let's talk about overwhelm (and what to do about it)

I know better. I know that I know better.

it is my job to help people deal with overwhelm and break seemingly huge projects into manageable steps so that their dreams become a reality. I help creatives and small business bosses find focus, simplify the work, and occasionally talk them off a ledge.

today, I find myself on that ledge.

I have 15 tabs open on my browser. actually. there's google drive, google docs, articles I want to check out, email, client work, course work...between the to-dos and the want-to-dos, it's easy for the tab situation to get a little out of hand.

speaking of out of hand, this is my life right now:

we just got back from a (wonderful) long weekend in Portland. as per usual after travel, the house is a disaster. we got home, unloaded the car, had dinner, and when we were ready to put the rugrat to bed...our dog had explosive diarrhea all over the baby's room. I officially understand the clichè "when shit hits the fan." so that was a treat.

everything got cleaned up, but it involved moving a ton of stuff out of the kid's room and into the rest of the house so it could be cleaned. let's get real - we live in Vancouver so our place is NOT big enough to have the contents of my kid's room anywhere other than his room...but you know. dog poop.

so his stuff is all over the place, along with the unpacking that hasn't fully happened. it has half-happened, which means we pulled apart the bags to get at what we've needed, and left it all out. obviously.


suffice to say, my house is absolute chaos right now.

in spite of that, I've been systematically plugging away at client work.

working from home with a teething baby (who thinks going to bed is the sleep torture people talk about...) is hard. between the mess and the lack of sleep and all the work I have to catch up on...days like today have my brain is begging to turn off and curl up in the far corner of my skull with its own bottle of wine. I sit at my computer and staring blankly at the screen even though I have umpteen things to do and 15 tabs open to remind me of that.

what's a boss to do?

I'll tell you what I'm going to do. because without an action plan, this post would probably leave you feeling a little overwhelmed too. and while misery loves company, that's not the point ;)

so here's my plan: 

I'm going to make a list, then close all of the tabs.

that's really why I end up leaving so many tabs open - I don't want to forget that I have to do something or lose track of a site I want to explore. so I make a list. this might seem redundant, but it goes a long way in helping me to get focused.

when I leave too many tabs open, I end up getting so, so, so distracted. when the page I need is hidden among 14 other ones, I spend a lot of mental energy looking for what I need.

scanning my tabs may not seem like a big deal, but internally, my brain is going, "okay I need to look at that template again...so there's facebook, twitter, gmail, gmail again, wait, what's that? oh yeah - an article I want to read *start skimming* wait I was working on this and I'm looking for the template..." 

the things that may not seem like a big deal on the surface can make your brain jump through hoops to process. the easiest way to address overwhelm is to simplify and free up the mental bandwidth.

once my list is made, I'll star the most important things to tackle - both for my client work, and my own. because after you simplify, you have to focus.

then I'm going to get up, get a glass of water, and move my body.

getting up to stretch my legs feels like a reset button, even if it's only for five minutes. getting a glass of water is the perfect excuse to move because while my body tends to run on coffee, I know that water is always a good idea.

walking away from the overwhelm is one of the most effective ways to move past the moment. because that's what it is - a moment. it is not going to last forever. 

I feel like stress gets stuck in my body when I'm in one spot for too long, and the combination of water and movement helps to get my blood pumping and creative juices flowing. for me, movement usually means doing some stretching (five minutes of yoga can be incredible) or having a small dance party.

really, my dance parties are less dancing and more jumping around/pointing in various directions. I am good at many things but dancing is not one of them. even though I look spastic and awkward...putting on music and jumping around gets my heart pumping, limbs moving, and makes the baby laugh. so that's a win-win-win for me.

finally, I'm going to sit down and do the work.

because at the end of the day, that's what needs to happen.

yes - being a mom and running a business is hard. and sometimes life throws shitty explosions at you. and somedays you want to curl up in bed with a bottle of red wine and dream about winning the lottery.

but let's be serious about dreams. there are pipe dreams (aka winning the lottery) and then there are realistic dreams - ones that are totally within my reach because they're based on factors that I'm in control of, like sitting my tired butt down and writing a blog post or finishing a client project.

the work I do today is paving the way for the business I want in the future.

the business I want is one that supports my family and my dream life. the one where Joe and I can both work from home and raise our kids together. doing the work to make that happen is 100% up to me. having a large sum of money fall into my lap is not.

so I do what it takes to make myself do the work. even when I want to quit.

especially when it feels hard. when the stress says "this is too much" and the fear says "it would be safer to stop." I take a deep breath and I do it anyway, because that is what's going to make my vision real.

bottom line - don't let the temporary crap hold you back. sometimes the work is what you get paid for, and sometimes it's doing whatever it takes to get your head back in the game. because as the saying goes, a year from now you'll wish you started today. or something like that.

and remember. I'm rooting for you. 

now let's get to work.