How Not to Get Overwhelmed

by Guest Contributor on July 8, 2011

Stop the world and let me off

There are times I just want to quit, drop everything off and run away from all my commitments. This happens whenever I’m trying to find the right balance to do the tasks at hand while holding on to my sanity.

And yet, at the end of the day, I choose to fulfill my commitments. I continue to write blog posts, interview people, pay my bills and do what needs to be done as an entrepreneur, friend, daughter. This isn’t because I have a superhuman ability. This is borne of my acceptance that doing these tasks every day will help fulfill my life’s goals and dreams.

It is important for me to build my business.

It is important to me to have a good relationship with my friends and family.

Recognizing my priorities spurred me to learn to deal with the feeling of being overwhelmed. Here’s what I do on days I can barely breathe, as if my work load is literally crushing me.

1. Do the MIT every day

I always have one Most Important Thing (MIT) to do every day. I write my MIT down in my planner, and devote most of my time and energy to accomplish it. In fact, I even deliberately not finish my other tasks for the day if they deter me from completing my MIT.

Having an MIT is a way for me to break huge projects into smaller tasks. For example, if I have to finish and submit A 2,000-word in-depth report on organic agriculture in Southeast Asia in a week’s time, I break the project down via several MITs. My MIT for Monday can be, “transcribe my hour-long interview with an organic farmer.” If I can’t, for some reason, finish that MIT in one day, I’ll do it the next day.

2. Write down everything

Writing to me is not just a means to a livelihood but a form of therapy. I can’t do anything if I’m in worrywart mode. To clear my head, I take my journal and write down whatever it is that’s bothering me.

Pouring everything out in paper clears my mind, relieves me of my anxiety and helps me focus on what I think is important and ignore everything else.

3. Ask for help

I can’t do everything. There are only 24 hours in a day. Yet there are tasks that needs to be accomplish ASAP.

My solution is to hire someone else to do the grunt work, so I can focus on the more important stuff and still have the time to rest.

Despite my limited budget, I decided to get a part-time virtual assistant to do Internet research, upload my blog posts and transcribe my interviews. With someone doing the research, I can focus on writing. And while I love to cook, I have decided to ask the househelp to prepare my meals which I can brown bag to the office. The time that I save – which I use to either nap, travel or go to the movies with some friends – is worth more than the payment I made for outsourcing.

4. Eat broccoli, go to the gym

I tend to eat too much whenever I’m stressed. I eat popcorn, ice cream, pastries and a lot of fast food meals because I’m trying to keep myself up while writing dozens of reports in one day. I also had this excuse that I can’t go to the gym because I was busy.

Well, I didn’t only gained weight and got sick, but was also cranky, tense and tired all the time. It was my poor health that pushed me to read more about holistic health. I discovered yoga, put more greens in my diet and cut down on fried and sweet foods. I drink about two to three cups of coffee a day, but I only drink freshly-brewed black, no cream or sugar. If I work at home, I even grind the beans. I also got a gym membership and I’m quite amazed that after a long day in the office, a thirty-minute session in the treadmill will actually relax me.

The main takeaway for me is this: the more stressed you are, the busier you are, the more that you need to take care of your body as you need the energy and the sense of clarity to keep you doing your many tasks.

5. Meditate

Every day, for about five to 10 minutes, I sit down, breathe deeply and offer all my dreams, tasks and problems to the Goddess Isis. I have felt a deep connection with the Goddess and whenever I feel I can’t take it anymore, I let it go and ask her to help me.

I recognize that there’s a power higher than me and the only thing that I can do is to do everything which is within my control. There are some things, however, that I can’t control, and I need to let them go.

The reality

Certainly, there are tines that I can’t do my MITs, or I’m too tired to even take a cab to go the gym. There’s no perfect solution to being overwhelmed, nor is there such a thing as a perfect day. But it doesn’t matter; we are not here to seek perfection.

We are here to recognize what’s important to us and do whatever we can to serve our priorities in life.

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Image: Mait Jüriado via Flickr, Creative Commons

Prime Sarmiento is a journalist and freelance blogger who writes on productivity for Ahead Interactive (AI), a provider of live, real-time, video-powered online tutorials. AI is the international arm of Ahead Learning Systems, one of Asia’s leading chains of tutorial and review centers.

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