Saturday, June 30, 2012

Overwhelmed!


Maybe You've Been There?


I tend to take on a lot of projects at once. I like having goals, and I love having things to look forward to. So if it's interesting? Odds are, I'm up for it.

A lot of the time, this is awesome! But sometimes it leads to problems. Namely, curling up on the couch in a ball. Knowing that I should be working on my first Top Secret Project, my second Top Secret Project, my entries for Lark's call for submissions, the vigorous housecleaning for Mama Sequin's visit, or the hundreds of other things I do every week, but feeling... paralyzed.

That's what's been happening lately. And you know what? It's gone on long enough. If I don't tackle some of these things, either the deadlines will go by and I'll be left with the consequences, or they'll pile up at my feet like so many dust bunnies. I don't like either of these options.

The Plan
.

In typical Sarah Sequins fashion, I've decided to create a solution to this problem as I go. And if you're like me, and you've taken on more than you can handle, I invite you to work right along with me!

Are you ready? OK!

1.) 'Fess Up!

When you're overwhelmed, just like when you're stuck, one of the best first steps you can take is to admit it. This removes the pressure to rush around with a deranged gleam in your eye, trying to convince the world (and yourself) that you've got things under control. That said...

*Shakes pom poms.*

I feel overwhelmed, yes I do! I feel overwhelmed, how about you?

*Tries to do a cartwheel. Falls.*

2.) List!

Now it's time to put the pom poms down, take out a pen and paper, and start listing all those things hanging over your head. Every single one of them!

Here's a shortened version of mine:

  • Clean house
  • Project 1
  • Project 2
  • Projects 3, 4 and 5
  • Blog post
  • Lark submission
  • Shoulder exercises
  • Knee exercises
  • Check Email
  • Check Facebook
  • Check Twitter
  • Post to Flickr
  • Post to Pinterest
  • Start novel
  • Practice cartwheels
  • Time to myself
  • Make food
  • Wash dishes

When you're done, that list might bring the panic back again. That's OK! Sit there with the panic, acknowledge it, and then console yourself that you're about to make that list shorter. Because now you're going to...

3.) Trim!

Every now and then, my pretty curly hair needs to be trimmed. This keeps it healthy and happy and prevents it from taking over the world. That makes me think... maybe life needs a trim every few months, too.

So now it's time to be honest. There are a lot of things on your list that you just can't avoid, but there are some things you can put on hold or even get rid of. Will the universe implode if I take time away from Facebook and Twitter? Nope. I also don't need to perfect my cartwheel -- the Dallas Cowboys will have to settle for another cheerleader.

And... let's face it. Not every idea needs to be carried out. Good-bye, projects 3, 4, and 5!

Now my list looks like:

  • Clean house
  • Project 1
  • Project 2
  • Blog post
  • Lark submission
  • Shoulder exercises
  • Knee exercises
  • Start novel
  • Time to myself
  • Make food
  • Wash dishes
  • Etsy

Still long, but not as long. And it'll look better once I combine a few things. Exercise is exercise. Time to myself could become writing time. I could also make dish washing time a part of my house cleaning every day.

Once the list is even smaller, it's time to...

4.) Prioritize!

Now that you know what really needs attention, you can cut up those items on your list and start to rearrange them. If it's at the top of the list, it gets the most attention and/or gets tackled first. You can arrange things by difficulty, by importance, by deadline, or any other way you can think of.

I used a combination of all three. Here's what my updated priority list looks like:

  • Etsy
  • Cleaning
  • Food
  • Exercises
  • Novel
  • Project 2
  • Lark
  • Project 1
  • Blog
Poor blog -- it's going to suffer while I get my act together! Unless I...

5.) Delegate!

Maybe you're looking at your list, and you're feeling some frustration. Ugh! Cleaning is getting in the way of creating!

Don't worry. You're going to make more time for creative projects by learning to delegate some of the work. In other words, you're going to ask for help!

Got a spouse? Ask him or her to take over dinner a few nights a week or pick up takeout. Got kids? Teach them a valuable lesson about responsibility by having them set the table, make their lunch, and rinse their dishes. Got friends? Ask them to help you choose your pieces to submit so you don't keep changing your mind and starting new ones!

I'm splitting the housework with Mr. Sequin. He's awesome like that. And if blogging falls by the wayside, I can still post without sacrificing quality by linking to things other talented people have been making and writing. And when my latest necklace is finished, I'm going to ask you, my artist friends, to vote for your two favorite pieces. There's no rule that says I have to do everything alone!

6.) Chop!

You know what needs to be done and what can be crossed off the list. You know what comes first -- what needs the most work, or has the closest deadline, or is most important for your career/personal satisfaction/sanity. Now it's time to start doing things!

But... wait. Isn't this where you were in the beginning? With a bunch of things to do? Even if it's a smaller, more organized list, it's still a list, and paralysis might start to set in again.

If it does, I have a solution for you. It's something that's worked for me time and time again, whether I've been sick, tired, or just too hot/cold to function. I chop up big tasks into itty bitty ones!

I say to myself... OK. What's the very first, smallest step you can take right now? It's an idea I got from Sark. She calls these little steps micromovements.

Sometimes it's as simple as sitting up and sliding off the couch. Or breathing. Or getting out my beading supplies. Whatever it is, I name that thing in my head, and then I do it. And I keep asking myself this question over and over until I don't have to anymore.

7.) Simplify!

Here's something that's even tougher to admit than the fact that I'm overwhelmed. Because my brain likes a challenge and gets bored easily, I tend to make things more complicated than they need to be.

I started making new pieces for the Lark submission even though I have pieces ready to go. If I didn't have so much fun creating, I'd make up my mind to send those in to save lots of time and energy.

I also have very, very high standards for the things I do, and if you're overwhelmed, I bet you do, too. And as they say, perfect is the enemy of good! A house can be clean without being spotless. A blog post can be awesome without a second day of (obsessive) editing. Food can be food without using every pot and pan in the kitchen.

So if you're overwhelmed, I give you permission to lower your standards from perfection to good. It might sounds like slacking, but for a perfectionist, believe me, good is more than good enough!

8.) Tackle!

The way you start tackling that list can vary, depending on the kind of person you are and the kind of mood you're in. Here are a few different ways I tackle work:

The Butterfly

If I find that I'm extra anxious, or that I can't focus, I let myself flutter from task to task, doing a little bit of each one until I need to move on. Sometimes I flutter through the whole list, and sometimes I find something I can stick to, and I end up doing that for several hours.

The Vitamin

I call this method the Vitamin because I'm tackling One A Day! I pick one thing, something at the top of the list, and I focus on just that for the day. I let myself have breaks, of course, but I try to do as much work on that one thing as possible.

This is great for when I need to see results. They're harder to see when I'm fluttering around.

8.) Reward/Recuperate!

At the end of the day, I like to list all the things I accomplished and praise myself. I also reward myself. I take some time to myself, I bead, I give myself an at-home spa treatment, I do some nice stretches, or I watch a show on Hulu (Teen Wolf!!!).

The reward/recovery part is one of the most important parts because it helps prevent burnout -- beady or otherwise.


The Short Version:

'Fess Up!
List!
Trim!
Prioritize!
Delegate!
Chop!
Simplify!
Tackle!
Reward/Recuperate!

It sounds like the world's craziest cheer, but maybe it will work. I'm willing to try it!

Your turn: What do you do when you're overwhelmed?

Thanks so much for reading, for commenting, and for sharing this with other people who might be overwhelmed. And of course, have a sequintastic day! <3

22 comments:

  1. Fun post...sound advice with a bit of humor. Sequintastic Day to You as Well :)
    -Eva Maria

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    1. Thanks, Eva Maria! I'm so glad you liked it! <3

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  2. Love this! And that is some list.

    When I'm overwhelmed, I start by taking a nap. Cuz usually, it's lack of sleep that first alerts me to being overstressed. Then, I give myself an hour or so to read and watch inspirational things - Oprah's super soul sunday's, favorite blogs (yep, this one). Puts things back in perspective. Then, like you, I make lists.

    Trying to learn to break things down into steps. Like: Start book. There's so much more to beginning than putting paper to pen. Little steps I can take to get myself into the story. That's my plan for tomorrow - collage the story so that I can visualize the pieces I have so far.

    Then research. Maybe by doing these things, writing that book will stay at the top of my priority list. :)

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    1. A nap is a great idea! I've found that when I've rested, I can look at my to-do list with a clearer head.

      And I'm so flattered that my blog is inspirational to you! Actually, I do the same thing -- a quick visit to Gala or Srini helps a lot! And reading your blog posts about the way you connect with customers helps me when the business stuff is scary. :)

      Best of luck starting the book! If you're a morning person, you could try getting up early and tackling the book as soon as you wake up. Lots of people have told me it helps them write more freely because the Inner Editor isn't awake yet.

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  3. Pretty impressive way to handle overload, but you forgot one things...add 12 hours to your day. LOL xox

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    1. Thanks, Corrine!

      Adding 12 hours. Very good idea -- we can only hope that someone's working on an app for that! ;)

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  4. Loved your post and your strategies! When I'm overwhelmed, I go with the vitamin method - one thing at a time. I try to be like a horse with blinders -- see nothing else until that task is completed. Love your jewelry! Thanks for your kind comments on my blog too.

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    1. Thanks, Jessica! And welcome! :)

      I like the horse with blinders metaphor! I'll have to keep that in mind because I'm easily distracted.

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  5. Wow, I got overwhelmed just reading YOUR list! LOL, I need a nap now.

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    1. Aww! :)

      As soon as I published this post, I realized that there were a couple big things I forgot to add. I think I need a nap now, too!

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  6. Sounds like once again we are in a very, very similar situation! We seem to be runnin parallel lives! :)

    Best of luck in keeping your list trimmed!

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    1. I'm sorry you're feeling overwhelmed! Hopefully this post helped a little. :)

      Good luck keeping your list trimmed, too! It can be hard not to keep adding and adding things.

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  7. Woah, that all came at just the right moment! Thank you - and yes, I confess, I'm overwhelmed right now. But at least now I now what to do about it!

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    1. I'm so glad I could help, Iz! Congratulations on taking that first step. Let me know how the rest of it works for you! <3

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  8. Another great and thoughtful post, Sarah! I'm definitely going follow your steps. I let things overwhelm me far too often, but this sounds a great way to keep it in control! xo Erin

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    1. Thanks, Erin! I'm happy I could help. Hey, let me know how it works out and if there's anything else I need to add. :)

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  9. Awesome post!! I definitely feel overwhelmed all the time, I have a crazy schedule. What always helps me is having lists and crossing things off as I go. I write out all my to dos in my planner & highlight them as I go, color coding by the day. Once I hit the weekend I can go back & see all the things I accomplished for the week & it definitely helps me relax. Nothing feels better than crossing things off your list :)

    Linda

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    1. Thanks, Linda!

      I really like the planner and the color-coding idea! I had a planner in high school, and it always helped me stay on track -- and you're right, crossing things off the list feels so satisfying! :)

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  10. I just love your logic, this has taught me a lot. Awesome post!

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    1. Thanks, Debbie! <3

      I'm really glad that I could help! And I really, really appreciate the mention on your blog. That made my day. :)

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  11. Sarah- I was just getting ready to spend some time with Gene when I mentioned to my husband that I don't know what to do because I have too many choices. It is exactly what you are describing and I get paralyzed because I can't choose a place to start! Thanks for posting this. Now I know I'm not the only one. I don't know if the list would help me. I usually just jump in with both feet and work till I need a break. Every so many days, I end up taking a day off or take it slower for a day. Sometimes, yes, I even get a little drunk. LOL! Helps me drain my brain. But, honestly, most of what I do, I enjoy and don't think of it as work. It's more like ME time and then I feel a tad bit selfish.

    Tela

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  12. I get overwhelmed all the time but prioritizing and making lists always helps me in the end! :)

    katiesbliss.com

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