We all feel overwhelmed at times. Unfortunately, this is a normal feeling for most of us. The important thing is to realize that this is a momentary state. By shifting into action, you can get rid of this uncomfortable feeling.
In most cases, the first reaction to something that’s frustrating is to focus on how this is not a great situation and question, “Why is it happening to me?” This kind of thinking, while natural, is not conducive to resolving the situation. The best thing you can do to alleviate this feeling is to start taking action and focus your energy on resolution.
In almost all situations where you feel overwhelmed, follow this five-step plan:
• Slow down
• Ask questions
• Get your bearings
• Develop a plan that you believe in
• Take proactive actions
Recognizing that feeling overwhelmed is an emotional state that can be overcome through a measured, practiced approach has been one of the skills I’ve benefitted most from over my career (I’ve had several jobs that have had lots of crises and drama in them. I’m not sure why I’m so lucky). For more on this topic, David Rock’s Your Brain at Work gives a fantastic overview of the cognitive limits of the brain.
At this point, I don’t need to actually have achieved improvement to get rid of the overwhelmed feeling; I just need a plan that I believe in that I can start executing.
Here are a few recommendations that work:
• Proactively manage your calendar and your to-dos. Anticipate as much as possible. Ask yourself, what’s likely to interrupt the most important things? Develop ways to absorb the “bomb-ins.”
• Don’t expect perfection on all of your to-dos, but expect to accomplish the most important things. I’ve always found that worrying about how long something will take to get done is far worse than the actual time it usually takes to do it. So, as Nike says, “Just do it.”
• Build time in every week for reflection and ensuring you’re grounded on what matters most. All of us are busy, but we must not confuse action with traction.
• Try very hard to not be a bottleneck. This will make you much more likable and make the team much more productive.
We’re all faced with feeling overwhelmed at times, but it’s not becoming for a leader to appear overwhelmed. Remember, people will take their cue on how to handle a situation from you. You will generally have information ahead of most others in the company. If you find you’re overwhelmed, take the time to process this privately, so that public communication to employees and others can be done professionally and proactively.
The most important thing to do when you are overwhelmed is to stay calm, and recognize that the best thing to do to conquer the sensation is to shift into taking action and executing on a well-thought out plan. Good luck and onward!