How to deal productively with feelings of overwhelm? This is the question I wanted to answer for myself. Last week I have had some problems to hold my focus. I tried to write a blog post, but I decided to not publish it on my website. A good friend told me it was a sad attempt to continue my writing process .There is no point to publish something if you cannot be proud about it and it cannot help anybody. I want to write for you, my audience. I do not want to go into the pity round and project my problems or struggles onto you without providing you with some advice or help.
I was a bit clueless about which new blog post I wanted to write. I decided to make the best out of this lost situation. Something I advise you to do if you feel wandering as well. I decided to write about how I am planning to get more focus, to get more mental direction, and eventually write better content for you. I hope this post can serve for you as a source of inspiration. I will provide you with some strategies that I am going to use this couple of weeks as an experiment. This is not a guide on how to be hundred percent productive and to become a superhuman. This is an honest story about a girl who is searching for some meaning in life and wants to show you the way she is handling it.
“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.” .Viktor E. Frankl
The Three big management dimensions:
I personally think you cannot properly manage your life if you do not focus on the following three dimensions: “Time”, “Work” and “Inner life”. This is of course my own biased opinion. These dimensions will be unique to each and everyone of you.
If you would zoom into these dimensions, you will see that they look like a Venn diagram. They have overlapping areas. For example, if you can properly manage your time, you will get more of your projects done and you will have more emotional freedom. You get that emotional freedom which a lot of us are willing to buy with money. What most of us do not realize, is that the secret is not money. The secret is time. He who can properly manage time will be set free.
I know I am oversimplifying the matter to convey you my story. Time is not divided fairly between us and it would be a delusion to think so. It is the present this wealthy state has given us. Sadly, we have never learned how to properly deal with it. Hours are slipping by without us even noticing it.
If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?John Wooden
Time is precious. It is the only asset you really own but can be ruthlessly taken away from you at any given moment. If you do not manage your own time, then other people will start to manage your time. People think that their 9-5 job really is the problem (of course, sometimes it is). Most often, the real problem is that they waste tremendous amounts of time on their job. They do not let other people respect their time. They do not finish their work early but procrastinate on it until the last moment. Then they come home and complain about how much they wasted their time being at their jobs. It does not have to be that way.
Side note: This makes me think about the Parkinson law. This law states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. This means the more hours you have available, the more hours you will eventually work at a given project. Most of us had to experience this very vividly during the examinations. The amount of content you could learn in only a few hours…
Everything starts with a good planning. The most famous example of planning tools are to-do lists. To-do lists will empty some of that brain space, otherwise filled with mental thoughts about the tasks still to complete. Putting it on the list feels like the first step in completing the task. It feels like a small victory. Another thing I am going to experiment with is by following an if-then scheme during my working hours. Let me show you how this works.
Quick disclaimer: I can easily apply this to my job because sometimes patients do not show up or I am not getting any phone calls when I am on my on-call shift. It works great for me to divide these small moments in little time blocks to do some work. It takes the weight of the decision I otherwise have to make about where I spend my time at. If I do not plan for it, most often, my time would be spent on a social media channels.
If I have (insert number) minutes of time at work, then I will start doing this task on my to-do list. (These tasks are all work or study-related. I keep private and work separated.)
This will be an experiment to me as well. I will let you know how it works out for me. You on the other hand can let me know if this tip has helped you or not.
Planning is all good and well but how do you assure you are getting the most important things done. There is one big secret and that is prioritization. You need to prioritize your time as well as your tasks. Start your day by asking the following question, “What is the most important task that has to be done?” Write this task in capital letters in your to-do list. This task, despite unexpected circumstances, should be completed by the end of the day. It sounds too simple to actually work.
Surprisingly, it really simplifies your work flow and makes you more likely to complete other tasks as well. Procrastination mostly happens because of fear and unpleasant emotions. We do not like reality, so we distract ourselves from it. Simplifying your day in a couple of steps, makes your day more achievable. It makes it almost so easy that you have no fear to start your task.
My explanation of procrastination was oversimplified as well. You should put my explanation in the given context.
Pursuit of perfection is futile. Instead, I prioritize and often realize goals or tasks I’ve been aiming for just aren’t that important.Aisha Tyler
Automation is literally your new best friend. You want to manage your hours so you need to look for ways to save hours. We all drain the thought of doing these monotonous tasks over and over again. Yet that is what we face ourselves doing everyday. I understand that most of us do not have that much choice. The task itself is too complex to automate or we do not have the knowledge and tools to automate.
In reality, you have lots of software that can help you with automation. I will include some of them in a list below:
IFTTT is a web-based services that connects different web application based on conditional statements. This means that if you have a WhatsApp message, it is automatically send to your WhatsApp only friends page in Notion.
Zapier is as well a web based service that integrates web applications they use. You can use it in quite a similar way as IFTTT. The apps they work with are a bit more business focused.
Integromat is also a web based free service to connect apps and automate workflows. There is no coding needed to automate your tasks.
Buffer is a social media managment platform where you can schedule your post to different social media platforms which is ideal to batch some social media content and save yourself some time.
DIY with Python. You can try to code some simple commands yourself. This is only for the real dare-devils. BTW: the book in the given image is free available on internet.
Otherwise, automation goes also about problem solving with the help of electronics and technology. Probably, you know a person or you can find a tool on the Internet to help you solve this problem and automate some processes to avoid human mistakes.
You have planned your task, you have scheduled your most urgent tasks, and automated the repeating boring tasks. Now it is time to properly work. You should rather work concentrated on one task for 15 minutes than working on three tasks at the same time for a full hour. Deep concentration is needed to get excellent results. You will also be amazed about how much faster results will be shown.
If you feel overwhelmed, you should not feel the pressure to create. A great mind consumes mindfully the content that can help him with achieving his goals. and he documents this journey to inspire other people along the way. He also documents to keep these thoughts locked on a piece of paper. This act has the power to eternalize ideas he picked up . The world is full of undiscovered pathways and connections. It is your task to document what you see on this road.
Practically, this means you need to become good in managing your notes. Document quotes and lessons you have learned from a book if you want to have more meaningful conversations. Screenshot the most beautiful movie shots if you want to create your own documentary. If you document with a purpose, then the act of creating will be so much easier to complete.
The power of batching tasks
We all have a problem with keeping our attention at one task. Even though this is probably the most important thing to do if you want to save time. Shifting your attention asks a lot of your brain energy. Each time you shift your attention, your mind has to adapt to the new task. I have already discussed this in the blog post about the social media diet. Batching tasks that demand the same kind of mental energy should be done at the same moment.
If I, for example, want to make some videos, it really pays off to film a couple of videos in one go. At the same time, it is also better to write multiple scripts in one go. This way, you can remain focused on tasks that are quite similar. This makes it easier to remain in the “Zone”.
You should never implement changes mindlessly without implementing a feedback loop. Your body is smart enough to do the same. When there was a heatwave in Belgium, our bodies started to perspire massively. This in an attempt to keep our body temperature around our setpoint temperature. This is the temperature that is most ideal for our body cells to function at. You should do the same when it comes to reviewing newly applied techniques in your life. When you find yourself working even more than ever because of these tips, you could ask yourself if you are implementing them correctly. Nobody really likes a too sweaty, hot, and uncomfortable body anyways.
If we do not control our feelings, our feelings will start to control us. Emotion management is one of the most essential things you can start to practice from this day on. It is one of the pillars they will work at in cognitive behavioral therapy. Simply put, in cognitive behavioral therapy, they will ask you to write down your emotions, consequent thoughts, and actions. By writing them down, you will be able to discover patterns. These patterns can show you how much your life is controlled by your deregulated emotions. To make things really practical, I will provide you with a concrete example.
Event: Somebody is angry at you for a mistake you have made.
Emotion: Feelings of anger, loss of confidence, anxiety etc.
Thoughts: I am not enough. I know I am really not good enough to do this job. I should better find a lower paying job and stop pretending to be more than I really am.
Action: I cry and I escape from these thoughts by drinking alcohol and bingeing on Netflix series.
Now you see how understanding these simple patterns, can make you recognize how certain events lead to certain bad habits or self-destructive behavior. Everything in life is connected with each other. Every decision you make has been preceded by another decision. Do not play the victim and think that you are the only human on this planet incapable of escaping the detrimental effects of certain emotional reactions.
I think that whenever you feel reactive or are being reactive as opposed to proactive, that inherently – consciously or subconsciously – creates a lot of stress. Tim Ferriss
Meditation is just like cognitive behavioral therapy. A tool to become less reactive and be more observant about the impact of your thoughts and feelings on your daily actions. I am not claiming that meditation is the panacea for all your mental health problems. It is a tool, when utilized correctly, that can help you a lot to achieve more inner rest.
There are times of stress but there also times for relaxation. In the current environment, we tend to forget the real power of relaxation. We even stress ourselves about the fact we should have stress. If you do not face stress at your job, that probably means you are not working hard enough. If you always stress but never take time to recover, then you will overexert your body. Burn-out is by no means a new phenomena in this era. It is a symptom of mental exhaustion. The mental exhaustion that is caused by the constant stress we face.
When was the last time you have properly destressed? When was the last time you have properly enjoyed a day off? Everybody knows that relaxation is the time that we are able to achieve the most growth. We learn more efficiently if we sleep well. Our muscles grow faster when we rest enough and eat enough nutrient dense foods. The equation is pretty simple:
Constant stress = destruction. Periodic stress followed by periods of relaxation = growth.
Let this just be a reminder that it is perfectly fine to not be productive. You need to be capable to be responsible of that decision. The decision that today you will charge your batteries and take a day off.
I am going to pull myself through this vicious cycle of self-pity and I am going to change my daily structure. In this article, I have provided you with some of the frameworks I am going to use to properly manage my time, energy, and emotions. I hope I have provided you with enough motivation so you can change something in your situation as well. I truly believe we can achieve more than we think.