Dealing with “overwhelm”

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While my alarm is set for 5 a.m. each morning, I often wake by 4 a.m. Those are the trickiest mornings. As I lie there, trying to get back to sleep, I can make all kinds of side deals with myself.

I’ll think, “I’ve been lying here 15 minutes, and now I’ve only got 45 minutes until it’s time to get up. Forty-five minutes isn’t worth falling asleep for; I’ll move my alarm to 5:15 a.m. to give myself a full hour.”

Then when 5:15 a.m. comes, I’ll rationalize that because I had trouble sleeping, I may as well get up at 6 a.m. to make sure I’m not too sleepy later in the day. Then when 6 a.m. comes, I’ll talk myself into some other reason to stay in bed. That morning self-talk is a tricky thing.

I have found it’s especially tricky when I allow myself to get bogged down in and overwhelmed with too many different projects. I operate several businesses simultaneously. Each one has ongoing responsibilities. While each has a team of people dedicated to moving it forward, it’s my responsibility to be the innovator, the one in charge of new idea development. Plus, I have up to three private clients. Each of those clients has deadlines and goals where projects have to be completed. It’s easy for me to feel overwhelmed with all the deadlines and commitments.

My most natural way of dealing with overwhelm is to stay in bed. To avoid it. To stay away from my desk so I can steer clear of that feeling of pressure and even inadequacy for not getting all the work done, for not being able to keep up.

I believe this is the reason for the so-called “shiny object syndrome.” You know it as the decision most info-marketers make to switch from one thing to another, constantly changing direction before anything gets done.

Most gurus think it’s because they’ve seen something else that’s gotten them excited, so they run toward the next new thing. I believe the syndrome is caused because people start to feel frustrated and self-conscious when they haven’t gotten a project completed as quickly as they had hoped. It’s easier to blame the project and call it a bad idea. They run to the next new thing that’ll make them excited rather than frustrated. People avoid pain. If a project gives them pain because it’s incomplete or taking longer than they had hoped, then they want to run away from it. It’s a classic avoidance mechanism.

I understand. A lot of projects take me longer than I expect. In fact, most do.

In the last week, I’ve had five people make comments to me about how impressed they are with the quantity of work I get done. Two were clients, two were vendors and the other was an employee. It’s funny. All I see are the deadlines I miss, not what I accomplish. It doesn’t seem to me that much is getting done because I see the long list of goals and projects I want to complete. And for me, it’s often overwhelming.

This morning I woke up at 4:15 a.m. and was out of bed and at my desk by 4:30. (And by desk I mean the big leather chair in front of my desk, where I sit with a blanket, prop up my feet and work on my laptop.)

Do you want to know what makes the big difference between jumping out of bed and running to face my day versus avoiding it? It’s really two things, the “why” and a primary goal for making the “why” come true.

Right now I’m working on a completely new marketing funnel for one of my businesses. It’s a new marketing process in a media I’ve done before but never with this much diligence. And you know what? It’s challenging for me.

For the last two months, although I set aside time for it, I have allowed myself to avoid the work. Either by sleeping in or by letting other priorities to slip ahead, I haven’t spent the necessary time to get it done.

Last week I broke the cycle and spent about 16 hours on the project. But I need to invest about 40 more to get it completed.

It’s hard work. It requires concentration and thinking and it’s outside my comfort zone, so popping into my head every couple of hours is that little birdie asking, “Is this really going to work, or will this all be wasted time?”

The last few weeks have been easier to get out of bed and focus. The reason is, for the first time I outlined why I’m building this project. My daughter is making straight A’s as and is a senior in high school, and big-time college tuition is right around the corner. Plus, I want to prove to myself and the world that I really can succeed with one of these ambitious projects. I wrote down these “whys” for myself to see, along with a bunch of others. Now I review them several times a day. I keep them in front of me—along with the outline of the one way all these “whys” will happen—the completion of this ambitious project.

Now I have reasons to get excited. Things that make me want to get to work early. Today, when I woke up at 4:15 a.m., I said, perfect, this gives me more time to work today. My “whys” are keeping me motivated toward my goal so the frustrations and the little negative voices don’t slow me down.

Along with my newfound motivation, I have clarity because I’ve chosen a vehicle that’s capable of making those whys happen. Although I have several client deadlines this week, along with a two-day trip out of town, my primary project still motivates me. Fulfilling those commitments allows me to focus on the project that will make my “whys” come true.

When you feel frustrated, try this: 1. Outline the reasons you want to build the business in the first place, your reasons why; and 2. Identify the way you are going to make those things happen.

There will still be frustration, and you’ll still face set-backs. However, when you are doggedly determined to fulfill one primary goal and you keep your mind focused on what life will be like when you accomplish that goal, there is nothing you can’t overcome.

What do you think? Do you negotiate with yourself when your alarm goes off? Or do you have a better way of motivating yourself? Scroll down to the bottom of the page to leave me a comment. I read every comment and reply when appropriate.

 

Best wishes

About Robert Skrob

The problem with subscription membership programs is that members quit, I fix that problem. For more than 20-years I have specialized in direct response marketing for member recruitment, retention and ascension in diverse subscription members environments including non-profit associations, for-profit publishers/coaching, subscriptions and SAAS companies. For an evaluation of your current churn rate and how I can improve it, contact me here. I discover there are often two or three quick wins you can implement within a week to lower churn immediately, let’s talk about your quick wins.
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2 Comments on “Dealing with “overwhelm””

  1. What a great article! I’ve done the very same thing with the alarm clock, although not since … um … today. Keeping your “why” front and center is a great strategy to overcome that avoidance tactic. Another I’ve found is to only focus on starting – not finishing. When the project seems too overwhelming I’ll say “Well, I’m just going to start and do something on it for an hour. ” By the time an hour has passed, I’m deep enough into it to keep going. Thanks Robert!

  2. Robert,
    Thank you for this great transparent look at something that I have, and still do, trying to deal with it.
    I’m sure there are many others, who if they were truthful with themselves, have the same problem!
    Thanks again! David Swim

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