Turning Overwhelm Upside-down

by HCHC on May 30, 2013

by Andrea Wenger   website

This post is evidence of a re-commitment. It’s all too often I fall off the band wagon of my good intentions. Thankfully, falling off is not the point.

The point is…  Can I pick myself up, dust myself off, let go of self-judgment about it, and get back on the wagon?

I can do that relatively well at times, and other times it requires loving support from someone, or even a good kick in the pants. This time it was loving support–from a friend/colleague checking in with me, as we had arranged last week, for mutual support on a goal–and helping me see the self-judgment that was creeping in. Once I could see it, I was able to let it go and nimbly hop back on the wagon.

The wagon I speak of today represents a return to the practice of “chunking it down” — an approach to overwhelm (yes, I’ll admit I hit that place more often than I would like) that Betsy Wexler (a colleague who expertly combines organization support with therapy and Buddhist principles) has been supporting me in applying more consistently in my life. It’s a process of turning those old habits upside-down.

When there’s a task or project that I keep putting off, it’s usually because I am overwhelmed by it and think I need a whole day (or even a week) to tackle it. Who has that kind of time?! So, I procrastinate or entertain excuses why it’s not important. We’re talking about the basic stuff of life here. The pile of clothing (that simply needs a button replaced or a hole mended–which I’m perfectly capable of doing) just doesn’t seem important enough to warrant my attention right now. Those stacks of last year’s finance records can wait–I’ll get to it eventually. And the basket full of business cards–oh my! Is it even worth putting them all in a database? What kind of system is best? At least I have them all contained here in the basket so I know where to go if I need to find someone. Until I can’t… and the basket is overflowing, and it takes excessive time to dig through and find someone’s info.

That’s when the unnecessary suffering shows up and overwhelm easily sets in. Bringing me to my new practice of chunking overwhelming tasks down:  setting a short time frame to work on it, and committing to doing it on a regular basis. So, today it’s 30 minutes to write a blog. If I’m not done at 30 minutes, I’ll stop (yikes, that’s the hard part if I’m on a roll!) and come back to it tomorrow. I’m working on the same for my basket of biz cards and emptying my overloaded Inbox — just 10 minutes a day, and it will eventually get done without feeling overwhelming. And the larger projects when I do have a couple hours… I work for 45 minutes, with a 15 minute break, then another 45 and 15. Well, that’s my intention, anyway. I haven’t tackled that approach solidly yet. However, I do have the intention to this week.

OK… so now it’s the next day. It feels good to revisit this essentially complete blog I wrote in only 30 minutes (wow–that’s a record for this recovering perfectionist!), give it a few editorial tweaks, and be done.

And the 45-minute chunk I gave myself yesterday to tackle the stacks of receipts from the last year (actually, I think it was two years) that were cluttering a cubby hole in my office? Done! I’m breathing easier with that clear space in my environment.

Here’s to turning old habitual ways upside-down, with focused commitment and follow-through… and the loving support from within and without to make it happen!

What will you commit to today?


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