I’d like to think that I know a thing or two about overwhelm…
When I was a junior in high school, my mom had to leave her shopping cart in the middle of Walmart to take me home – too many people after too long a day and I started crying. I was overwhelmed and we had to leave Right Now.
Last week I started crying before breakfast because the dishwasher was full of clean dishes, the sink full of dirty, and I couldn’t get my tea kettle under the faucet to make a cup of tea. Ben saved the day by filling a mug with water and pouring it into the kettle.
It took me nine months to completely unpack after we moved – and I still have boxes in the spare bedroom that were stuffed (full) into the closet. (And I “packed” in three days before I moved because I couldn’t figure out how to pack and still live/work in the house.)
The first four seasons I spent working in the family tax practice, I’d break down crying at LEAST once a week because there were three phone lines ringing, a waiting room full of clients, and I couldn’t find my stapler.
Here’s the thing about me: I actually rarely procrastinate. Because I’m always busy doing something – and it’s usually some activity that is getting me closer to a goal. But there are just so many moving parts at any one time, I get stuck knowing where to start, what to do next (or what to do first!), and how to keep everything I’m doing moving forward.
This is a classic definition of overwhelm.
All too often I think that we wear “overwhelm” like a badge of honor. Like the person with the biggest To Do list, the most amount of projects in progress, the most chaos in life wins.Are you living an overwhelmed life? 'Overwhelm' is NOT a badge of honor! Click To Tweet
So I get it that the idea of adding “Write A Book” to an already overwhelmed life feels heavy. Like there’s an elephant sitting on your chest. And the desire to write it battles with everything else that life requires and before you know it, you’re overwhelmed, behind, and crying at the sink because you just want a cup of tea and all the steps required to just get water into the kettle are more than you can handle.
And I don’t even have kids yet!
Sweetie, I get it. I know what it’s like to be on the perfectionist scale – the one that says More Is Better (not the one that creates a Pinterest-worthy life!). And I know what it’s like to bite off more than you can chew – regularly – and then wonder if you’re a masochist or just dumb because you’re not learning from your past “mistakes”.
When that negative, viscous cycle starts up in your head and you can’t sleep. When the “Whatifs” have their party – and start partying about things you didn’t even know you were worried about until you suddenly can’t sleep.
I doubt that the process of writing (or not writing) you book is actually what is keeping you up at night. Frankly, in the whole scheme of worries and overwhelm, it’s probably not on your mind.
But it IS on your radar. At some level that unfulfilled desire is nagging you – as much as the dirty dishes, too many people, not enough money, the missed deadline, the forgotten item in the yard…
It ALL contributes to overwhelm. But unlike things you can see (unfolded laundry or a messy desk) or the things you know have immediate and lasting impact (skinny bank accounts) unfulfilled desires are more insidious in how they add to your overwhelm.Sometimes overwhelm are the things you can't easily see - but that irritate your unconscious mind. Click To Tweet
It’s the feeling of failure or guilt as you flip another month on the calendar and realize that you still haven’t finished (or started). It’s wrestling spending a beautiful afternoon outside or at the computer, getting words onto paper. Overwhelm in your life means your writing gets pinched – and you don’t write.
For me it comes back to two things:
1. What can I move off my plate?
Can I ask somebody else to do the task (especially for housework!)? Does it really have to be done? What if I just decided that it wasn’t important now – and that it was no longer permitted to bother me in any way?
2. Remembering how to eat an elephant
I don’t need to sit down and do the WHOLE project (write the whole book) in this moment. When I break it down into plans and sub-plans, I can take one step at a time and start to make progress. And that feeling of progress turns off the feeling of overwhelm.
If you don’t create that plan to make progress on your book then you’re not honoring the gift that it is; the gift of sharing your message with the world.
So let’s eat that elephant!