Skip to content

When Overwhelm Arrives

David Sherry
2 min read

There’s a cloud above your head, and it’s a swirling mix of all of the things that you need to do, like conversations with yourself or others, and it’s repeating itself in such a way that’s leaving you paralyzed.

Sometimes, you have such a concrete list of items to do; you fly through them, checking one after another off a list. It almost feels like driving, so as you hit the gas pedal, you start to turn the wheel, taking the long drawn out turn across the day, focused until you finish with a feeling of pleasure at what it felt like to cruise in that way.

Other days, the list of items feels so large that you can’t even get yourself out on the road.

Or each time you press a pedal, nothing happens.

The truth is that there is never a large swirling cloud above your head.

The reality is that it only feels that way.

Aside from dire times in our lives in which we are completely underprepared and over-exerted (and, probably even then), it’s a matter of understanding, with clarity, what is a priority and what isn’t a priority.

What is really in that cloud we’ve created instead of just seeing a big cloud.

This means that the only difference between enjoyably and swiftly moving through your tasks of the day and failing to even move at all is how organized it is in your head.

This cloud is unorganized, non-prioritized, un-simplified.

This is why it feels overwhelming.

When you feel productive, your actions come one after another, in a simple one at a time order, like laying railroad tracks as you’re picking up steam.

With the cloud, you haven’t made decisions about what is important. And so, you’ve allowed it to grow into something it’s not; a huge wall of work and effort building up in your mind when in reality, if you were to put it on paper…

You’d see it was less scary than you thought.

A few years into my business, I listed out every single task and function of every department.

Every recurring process, every item that needed to be done, and I assigned, honestly, how long I felt each item should take.

An entire department, which was taking over a month of full-time work, turned out to be….

Roughly 7 hours work, TOTAL. Fifteen, to be generous.

In my mind, this activity was a vast opaque cloud.

When I wiped away the smoke, I saw it for what it was, and it felt much more manageable.

So what are we to do?

Each time we’re overwhelmed with work, each time it arrives…

It’s because we’ve let things become disorganized and undecided.

And each time we organize, prioritize, and simplify…

We feel good again and ready to drive.

P.S. For those curious about this practically…(any version of this works, but here’s mine):

Begin by listing out everything that’s in your head. Simplify each item, remove as much complexity as possible.
See clearly what is there.
Note which one that you want to do, what sounds interesting or enjoyable, as well as what truly needs to be done.
(Sometimes when you sit with things, the most productive thing that can happen is seeing you don’t have to do that task.)

Set a quick order for how you'd like to do them, maybe just 3 of them.
Work towards the result you're after.

Avoid fulfilling a time requirement or work that isn’t tied to that result.

If there are decisions that need to be made, and you’re undecided, list out 3 possible options or ideas for what you could do.

Making Good Decisions