Seven Survival Skills for Managing Overload
Do you have a love/hate relationship with Zoom? Is someone making another irresistible offer of free learning online? Are you wondering what happened to your schedule? Dare I mention the weight gain or stiff joints after hours in front of one screen or another?
I am experiencing plenty of overload, partly due to my innate curiosity and partly due to my desire to maintain relationships. This is amplified by more time at home and fewer getaways. I can only imagine folding in children’s lessons, or co-working with a spouse in a small space, or managing a department full of people who are spread across the world. My respect to those who are doing any or all of these at once!
As a small business owner, coach, and course designer, I am overloaded every day. I am developing new and improved survival skills so that I can enjoy the richness without hitting the wall.
Here are some of the ways I’m managing it so that I feel productive, meet obligations, and still live a reasonable human life amidst the disruptions. Perhaps one or more will help you too.
1. I work on attitude. I notice when I’m responding to the offers with stress or even annoyance, step back and breathe, shift to gratitude that we have so much to choose from. Remind myself that there is no possible way to take it all in.
2. I rely on habits. I can only do so many things “first thing” in the morning, and I do them every single day. I stick to several regular habits to make sure I remember to eat, stretch, and check-in with myself. I have a daily writing practice, and I do not skip days. This helps me keep a sense of meaning.
3. I limit time-bound commitments. This one is still a challenge because I am engaged with several networks and folks that I check in with. I am experimenting with categories of screen time, i.e. social time, coursework, work with my team, admin, so that I rotate through them over the week, or biweekly, or once a month.
4. I prioritize based on goals. I am designing online courses, so I get double mileage whenever I attend a course, getting to experience the format and method while learning the subject matter. My family members and close friends are high priorities no matter what I’m doing.
5. I sort out types of activities to help myself say no to some. If they are in the same category as I am already doing on a given day, I will skip them. So even though I love the people who are giving the second wonderful course, if I already have one class today, I am not going to attend the other. One meditation, or one online course meeting, or one network gathering, is enough for a day.
6. And, especially important, I am learning tricks for scheduling. One is to avoid scheduling back to back meetings. Just because I am in one location rather than walking or driving to meet with someone, I act as if I had to take that walk or drive. Pauses like that leave room for thinking, for new ideas to surface, for emotional reactions to be processed. And they leave room for body breaks, staying hydrated, going outside. If breaks aren’t built in, then I leave fifteen minutes early or I won’t be ready for the next meeting. This takes discipline, often hard for me to find, but worth it. The extra time of connecting with myself makes me better at connecting with others when I get online. Without that, the strain comes through as disinterest, fatigue, even irritation.
7. Unstructured time. I find this is a need, maybe because I am growing more introverted than I used to be. I cannot have a goal all the time. There’s just too much to do! And many wonderful things get into my life laterally in my unstructured time. Goals get accomplished, just not through pressure. Corners get tidied. My brain relaxes.
These coping behaviors are helping keep me sane. If I forget them, the overwhelm can be paralyzing. I don’t know whether you share any of the same dilemmas. Perhaps you have suggestions to add, how you are coping. Please share in the comments or drop me a note! Thanks for reading, amidst all that I know is going on in your life as well.