4 quick tips to manage your overwhelm

So few hours – so much to do!

Sound familiar? So many people I work with are in a state of total overwhelm – and how can that be when we’re only in the first quarter of the year!? In our 24x7 connected world, with competing demands from work, family, friends, etc etc ETC - how can you cope?

Here are four quick tips to manage the overwhelm you’re facing:

1 – Break it down:

Staring at a three page to-do list, or the blank sheet of paper that needs to change into a client proposal, or the pile of papers and bills (did I pay Nordstrom…?) that need your attention can really start the day off on the wrong foot.

Instead of focusing on the enormity of the work ahead of you, think about how you can break the work into small, manageable tasks. Can you start by getting clear on your objectives with your client? Then move to an outline of what your proposal needs to say? Then schedule one-hour blocks to work each piece of the proposal? Breaking big projects into small, time-bound tasks will get you results faster, and you’ll have the satisfaction of small wins along the way.

2 – Get moving:

Our brains are not wired to sit at a desk and work 8-10-12 hours days. In fact, our brains are wired to take a break and move on a regular basis. Movement and brain stimulation go together. As a species, our brains developed when we walked an average of 12 miles a day! That’s almost a Half-Marathon! Daily! The 10,000-step goal that many people set is under half of that – just about five miles. BUT according to the New York Times, most Americans take closer to ~5000 steps/day: less than three miles. Want to get creative, inspired and clear your brain? Get moving!

3 – Prioritize:

One of my mentors used to urge me to focus only on the work that only I could do. Make sense? The rest: delegate it out. I love this technique – and couple it with the three D’s as I look at my to-do list – or my inbox:

  1. Do it: Right now. Tackle it. Respond. Look it up. The two minutes you need to get this done now will save you time in the long run. Don’t do the “auto-preview and I’ll come back to that later…” trick.

  2. Delegate it: Is this something that ONLY you can do? If not – pass it on. There’s no shame in asking someone to help you out, or enlisting professionals to help with research, data collection, travel planning: whatever! Is it the highest and best use of your time? If the answer is no – let it go.

  3. Delete it: Whaaaaat? Yes: use the delete key with intelligence and discretion. Not everything in front of you deserves your precious time and attention. Be smart about where you spend your time and energy. Hit delete. Take yourself off the mailing list. Recycle.

4 – Now…turn your technology off:

Not mute. Not airplane mode. OFF. I recently heard a nationally-recognized psychologist address the idea of a digital detox. How refreshing! He, of course, suggested that families take at least a day off from technology to reconnect (what a lovely idea). I can tell you from personal experience that turning my phone off and being completely unavailable for even an hour a day – while frightening at first – is extremely liberating. Try it. Just for 30 minutes. You may be amazed.

Finally, give yourself a break. Take time to acknowledge all the good work you do, and the positive impact you have on other people. People love and respect you for you – not for all the tics and checks on your to-do list!


Nova. We build strong leaders. We guide executives to realize their full potential and build the confidence to achieve more. Learn more at our website.

Tina Schweiger