In my previous blog post here, I mentioned how everyone struggles with overwhelm, lack of time, and too much stress. Those feelings have more to do with brain fatigue rather than how much we actually have to do.

The brain doesn’t work well with unfinished business, unmade decisions, and loose ends. It craves organization, routine, and getting things done. It needs to feel some control over perceived chaos in the environment.

The four things that contribute to feeling overwhelm are:

  1. Ambivalence, indecision and self-doubt
  2. Tolerations
  3. Unfinished projects
  4. Random mental clutter

Let’s talk about the first three causes of overwhelm in our lives and careers:

  • Ambivalence and indecision:

    When ambivalence is high, and you have to make a decision, choice is unpleasant because of all the uncertainty about the consequences. All of that unpleasantness leads to procrastination. To avoid this, you need to clarify the issues to make choosing easier and lower your sense of stress.

  • Tolerations:

    Tolerations are those things that bug you, but not enough for you to do anything about. When they pop into your awareness, they start an inner dialogue that’s annoying. Tolerations could be as simple as a drawer that sticks or as major as an unsafe car you commute in every day or a conversation you’re avoiding.

To eliminate tolerations, first become aware of them. Make a list of everything that’s bugging you. Choose three things to fix or change this week. Set aside a specific amount of time each week to eliminate tolerations.

In addition, recognize that some tolerations can’t be fixed as much as they need to be accepted. Fix or change what you can, and choose to accept the rest.

  • Unfinished Projects:

    About 10 percent of the energy consumed in an average household is used by chargers and devices plugged in but not in use, simply waiting in standby mode. In fact, many electronics and appliances (such as your TV) will use more energy in the 20 or more hours per day they’re off, but still plugged in, than during the time that they’re actually on and in use.

Drifting from project to project without purposefully completing the task you’re working on is like leaving chargers and electronics plugged in – you are using mental energy to stay “plugged in.”

This doesn’t mean you have to keep going until everything is done, but the projects need to be paused and unplugged for now. While it’s fairly easy to know if a discrete task is complete, it can be more difficult to do for larger on-going projects. Choose a stopping point in advance.

Does any of this ring a bell? Are you experiencing these signs of brain clutter? In the coaching sessions I have with clients, I hear about these conditions all the time. Not managing stress will exaggerate feelings of overwhelm. What about you in your work?

Is it time you eliminated unnecessary sources of overwhelm and stress? Give me a call and let’s talk!

Showing 2 comments
  • John

    Great post! This definitely resonated with me. Thanks!

  • Frank

    This was really helpful. Thanks Nancy.