day a week where I don’t have to get up early!
    * at least 1-2 retreats per year

    I suggest exploring what your non-negotiable “feel good” activities are. And have some fun with it, because it’s supposed to feel good!
    Sandi Amorim recently posted… I’ll Sleep When I’m DeadMy Profile

  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Terri Zwierzynski, Michelle Shaeffer and Michelle Shaeffer, Sandi Faviell Amorim. Sandi Faviell Amorim said: RT @SmallBizMuse: What's your secret to getting things done? #BetterUrBlog > Great question! […]

  6. “Grow legs and attack you…” Ha! Been there, done that.

    Prioritizing what’s really important is key. I’ve really gotten myself off track over the past couple of days. Not in the sense that the outside stuff isn’t getting done, but the personal, “sharpening the saw” stuff has fallen by the wayside. And those are the things that are key, no matter what else is on my plate.

    Thanks for the great reminder.
    Lyman Reed recently posted… Personal Development Five For Friday – The Wesa All Gonna Die EditionMy Profile

  7. […] this morning, the perfect storm just blew up. I listened to Michelle Shaffer’s How Do You Tackle Overwhelm? – and it all fell into […]

  8. Hi Michelle,

    When I’m overwhelmed by work, and once I realize it, I get away from my desk and do something utterly physical.

    That often looks like doing the dishes, watering the plants, taking a bio break. Hmmm, I see a theme here: water.

    Water gets me in touch with my deeper emotions…

    I touch them, then ask the CEO question:
    — What’s top priority?
    — What 2-3 things will give me that sense of accomplishment by the end of the day?
    — Lastly, what if anything can I delegate?

    Or, sometimes I just realize I need help and ask for it. I start by asking the universe, then my husband, who also works from home, or a friend.

    Like Stacy Kennedy, I also set a schedule because I’ve realized over the years of working for myself and being a novelist that overwhelm comes often from a lack of clear boundaries and focus.

    Ah, the bane of fiction writers! And our source of creativity… to merge with the universe or not…

    There’s a time and place for everything!

    Thank god I get overwhelmed sometimes so I can see where I need help.

    Thanks Michelle for the question! And for the support at 31 Days Blog Challenge. I look forward to reading your comment generated blog post (so I can copy it!;-) )
    Beth Barany recently posted… 10 Famous Writers Who Didn’t Die From Suicide or AlcoholMy Profile

  9. Michelle, I completely understand where you are coming from because I have been overwhelmed quite a bit lately, myself!!

    I don’t have any solutions that help make the list magically disappear which I sense would be the best solution of all for those of us with way too much to do and way too little time for doing it. Your strategy sounds like the best way to tackle the list, itself.

    What I can help with is the anxiety! Because at the end of the day, we know it won’t all be done and we have to find ways to make peace with that knowledge.

    What helps me make peace is chamomile tea followed by meditation. For the average tea ritual, any tea will do, but for overwhelm, I recommend less coffee and more chamomile tea! Sip it and imagine it gently chansing away the overwhelm, replacing it with calm.

    After you have finished your tea, have a brief sit-down meditation where you either (1) focus on releasing the anxiety or (2) ask for intuitive guidance about how best to handle the list or the overwhelming requirements, in general.

    Sometimes, when I am quite and still, the most amazing ideas come to me that I am sure I would not have thought of if I hadn’t stopped to meditate.

    Best wishes for gently releasing the overwhelm!

    Jeanine Byers Hoag recently posted… Too Many Changes! Can I Just Go Back to BedMy Profile

  10. Michelle –
    I have found that the times I feel most overwhelmed are the times when I have started too many things and not really finished any of them. And yes, it can be a heavy burden.
    Usually, like you, I’ll sit down and write things out on paper, in order to prioritize them. There’s just something magical about having a list, isn’t there?
    I tell people that ‘what gets measured, gets done’ so I would be terribly hypocritical if I didn’t follow that advice. Writing things out gives you a great opportunity to change things in your life from “shoulds” to “musts” like Tony Robbins says.
    I like how Beth mentioned doing something “utterly physical”, too. That’s a great tip. Sometimes a nice walk or jog is enough to invigorate the senses, get the blood flowing, and allow inspiration to take hold. I have often hit the treadmill or jumped in the pool when I felt I was becoming overwhelmed, and the physical relief alone has usually been enough to allow me to refocus.
    I also noticed above that Traci mentioned wine. I am partial to a good beer, but whatever your poison, when you can take a little of the edge off, you can absolutely open your mind and relax your spirit. Now…I would not recommend “over serving” yourself, otherwise your list of priorities gets a little nutty!
    Those are my time-tested tips…
    Great post!
    Keep up the excellent work!
    Mike Shippey recently posted… New PlanMy Profile

  11. Michelle,

    Much like everyone else I often have the panicy “Oh goodness I have to much to do and I don’t know where to start!”

    I try to create a rythem and flow to my day. However I have not quite perfected it yet.

    I start out by checking facebook and my social sites, and my email.

    My day starts with paid client work. I do all the work that I can before I attempt with anything else.

    I then blog, look for clients, network and socialize.

    If I have problems deciding what is the most important thing to do I write lists. I don’t always get my lists done but I attempt to organize and focus.

    I’ve also been looking for tools to assist with listmaking and getting myself organized. Its all an ongoing process and I’m glad that I’m not the only one that feels overwhelmed sometimes.

    1. I agree with everyone :)

      Getting up and walking away from my desk helps, doing something (anything) not involving the computer for about 30 minutes.

      Making a list is good too. even if I never look at it again at least it gets it out of mu head or at the very least it puts it into some form of order. I figure if I wrote it down first it is probably at the “top of mind” so maybe I should do that first. It gives me a place to start without getting too caught up in the analyzing of the list.

      For those of you looking for good “list” things check out Zoho Planner ( It is free. It lets you create as many lists as you want and you can even create sub-lists within your lists. Then you add items to the list. Each one has a little checkbox next to it. When you check the box it moves the item to the bottom in a section called…Completed.

      This works really good for those days when you feel like “I got NOTHING done today”. If you add each thing you do to the list throughout the day, then check them off. Then at the end of the day you can look back and see exactly what you did get done. And you can see what still needs to be done.

      So again with the getting it out of your head.

      It has been a great help to unjumbling my head and my partner’s also.

      Thanks Michelle for the great post. You have obviously struck a hot topic :)
      Cindy recently posted… Marketing Tips- What’s the Purpose Of Your WebsiteMy Profile

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