Overcoming the overwhelm monster

Overwhelm monsterThis is an “oldie-but-a-goodie” post that I published about three years ago.

Here’s why I’m sharing it with you again…

Right now, I find myself launching a new site, moving my home and office, working on two separate client trainings and developing a presentation for SMX East. I have about three weeks to finish it all.

I found myself getting cranky, stressed out and tired. Then I realized – duh – I should take my own advice and re-read this post.

It helped me. And I hope it helps you too.

Enjoy!

Yesterday, I realized that I had way too much Web writing stuff to do.

OK, granted. This is not an abnormal occurrence. Anyone who knows me knows that I tend to have multiple irons in the fire. I like to be busy.

But yesterday, was different. I had a bunch of Web writing projects – new home page copy for my site and new email autoresponders. I also had a client project and a conference PowerPoint to complete (SES Chicago is right around the corner.)

I was busy (Sound familiar? I bet you have your own super-busy story to share.)

Unlike most days when I buckle down and just do it, yesterday was different. My inner Heather-child was having a temper tantrum. It was too much stuff. I didn’t have time to finish it. I messed up and packed in too many deliverables in one day.

(OK, that last one may be true…)

If you could look inside my brain, you’d see me kicking and screaming and saying, “Nooooo!”

Why? Because I let the overwhelm monster get the best of me.

The reality is, I’ve worked this pace before. I actually thrive on it. However, I made a few crucial errors that pulled me out of the flow and allowed time for the overwhelm monster to sneak in and grab me. Here’s what happened – and here’s what you can do.

  • I was forcing myself to work when I wasn’t “on.” I can write a kick-butt sales page in 60 minutes. Or, it will take me six hours if I’m not in the flow. One of the hardest things to do (but oh, so important) is to pull away from the computer when the writing isn’t flowing. If you’re sitting slack-jawed in front of your laptop, you’re not working. You’re wasting time. Stop it.
  • I was working without any downtime. When I’m in a creative flow, nothing can stop me. I can wake up at 6 a.m. and work until 8 p.m. and not even notice that it’s dark outside. That pace works for so long, but it’s not sustainable. Unfortunately, I felt like I had to “make up for lost time” and push that creative flow a little harder. That was dumb.
  • I wasn’t making lists. Lists are a SEO copywriter’s best friend. You can get stuff out of your head, track your progress and have that sublime feeling of satisfaction when you cross things off. If I keep everything in my head rather than committing it to paper, it makes it hard to “turn off.” I keep thinking, “Don’t forget to…” and “I need to remember this tomorrow.” What’s worse, I was thinking about stuff like that at 3 a.m. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think anyone has “happy thoughts” at 3 a.m.

Fortunately, I wasn’t a complete dunce. I did keep up on a few things – and I think having some self-care foundation helped me slay the overwhelm monster faster. Those were:

  • I exercise. A lot. It helps me sleep, it keeps me fit – and most importantly, it burns off my stress. I may not like running three miles. But I do like the runner’s high that comes after it. When you have your nose thisclose to a monitor all day, you gotta do something to move.
  • I eat well.  I learned my lesson the hard way around this one. I used to drink about 6-8 shots of espresso a day. Plus use yummy treats like donuts to spike my blood sugar and force a writing focus. Not anymore. After my doctor had a little talk with me (the word “hospital” was used,) I realized that I was revving my engines way too much. Now, I eat a lot of protein. I monitor my carb intake. I avoid sugar – mostly. And I feel way, way better.
  • I’m learning how to balance work and play. Some folks would work all the time if they could. I am one of them. However, my work is fresher and I’m feeling happier when I pull myself away from the keyboard and do something fun. Maybe that’s a walk. Maybe it’s a movie. Maybe it’s lunch with a friend. I used to feel guilty about “taking time away from work.” Now I know – activities like that enhance our work. Not detract from it.

The good news is, I got all my work done. The overwhelm monster almost got me this time. It was close. Fortunately, I was able to pull away from the computer, cook a good meal and take a little downtime. By the time I got back, the writing just flowed…and the overwhelm monster was nowhere to be found.

What about you? What techniques do you use when you feel the overwhelm monster creeping up on you?