When you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask yourself why. (It’s usually one of two reasons.)
Are you: (1) on the verge of something new? Or (2) is life showing you that something needs to be cut out?
If you’re on the edge of breakthrough with a big project, then sometimes the answer is to keep working and persevere through the season.
Or, if somethings got to give, then take inventory of where you’re spending the bulk of your time and energy (not where you wish you were spending it, but where you’re actually spending it). Now ask yourself what can be subtracted to give your calendar, your mind, and your emotions some breathing room. (I guide folks through this process frequently as part of The Focus Course.)
Maykel Loomans took a year off: “The biggest lesson for me among all this was—and this may sound ‘woo-woo’: seeing a structured day, a quiet cup of coffee, or a workout not as a task but as something to relish. There are these things in our lives that we know we ‘should’ do, but if we don’t find a way to appreciate them truly, it will forever be a struggle to integrate them.”
They are your health, your relationships, your inner-personal life, your work, your finances, and your rest and recreation.
Each area of your life overlaps with and impacts the others. And yet you only have the capacity to give your full attention to one or two areas at a time. Use habits and routines to maintain health in every area while giving extra attention to the one or two areas that need it.
The ultimate luxury is also the ultimate competitive advantage: an open schedule that is not busy.
James Clear writes: *“Not being busy is a competitive advantage. Most people are so strapped for time they can’t take advantage of lucky opportunities or quickly resolve unexpected problems. Maintain a bias toward action, but leave room for the unexpected.”*
It’s not so easy to be bored anymore. You have to choose to be bored. Back when I was a kid (ha!) it used to be that boredom chose you — if you were waiting somewhere and there was nothing to do and you were bored. Now, you’re never bored. You can see 9 second videos of some stranger surfing on the other side of the world, or get a live video stream of someone’s hike over Tokyo. This stuff is amazing.
But it means we have to be proactive about our boredom and down time. It means we have to be intentional about creating margin for thought. If 100% of our down time is filled with passive entertainment and bits of information, then when does our mind have a chance to be calm? When do we have a moment to think without needing to think?
So, I’ve got 5 camping / backpacking trips planned for 2023. I am so ready to get outdoors. I also made a few updates to my outdoor gear (new sleeping pad, solo tent, and a new pack). Thanks, in large part, to Steven Smith and his YouTube channel which I’ve been binge watching over the past few weeks instead of going to bed on time.
Your friendly reminder that your to-do list should exist on your calendar. (A sneak peek at how I do it.)
I recently came across this article showing how stress rises when you’re in back-to-back-to-back meetings. But the thing that really stood out to me was how individual productivity doubled as meetings were reduced.
If you’re in too many meetings, it may be a symptom of a bigger issue. When there are too many meetings it means there is a lack of clarity and focus. And so meetings end up becoming a short-term, band-aid solution for trying to develop vision and strategy and get things done.
- Make a decision about something
- Make progress on a specific work task / project that requires real-time collaboration
- Celebrate and connect as a team
P.S. Speaking of Margin… in a few weeks we will be kicking off our Margin Reset booster for the 300 members inside the new Focus Accelerator membership. ?
In his book, Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster lists several principles for the outward expression of simplicity. These are things which someone could use or do in their attempt to flesh out the meaning of simplicity in the modern life.
Here are six of Foster’s suggestions:
- Develop a deeper appreciation for nature.
- Learn to enjoy things without owning them.
- Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.
- Develop a habit of giving things away; de-accumulate.
- Shun whatever would distract you from your main goal.
- Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status.
The definition of “overwhelm” is pretty intense, actually. It means:
- bury or drown beneath a huge mass
- defeat completely
- give too much of a thing to someone
When you’re feeling buried under a mass of so much stuff, and you feel as if you’ve been given too much of a thing, it can feel as if you’re responsible for everything in the whole world. But it is liberating when you step back and get clarity about the things that ONLY YOU can do.
Here is the process and framework I use to get clear on what only I can do and make sense of things when I’m feeling overwhelmed.
Here are a few alternatives to what I call the “Just Checks”.
- Scroll through your Day One timeline and read a previous journal entry or browse some old photos and memories.
- Launch Day One and log how you’ve spent your time so far for the day. Doing this for a few weeks can also be super helpful for getting a perspective of where your time and energy are being spent.
- Write down 3 new ideas. These could be articles you want to write, business ideas, places you want to visit or photograph, topics you want to research, date ideas for you and your spouse, gift ideas for a friend, etc. These ideas never have to to be acted on — the point isn’t to generate a to-do list, but rather to exercise your mind and build your idea muscle. Ideation and creativity are muscles, and the more we exercise them the stronger they get.
- Send a text message to a friend or family member to tell them how awesome they are.
- Don’t get out your phone at all — do some stretches or take a 5-minute walk.
Take advantage of those moments of down time in between meetings, calls, or whenever. Allow your mind to rest for a bit or engage it by doing something active and positive.