We think that our growing To Do list causes us to feel overwhelmed. Interestingly when we feel overwhelmed, our natural tendency is to avoid doing anything at all.
It’s a funny little glitch in human behaviour that the feeling of overwhelm…
…causes us to avoid tasks…
…which then causes the To Do list to get even longer…
…which we then credit for feeling even more overwhelmed.
It’s a vicious cycle of overwhelmed thinking and avoidance.
We think it is the growing To Do list that causes us to feel overwhelmed.
But it is actually overwhelmed scarcity thinking that causes us to feel overwhelmed: thoughts like ‘there is too much to do’, or ‘there is not enough time’.
When we are feeling overwhelmed, it is important to remember that it is not the list that causes us to feel overwhelmed, it is our thoughts about the list that cause us to feel overwhelmed.
This explains why someone who has an equally long list, or even longer, can feel energized, and someone with a shorter list can feel overwhelmed. The only difference between these two people is the way they think about the list, not the list itself.
While these thoughts feel valid, they are actually causing us a lot of pain.
And even though we may recognize that we are causing our own overwhelm, it can be sometimes be more comfortable to stay there because at least it’s familiar. The human brain is much more likely to choose uncomfortable and familiar, than uncomfortable and unfamiliar. Better the devil we know than the devil we don’t.
Recognizing that our thinking is responsible for our feeling of overwhelm is an important part of the solution. We realize that scarcity thinking might just be a knee-jerk reaction. A reaction that has grown into a pattern of habitual thinking. Like breaking any other habit, we may have to practice the new habit for a while before our grip on the overwhelm habit loosens.
The secret to change is to focus all of your energy on creating the new habit, not fighting the old one.
A great place to start building this new habit is with scheduling.
If you are deeply entrenched in the overwhelm habit, then even the thought of creating a schedule may provide ample reason to indulge in overwhelming thoughts.
Thoughts like, ‘I don’t want to add yet another task to my list’ or ‘I don’t have the time to do everything else, how can I possibly fit in scheduling’?
If this is the case for you, the secret is to start small. Take a small amount of time and simply schedule tomorrow’s calendar.
Notice the thoughts and feelings that come up for you while you are doing this exercise. This will give you your first glimpse into the real cause of your overwhelm: your scarcity thoughts. Identifying these scarcity thoughts is the first step to overcoming overwhelm.
If you want more help on ‘busting the busy syndrome‘ sign up for a free consultation today.
Coaching reveals our blind spots to ourselves.