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When You’re Drowning in Tasks, Overwhelm & Stress : zen habits



When You’re Drowning in Tasks, Overwhelm & Stress : zen habits

zen habits


When You’re Drowning in Tasks, Overwhelm & Stress

Leo Babauta

I recently talked with a couple of people who are just absolutely slammed with business because of the current crisis, and feel like they are drowning in busyness and stress.

I can relate to that feeling — I’ve experienced it a bunch of times, including recently.

So I’m writing this guide to help you, if you’re drowning in your tasks, busyness, overwhelm and stress.

It’s something you can completely shift, if you decide you’re tired of it.

Let’s look at what’s possible, and then how to shift it.

The Realization

The realization I had is that when I feel like I’m overwhelmed and drowning in tasks … is that I created this experience for myself.

I denied this truth for a long time, but it’s a realization that was very powerful for me.

If I created the reality of being swamped and overwhelmed … I can create a completely different reality. I’m not a victim of my circumstances.

It might not feel like this is an experience you’re creating for yourself, and I get that. It’s simply because you have too much to do, and not enough time! But I’ve experienced it both ways, and I can tell you that we can create a different reality.

Let’s imagine something different …

You’re doing all of your tasks with completely focus. You’re at peace, calm. You are in love with the world, and grateful for this moment.

You’re doing all the same things, but the experience is entirely different.

What would that be like for you?

First Steps

Before we can shift that, we need to do a couple things first …

We have to start by recognizing that we’re incredibly stressed, and probably pretty tired. This needs to be taken care of before we can do much else.

So start by dropping your attention into your body, in a simple form of meditation. Notice how you feel. Notice the feeling of stress, of tiredness, of overwhelm. Without judgment, with full compassion. Give these feelings some space, and let yourself take some deep breaths. Give yourself compassion and take care of yourself. If you can do this for 5-10 minutes, it will make a world of difference. I’ve found that if you can do 30 minutes, it’s almost like a mini-vacation — you return nicely rested. A nap helps too!

The second step is to triage. Make a list of everything you have to do, all your tasks and meetings and calls and appointments and errands, if you don’t already have a list. Put as much on it as you can think of — including tasks from within messages and emails. This is your exhaustive list. Now triage: cross off ones you don’t need to do, mark other ones to be done later, send others to be done by other people. Of the remaining tasks, mark the top 3. Put those 3 on a new list to focus on. The rest you will try to get through when those top 3 are done.

This triaging will allow you to have a smaller list to focus on, instead of worrying about the rest. Below the list of top 3 tasks, add your hard appointments with their times. Now you can focus on one thing at a time.

Creating a New Experience

Now let’s talk about creating a different experience for yourself. You can choose how to experience your day.

Think of yourself as the Zen Master of your workplace.

You either take on what’s in front of you (someone talking to you, a situation you need to take care of right now, etc.) … or you pick a single task or message to focus on. This will be given your full attention. It is your entire universe.

You are fully devoted to this task, this email, this person in front of you. It is important enough to invest a portion of your life to. You fully immerse yourself in it.

You are fully present, in the moment. You experience the moment as peaceful, calm, open and joyful.

You are appreciative of this beautiful moment, as a tremendous gift to yourself. You are grateful to have all of this in your life, grateful to be alive.

Move through this task or situation, creating this experience for yourself. Breathe. Relax. Open to the beauty of this moment, this task, this person you’re with.

Keep practicing in this way.

You can create your experience. You’ll often go back to the old way you experience life, out of habit. Notice this, and return to the experience you’d like to have.

Become the flowing, focused, deeply appreciative, relaxed, joyful Zen Master of your world.

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Doing Something Out Of Force

When we do something out of force, even though we don’t want to do it, it creates stress, and feels uncomfortable and difficult.

When we procrastinate, we feel guilty because something important is in front of us and we are distracting ourselves with an unproductive, time-wasting activity instead of completing the task.

Doing The Hard Stuff Easily

  • Our mindset can help us to do challenging, difficult tasks.
  • If we choose to participate in an experience, which we know is uncomfortable, difficult or taxing to us (like running, for example), it does not feel forced.
  • If we love the activity, or the experience, the rush, the sweat, the wind, then it is not difficult for us. We are doing it on our own accord.

Feeling In The Mood To Do Something

Most of us believe that we have to feel in the mood to do something: we should be excited and concentrated and the activity should be easy, fun, comfortable.

That results in running from the things that feel hard, overwhelming, uncomfortable.

Possibility and Motivation

Possibility and Motivation

When we are not interested to take action, and we're feeling no motivation to do a certain a task, it means we are not connected to some possibility in our lives. If we get clear on that possibility, and feel connected to it, we are going to feel much more energized and inspired to take on our tasks.

There are lots of possibilities, but the important thing is to connect to yours, before you even take on a task. And reconnect when you’re feeling like not doing it. Example of possibility: Create an income with your new business to support yourself and your family.

Committing to Possibility: Create Daily Structure

After you've identified and committed to your possibility, it’s important to bring structure into your daily schedule.
This can take many forms:

  • Assign blocks for your meaningful tasks in your schedule
  • Consider taking accountability buddies to make sure you stick to your plan
  • Schedule daily sessions where you write for an hour
  • Schedule video calls every day with your accountability buddies, where you do 2 hours of focused work on the call together
  • Think of a consequence for not doing your commitment.

Committing to Possibility: Train Your Action Muscle

Connecting to possibility and creating a daily structure are important steps , but then you have to actually put it into action. This step is crucial.

Take on the hard tasks, in small chunks. Check things off your list, while feeling the meaning and possibility you’re creating.

Step O: Organize your priorities

Step O: Organize your priorities

When you feel overwhelmed by the mountain piled tasks you have to do, the first thing to do is to make sure you organize the tasks according to their urgency level.

Remember to reorganize your tasks and focus on what is important for the day. If there are tasks that can be moved to be done before the end of the day, then so be it. Just do not forget your priorities.

Change your perception of your tasks

How you perceive your task list is how your brain will respond to your perception. If you see your task list as overwhelming and scattered your brain is going to allow itself to think that it is like that

However, if you shift your perception and think of it as something you're doing because it is important to you or because you want to take the time to cultivate your self, hobbies, or anything in your task list, the brain will allow itself to rewire and adjust to that perception.

Commit to your tasks

Providing full focus towards your tasks will energize you to finish right away and the pile of tasks will decrease one by one. If you notice the urge to do something else, breath and let go of the thought of doing something else, and focus back to the task on hand.

Give yourself time to adjust and get your focus on. Once you see the progress you're making, you'll be thanking yourself.