Sink, Swim, or Fly?

Sunday, October 05, 2008
What do you do when your to-do list is longer than your intestinal tract? When the amount of work on your plate is so heavy you feel like you need a catering cart?

Sometimes we sink

It's easy to sink when you're drowning in work. I tend to get overwhelmed, and even downright depressed, when too much is put on my plate. When that happens, I fall into a workload coma, unable to complete the task at hand because I'm thinking about the task ahead. I watch TV, check email, and do a million little things that don't help me get closer to accomplishing anything--all the while feeling I've lost my passion for work. When that happens, you know you need to change something. But what do other people do? I found some advice on several forums somewhat amusing:

"I do a pajama day or throw a pajama party, if I can."

"Maybe take a shower, if that's important to you."

"Listen to soundtracks and eat Chinese food."

"Cry. Wallow in self-pity."

So, the internet may not be the best place to find advice, LOL. But I do get what they're saying. It may be necessary to fly, to escape from your problems for a while and clear your mind.

Sometimes we fly

Last weekend, I escaped to one of my favorite places in the mountains--a sleepy little town called Idyllwild, located in the San Jacinto National Forest. There's a cabin I rent every so often, nestled deep in the woods, where cell phone service and the internet are not an option. Unplugging for a couple of days was such a relief! I woke up to fresh air and a bunch of animals that were practically everywhere--a woodpecker storing nuts in a tree for the winter, bunny rabbits casually eating young blades of grass, and fluffy-tailed squirrels literally going nuts foraging for food. That doesn't happen where I live, and it was nice.

If things get too overwhelming to the point where you can't function, you definitely need a break. Don't consider it a sign of weakness. I know, as women, we tend to think we can handle it all. We are the ultimate multitaskers. But if you are overwhelmed, it's not time to multitask. That will only put you in deeper.

So, like the forum posters, if having a pajama party, taking an important shower, listening to soundtracks and eating Chinese food, or crying is your thing...then go ahead. Well, I don't know about the crying and self-pity thing...that seems counterproductive, but you get the idea. Take a walk, read a good book, retreat to a place you love, take some time off and recharge your batteries.

It doesn't matter if you don't have a lot of money, you can find something that will relieve stress. The whole trip to the mountains only cost me a couple hundred dollars. The cabin ran around $98 a night--super cheap for a whole cabin with a full kitchen, two bedrooms, a deck with a BBQ, and a pool. I brought food from home, barbequed, meditated, and read books by the pool. It was inexpensive and just what I needed.

One thing I do regret: the trip was too short. Be sure to take enough time to fully recharge. Then you can come back refreshed and ready to swim.

Sometimes we swim

When you are ready to swim, remember, you are not alone. If you seriously have too much work on your plate, ask for help. Don't be a martyr. Most likely, there are people around you who can help take some of the burden off of your chest. You just have to take time to delegate some of the responsibilities. It could be family members, coworkers, or putting a call out on a writer's group. There are so many people willing to help out in a time of need. Don't think of it as selfish. I know it's a terribly hard thing to grasp, and I battle with that myself, but, if you are doing something good for others, or yourself, it's worth the effort. Flying solo will only hinder your goals and hurt the people around you. So, to do this, ask yourself these questions:

What can I do to lighten my workload?
Examine your to-do list. Is there anything unnecessary? What can you eliminate?

Are there any tasks I can have someone help me with?
Many times we think, I'll just do it, it'll take too much time to explain to someone else, but that's the wrong way to think. Working with someone not only reduces stress, but also helps motivate you to do a better job.

Now, I want to know: What do you do when you are overwhelmed? Do you sink, swim, or fly?


Anonymous said...

I have to say that I find my to-do list overwhelming alot lately. Trying to start a writing career, and take writing classes, AND work a 40 hour a week job then 2 teenage boys at home and a married daughter with a baby...OVERWHELMING doesn't even begin to describe it.

But what I choose to do it take out my journal...vent a little, write what I am most grateful for next, then write what I would like to accomplish within a manageable time frame.

I am turning 39 on Monday, October 6th (greatfully I have a twin sister to share in the depression of it all) and I am starting so many new things at this stage in my life...long life dreams since I was a child. I do research when I am stressed and see what the experts suggest then put that advice to work. I am a total LIST person. And I've had to learn that if I do not complete my list that day...with the grace of God...I will have the next day to start over.

I figure that 39 years has flown by and I ask myself where did the time go? I wasted it on worry about things I didn't accomplish. I now take my time...not procrastinate...but not rush so much anymore and I don't sweat the small stuff.

That's how I handle an endless to-day list. Thanks for posting this has given me some great ideas.


Joanne said...

I look at that to-do list and chip away at the smaller, easier items. Sometimes even small accomplishments lighten the load.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Hi Ang,

Wow...and here I am complaining! LOL. It sounds like you traded your plate in for a serving platter. ;o) It's nice to know that I'm not alone!

I know what you mean about birthdays...every year, I reevaluate my life and accomplishments. It's great you have a twin to share it with. Happy Birthday to both of you! =o)

And yes, I'm a major list person as well. It's tough though when you have looming deadlines all at once though. But as Joanne said, as long as we can chip away at the smaller things, those accomplishments will help lighten our load.

Thanks ladies for your comments!


Ang (yes, I'm another Ang) ;o)

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