My Life in Transition # 4 – Overwhelmed and Overloaded

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.”

Mark Twain

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ID-100213925.StuartMiles.
One of the first emotions that I felt in the hours after my husband left me was panic. My mind was in complete turmoil as I battled despair and hurt from the betrayal, sadness at my lost past, and fear for my future. Feeling completely overwhelmed I compartmentalized my pain and deferred major decisions. I put those into metaphorical boxes and shut the lid tight. Two years later I was having to open those boxes. The difficulty in facing those decisions had not subsided, not one little bit. I was feeling overwhelmed again.
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Overwhelmed is when you think you cannot cope and you spend much time in worrying about not coping and the fact that you are feeling overwhelmed.
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Overloaded is when you genuinely do have a lot to do and cannot physically do it all.
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I was suffering from both.
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As I descended further down into another well of despair, the message I was receiving from loved ones was ‘stop worrying, it will all work out’. Then one day the sage advice given to me by my mother was different. ‘You have to face whatever it is that needs doing and get it done’.
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In a state of near implosion one day I found a place of quiet and realised that my mother was correct. I took a moment to learn how to breathe again (instead of panic) and then wrote down all that needed to be done. The list shocked me. I was definitely overloaded. I was in this transition state. I was still battling emotions of losing my past. I was forming my vision for my future. In my present, I was connecting with my loved ones scattered around the globe. I was trying to do something for myself to make me feel good about myself. I had a lot of responsibility in my current work that I could not delegate. Then suddenly – all at once – there were several ‘big’ issues that arose regarding the property settlement that only I could do. I felt I simply could not do it all. I felt so alone.
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Nevertheless, I had taken the first step by writing it all down.
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The next step – as hard as it was – was deferring my future to the future. I had to get stuck in and deal with the here and now. I took comfort from the fact that in the early days after my crisis I feared the future. Now I was looking forward to my future. To cope, I re-framed my property settlement tasks as steps towards my future.
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Next, taking Mark Twain’s advice above, I started to break each of those overwhelming tasks on my list into incremental steps. Then I started on the first step and I finished it. That first step, which was writing a quick email, only took me two minutes. It was not a major step but it meant that I had started. All I had to do was keep moving through each of those incremental steps and I could finish every item on the list. I felt invigorated
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I then went back to some of my business management strategies and prioritised tasks. I made sure that I started moving on the top priority tasks. Too often I became distracted with urgent less important tasks, and neglected the important non-urgent ones.
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For those tasks on my list that still felt overwhelming to me, I have enlisted some help. Over the three weeks since that first advice from my mother I have moved ahead and I have calmed down.

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My advice for anyone who is feeling both overwhelmed and overloaded is to start addressing being ‘overloaded’ first and write everything down. Writing down my list gave me back a sense of control and lessened my feeling of being overwhelmed. As for starting on that first step? That was empowering as it meant I had started on that first step towards the future I crave.
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You may want to read or try:
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Getting Things Done. David Allen
Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People. Steven Covey.
Toodledoo: electronic To-Do list with priorities, goals, tasks, and sub-tasks.
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ImageCourtesy[Stuart Miles]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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