Five Reasons You Don't Want To Deal With Your Overload


One of the parts of speaking at a conference I find so interesting is interacting with the group before I speak. Whether it’s a networking event on the previous evening or just talking with participants who arrive early, I love to watch the reaction when I tell people what I do. When they ask me about what I “speak” on and I respond with “I help with the struggle of too much to do,” there’s almost always a conflicted response. They usually say something like, “WOW! I need help with that.” And when I inquire further about where they are feeling overloaded, you can sense their reluctance to take the conversation to a deeper level.

Why? I find that while we might talk about how much we dislike the overload in our lives, we rarely want to do something about it. It’s kind of like our default topic for conversation and way to connect with others (“It just seems like everyone is so busy these days.”).

 We’ve almost convinced ourselves that we have no choice, but Seth Godin, in his brilliant blog, Are You Certain That You’re Trapped, reminds us, “Most of the time, when we think we're trapped, we're actually unhappy with the short-term consequences of making a choice. Make the choice, own the outcome and you can start in a new place.”

See if any of these five “short-term consequences” of change are holding you back from taking greater control of your work or life overload:

You would lose something.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, we all suffer from “loss aversion.” Our desire to NOT lose something is stronger than our desire to gain something of equal or greater value. Making a change in your schedule or routine means that you could lose anything from comfort and control to sleep and convenience.

Solution: Take a small next step to address your overload. For instance, determine something you could stop doing that would save you 10-15 minutes per day. You’ll find less resistance from your brain. And once you’ve started getting the positive energy from making this small change, you can use it to fuel larger changes.

You would need to have a difficult conversation.

Whether it would be a boss, coworker, spouse, or friend, you know it wouldn’t be easy to tell them you need things to be different. You’d feel like you were disappointing them, and they might not trust you as much in the future.

Solution: Start the conversation by talking about what you value that is bringing you to this conversation. Standing up for yourself is so important and the people who most care about your well-being will applaud you for it. Offer an alternative solution to meeting your commitments that isn’t as time consuming to you. A great read related to this idea is The Power Of A Positive No. You might just be surprised to find that these people have already noticed the strain on you and didn’t know how to address it.

You would feel like a failure.

Making a conscious decision to simplify or reduce the level of activity in your day or week seems to be raising the white flag of surrender. Other people seem to be getting it ALL done… why can’t you?

Solution: Remember your mom saying to you, “If everyone else was jumping off a cliff, would you?” Isn’t life about what YOU want? We all make choices and tradeoffs since time is a limited resource. Your goal should be to live a life that is aligned with your values. I’ve been asking the question, “In your struggle to get it all done, what’s not getting done?” for over a decade, and I am yet to find someone who has responded with, “I can’t think of a thing.”

You might have to be honest with yourself.

Being crazy busy keeps you from thinking and reflecting on a deeper level. It’s in those moments of sacred idleness that you find yourself reflecting on your current state of heart and mind, and what might need to change for you to have a greater sense of fulfillment and purpose.

Solution: Allow yourself to stop and see the gaps. Life is just too short to be anything less than your authentic self. Trying to live a life out of alignment with your values is exhausting.

You would be different from the people around you.

It’s almost counterculture to take action to bring greater sanity and order to your life. You might even feel guilty that your life won’t be as crazy as those around you.

Solution: Think of the people you most admire in your work and life. My hunch is that they are not like everyone else. There’s something different about the way they live that draws you to want to live like them. They have the courage to be different… why shouldn’t you?

The good news for you is that you don’t have to voluntarily address your overload. If you continue with your current pace, the quality of your work will suffer and someone will shake your world when they call attention to it. The strain of neglected relationships will eventually evoke conversations so uncomfortable that you will have to change. Or you’ll become so physically, mentally and emotionally depleted that rest and a different schedule will be your only choice. I don’t know about you, but as painful as those consequences sound, I think I’d rather take greater control of things NOW!