Too Overwhelmed to Become Less Overwhelmed

So often, people fail to work on developing a time management and goal-setting system simply because they feel overwhelmed. They feel like they are so far off track and have too many changes needing made that they just don’t know where to start. As a result, they don’t start anywhere and simply maintain the same dysfunctional system that got them to their current state of frustration.

Where to Start3-14-13 Where to start

Often, the answer is to simply just start. Just take a step forward. Yet, too often, the weight of perfectionism, too many choices or both prevents even that first step. Sometimes, setting big goals and getting your life organized simply seems insurmountable. When you feel this way, start the process of change by focusing on small changes that added together will make a huge difference over time.

The following tips can help you to start this small change process.

  1. Consider the extremes. Ask yourself what’s working well and what’s not working at all. Then look for ways to tweak what’s already working and to change with what is absolutely not working. Don’t worry about what falls in between.
  2. Get and stay teachable. This point has far reaching implications. Being teachable, or having the willingness to always learn and grow, is essential to a productive life. Within the context of goal setting and time management, being teachable involves a willingness to try different things. It means knowing that you can tweak what works and toss what doesn’t.
  3. Stick with what works. Or, at least with what kind of works. Really, something has to be working at least partly, or you’d be dead. You’ve got to be doing at least one thing right. When you’re already overwhelmed, trying to change everything at once just makes matters worse. Some changes can wait.
  4. Take the plunge. This means diving in with a new approach or method and being willing to experience failures. It means taking chances and continuing to do so until you find what works. Failure can be the greatest teacher, but we never know what will or won’t work until we give it a shot.
  5. Struggle through. Life will never be free from struggle. Not giving in, not being apathetic or complacent, not settling… that’s where the value in continuing to struggle exists.

If you make no other commitment today, commit to making your life a process of small change. Some days may involve huge leaps, while others will simply be successful when you don’t go backwards. Simply committing to lifting up your foot and taking a step starts the process of change.

When to Start

3-14-13 Start

Some people struggle with starting something new until every condition is perfect. Experience tells me this results in never starting. So, the perfect time to start is right now. Just one small step forward. Something. Anything. In order for small things to add up over time to make a huge difference, you have to be doing some small things. Choose one and start right now!

A Final Note

Know that person who seems to have it all together? She’s organized, in shape, and eats healthy. Her kids and husband seem content. You want to be just like her, right? Well, first realize that rarely are things as they appear. Secondly, know that being like her is impossible simply because you’re not her.

In other words, be you. Figure out the systems and approaches that work for you. Yes, they’ll be a combination of the approaches of others, but no two people have the exact same system for managing time and reaching goals.

For more on this, check out my guest post entitled The Big Picture: My Own Life Plan Method and its sequel Living in the Details: My Daily Plan at Christian Faith at Work. Then, check out Chris Patton’s articles entitled 3 Keys to Creating New Habits and The Daily Game Plan: A Must Use Tool! Not only will these give you some very different perspectives on goal setting and time management, they’ll help you more fully understand how we truly are all unique in our approaches to life.

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21 thoughts on “Too Overwhelmed to Become Less Overwhelmed

  1. Yes, I do want to be that woman that has it all together!! I guess I will have to settle for progress – God has given me some good progress in this area in the last year but since I was starting as such a low level to begin with, I still have a long ways to go. I like what you said here: "Stick with what works. Or, at least with what kind of works." So funny. I am sticking with what kind of works, open to new ideas. Thanks for the encouragement!

    • What I have learned about that woman who has it all together is that appearances are not usually as they seem. Everyone struggles but some just hide it better. If you’re still struggling, at least you haven’t given up. Small steps, my friend.

  2. Since giving up my "day job", Kari continues to help me stay organized and move forward in my own home business. She has introduced me to so many areas of internet usage that help in my work by finding leads, keeping track of Quickbook changes and find places to ask questions or research for my customer. I have ofen teased her about dragging me, kicking and screaming, into the current century. Even Jonathan has things he can teach me. I have made many small changes but continue to find new areas to improve daily. When you can continue to teach your mother, you are a great teacher!
    Not only in business but my state of health is also a concern so she is always offering suggestions. Let's face it, your entire being and surroundings need to constantly be tuned. Physically, mentally and spiritually.

    • Constant tuning is a good way to say it. With each season of life (that’s a nice way of saying that we are all getring older), we must tweak and make adjustments. Green & growing or ripe & rotting! We get to choose.

  3. As I heard Andy Stanley state it today in a Bible Study we are doing… We make the most of the time we are given by God not in doing the big things once in a while, but the small things we choose to do and commit to over a long time. Change that is constant and continuous always has a bigger, longer lasting result than a sporadic, big effort for change. When we recognize the value of time in our life, we realize to give up is to admit defeat and we accept the loss of the time we had committed to already. When we genuinely value time, and the author of that time we will not waste or misue the time we have tro work with.

    • Well said! Had a similar discussion with Loren at Life of a Steward recently. He has covered this very topic in detail and done so very well. The Bible says to be faithful in the small things to be trusted with bigger, and I believe that fits with our time mangement just as much as anything else.

      • Mike, Kari,
        I think in the long term it is harder to be diligent in the small things…. they don't seem as important as the big things but they really are. I think you are more of a reflection of how you treat small things rather than the big ones.

        • I think it can be harder if those small things don't build toward something at least once in a while. That's why I feel strongly about a life plan of some sort, or at least some stated focuses for a person, marriage, etc. Definitely faithful in small things means being trusted with bigger things.

  4. You are so right on. If you wait for the perfect time to start you never do! Also taking a first step, however small is better than no step at all! For me lists are important. When I feel overwhelmed with my to do list I make a list and then cross things off as I accomplish them. It can be do laundy, shopping, make the bed, simple things, but when I cross something off I feel like I have accomplished something. Everything may not get done as sometimes things get added into the day, but with a list I can stay on track better and look at it and see I have accomplished some things. That can be important if you feel totally overwhelmed.

    • Thank you for mentioning the process of crossing items off a list to see your progress. It’s definitely motivational and should be considered a powerful tool for being productive. Such a simple, small step that can make a tremendous difference.

      • Tracking what you accomplished does give you motivation to do other things. I do think it helps to keep a record of what you have done.

  5. In my own life – I find that if I slip a little, I have the tendency to beat myself up. I think it is important to remember that we are human and that we make mistakes. In my weight loss goals, if I eat something really bad that I shouldn't – I beat myself up and think, "Ok – you have just trashed the whole attempt!" but I haven't. I just made a tiny mistake and can pick up and start over. No one is keeping score but ourselves. On the "perfect woman" – SO TRUE! I have had so many people that I know tell me, "I can't believe you can juggle full time work, school and two small children at home as well as keep up with everything!" Well – they are mistaken. I can't juggle all of it without help – loads of it! I have a great partner who helps with stuff too – and I pray ALOT that I can get it all done and done well!!!

    • Great points! We must keep ourselves in perspective, fully realizing we are not perfect. God offers us grace, and we need to offer ourselves grace too. What's more, your point about letting others help you is huge. We have to realize that God's highest priority is fellowship, and that includes realizing that we aren't meant to do life on our own. He gives us the help we need through His grace and mercy, and often He uses other people to do that.

  6. I do believe in setting goals that you can accomplish in a short time frame and breaking larger goals into smaller parts always helps. It is often hardest to just start.

    • For me, getting started can be a big issue. I also know that I tend to have eyes too big for my stomach, brain, etc. This is why I wait to start sometimes. But creating smaller steps can really help. More and more, God is only showing me a few, small steps. He lets me know that they are adding up to something big, but I don't always know what that something is.

  7. I could never have imagined 3 years ago where God would have me today. Three years ago I became a widow with huge bills and little income. I have seen God provide as I took things one moment, one step at a time. Did I do everything right? No. Yet, God has blessed my life beyond anything I could have imagined, and I know He still has more in store. One of those blessings is finding this blog through my good friend Tom Tarver. I need to keep focus on Him, keep trusting Him and seeking His plan and purpose. I am finding that it the thanksgiving I grow stronger, and in the trials I become more dependent and closer to God, so I can see him and trust His guidance. I am back to keeping a journal, but a plan that I actually set goals on is still something I struggle with, as life keeps changing. So I just take it one day at a time!

    • Keep focusing, keep trusting & keep seeking. That is what God desires of us. One day at a time really exercises our faith. We learn to depend on Him instead of our plans.

  8. Pingback: Just Do What’s Next | Struggle to Victory

  9. I think a lot of it too has to do with our thought patterns. We're often really afraid of diving in and trying something new – and we're justifying that by saying that we're too overwhelmed. And also we don't want to have to really get to the bottom of our problem and realize how bad it is.

    • Thought patterns definitely lie at the root cause, Loren. In fact, I have a series coming up that gets at some thought patterns that need rooted out in my own life. And, it's funny that you wrote the last sentence you did, because this series has proven very difficult to write because I am getting to the bottom of a problem that I didn't realize went as deep as it did. I am often tempted to say I'm overwhelmed and give up. I've done that too often and simply can't do it again. Time to break through.

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