Managing Overload with Boundaries

overloadOverload Symptoms

Overload all to often flares up and disrupts life. For me, the symptoms include…

  • Productivity decline – Inability to focus. Jumping from task to task. Accomplishing little.
  • Short attention span – Nothing holds interest for long. Always seeking new and better.
  • Feeling overwhelmed – Too many projects. Too much information. Too much to do.
  • Feeling disconnected – Feeling forgotten, unimportant and alone.
  • Always on guard – Unable to relax. Tasks, goals & projects steal attention from relationships.
  • Think & speak in absolutes – “I can’t… because…” or “I have to… because…” or “I need…”

Obsessiveness covers all of these symptoms by amplifying their affects and creating a constant need to keep going and doing and thinking. Simply put, overload robs me of contentment and peace. Can you relate?

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Creating Boundaries

Counteracting overload involves setting boundaries that then guide the creation of habits. Setting boundaries involves taking time to think by…

  1. Simplifying – Prioritize. Say “no” to good to be able to say “yes” to and go deeper with better and best.
  2. Seeking connection – Make face-to-face connections a priority over completing a “to do” list.
  3. Keeping truth in focus – This daily necessity not only helps with moral choices but with time and priority choices too by protecting the mind from the world.
  4. Stopping the flow – Stop reading for information & refuse to take in new information. Back off commitments and occasionally shut out the world. Allow thoughts to flow freely. Allow time to just be.
  5. Purging – What aren’t you reading that you can stop receiving? What can come off your schedule? What material items can you get rid of?
  6. Getting out – Find a change of scenery. Take a family vacation, short getaway or even just a day trip.

While creating boundaries, keep these two pervading rules constantly in mind:

Rule #1 – Relationships are the deciding factor. Choose relationship over tasks as much as possible.

Rule #2 – Limit overload by limiting information and commitments. Doing nothing means choosing overload.

When I consistently choose to live within boundaries, overload doesn’t exist. But, I also regularly need to reset my boundaries because overload always seems to creep back in somehow if I don’t give my boundaries regular attention.

So, I need to make setting and maintaining boundaries a habit, and I need to stay aware of the symptoms over overload in order to make necessary, regular adjustments.

DISCUSSION: What changes will you make to set information boundaries and protect your life from overload?

On a completely unrelated note, I also posted this week at my friend Dan Erickson’s blog Hip Diggs. If you are interested in landscaping, check out my post
Tips for Installing and Maintaining Landscaping.

On a related note, next month’s focus on balance will include more on the idea of creating boundaries along with taking a look at balance from a variety of perspectives.

24 thoughts on “Managing Overload with Boundaries

  1. Good morning…from the picture it appears right away there are two choices, make more trips before you experience a break down on the side of the road and all productivity stops or get a bigger vehicle to handle the load you want to carry. I would suggest shutting down the receiving line until the shipping docks get caught up! Also, establish a value system to muster between the must dos and want tos and the no thank yous. Remember broken commitments hurt worse than offering no commitment… People matter more than projects.
    My recent post Seek Out God’s Will, Ways, and Wisdom

    • I love it when someone gets more out of the pictures than I saw! I knew they definitely emphasized my points, but they do so even more than I realized. Your suggestions are right on: Stop the incoming, have and use a value system, and honor commitments. Regarding commitments, I do believe making fewer and more fully honoring them (more deeply?) is important too. Not getting over-committed allows us to go deeper with the commitments we do make and to do them more fully and completely.

  2. As you know these posts have "been guilting" me. 🙂 Making and keeping boundaries is always the task in all things. I face that with my riding. How long? How far? How often? I will definitely have to keep working at this.
    My recent post Potpourri

    • Yes, it definitely is a constant task, a struggle. It's also something we have to continually work at. In June, I plan to focus on balance, which I think is really an extension of what we've been talking about in May. As a preview, if you think of balance, you realize that it requires constant movement, constant adjustment. It requires focus, too. Lose focus, and you fall over. A Pastor's struggle is certainly unique, and I'm seeing that from my own pastor's point of view lately too. He's allowing for accountability though, and I'm humbled by that. Keep struggling for balance, my friend!

    • Well, Jason, I've gone into shut-down mode… that's a long story. One tip that got me through: Small steps made consistently over time add up to make a huge difference. Let me know if you need to unload, vent, brainstorm, etc. You know how to get a hold of me!

    • My husband suggested I listen to podcasts when I bike or run, but I just don't want to give up that free thought time. It's immensely refreshing as you noted, and I feel so much lighter and better able to focus when I return. If I listen to stuff, then I come back bubbling with more ideas to pursue. We need to balance those too, to some extent too, don't' you think?

  3. Great points Kari. I'm trying to get better about only doing one thing at a time. I have this silly belief that I can watch TV and connect with email, fb, etc. I end up only giving partial attention to both. Add people to the room and . . . well, you get the idea. Taking time to just sit and talk with Rev, and leave my iPad in the other room is helping.
    My recent post Why You Should Celebrate Jesus’ Ascension

    • Definitely needs to be a deliberate effort, or it just doesn't happen otherwise. I just feel so spread thin when I try to divide my attention. But, I feel so very fulfilled when I connect face-to-face. You're making positive changes… keep it up!

  4. No doubt. That an excellent point about too many ideas. This tends to cause us to lose focus and pursue the next shiny object without finishing our current endeavors.

    • Happens to me way too often. I end up feeling like I've done a minimal job and not the best I could because my thoughts are spread so thin. Working toward changing that habit for sure.

    • Prevention is truly the best approach. The unexpected is certainly easier to handle when we've prevented what we can. And, regrouping with God helps tremendously for sure!

  5. Here's a funny thing, Kari. I was just saving a blog post someone had written on webinars to my Pinterest board because I wanted to try one some day. Although I'm not planning to do it for awhile, I thought it would be interesting to read to see what the process is. I started reading and then I thought, No, Kari told me not to read informational articles when I don't need them. So I stopped! Loved that advice of yours. Reading info articles like that when I'm not yet ready to do the job just makes me stressed out because I start thinking of how hard it would be. No need to stress myself out until the time comes! See? I'm already applying your advice!
    My recent post Christian Weight Loss Videos and Webinar

    • Good job, Barb! You're saying "no" to good to be able to say "yes" to better and best. You can always find the information again if you decide to read it later. And you're right, no reason to stress yourself out from what you "could" be doing. Lightening the mental load. I'm proud of you!

    • How do you specifically do this, Jon? I'm always looking for new ideas for unplugging, and I know many others who comment frequently on this blog do too. Would love to get insight from what works for you.

  6. I'm rethinking my whole online life. I'm going to go without Internet for the summer. I'll cut my hotspot on June 20 and attempt to wait until the end of September before getting cable. I'll still be using Internet form work and shops with wifi. I've prescheduled my main blog for the summer and I'll be prescheduling posts for Hip Diggs over the next few weeks.

    In the Fall I'm going to turn my blog into more of an "artist" (author/poet/songwriter) site. I'lll still blog, but much less frequently. I'm going to close my Yakima Writers after school is done. I'm still debating about Hip Diggs.

    The whole online life takes too much time away from real life, from writing, from relationships, from home projects. I need to find a healthier balance.
    My recent post Comment on soul kiss by Dan Erickson

    • Your deliberateness will pay off, Dan. I'm sure you're blanketing this with prayer and making decisions based on where God gives you peace. Sounds like you're heading toward an even more minimalist approach to having an online life, and I think this could be an interesting ministry of its own. You will be able to show how technology can be a tool but you don't have to be its slave. Keep me posted on your progress, if you can.

  7. Overload most often shows up in my life in the form of a short attention span. I can definitely agree with you there.
    For me, the process of setting boundaries comes from really getting a handle on exactly what your capabilities are and not committing to more – whether that's committing to someone else or committing to yourself.
    My recent post The Key to Making Accountability Work

    • Good that you recognize that, Loren. I hear so many people just accepting that a short attention span is just a part of aging or a natural part of a busy life. But it doesn't have to be that way. Taking the time to get that handle is they key to figuring out how to limit boundaries by limiting commitments. Would love to hear more specifics on how to do this from you.

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