3 Ways to Fight Overwhelm. Clue: Giving Up is not an Option.

You’re working on paring down the clothes in your overstuffed closet. You’ve emptied it out, and you’ve sorted your things into piles that are now strewn all over your bedroom. You’ve got a healthy giveaway pile and thrown out more than a few things. But there’s still way too much to fit back in the closet without jamming things in again. Then it hits you about halfway through… This is way too much stuff to manage.

Or you’re packing up your house, working on the attic. You’ve scheduled Friday to complete this packing. But you’ve underestimated how much junk there was in the attic, and it’s looking like it’ll take the entire weekend. You’re exhausted and anxious, making it impossible to process how you’ll get it all done.

It makes you wonder why you can’t do what other people seem to be able to do so easily. I’m here to remind you that what you see in others isn’t always as it appears.

I’ve found that almost every time I’m working on a tough project with a client, there’s a place where overwhelm takes over.

They’ve already taken the toughest step: recognizing that something needed to change. They scheduled the time and took action. We will have emptied the space and sorted like items together. And then it hits… They look back at the empty space and compare to the amount of stuff they have to put back into it. This will never fit. Why did I ever start this? What was I thinking?

It will help to expect this moment of being overwhelmed so that you’ll recognize it when it happens. Here's a battle plan so you’ll know what to do when it hits:

  • Remind yourself of the desired end result. Visualize what your space will look like when you’re done, and how much easier it will be to live and work there.

  • If you can’t decide on what to do with an item, set it aside until the end. After more of the project is done, it’s usually easier to make the tough decisions.

  • Move forward on a small piece of the project for another 15 minutes. Then pick another small piece and go again for another 15 minutes. Lather, rinse and repeat.

You may be working on a project that takes more than a day to complete. Running out of time or energy for a day is to be expected. But be cautious of stopping when the reason is due to being overwhelmed. Overwhelm can lead to procrastination and the possibility of not completing the job.

Instead, try the routine outlined here and push through. In my experience, the momentum returns once you’re past it, and completing the job you set out to do is always worth it!