Overcoming Overwhelm: How To Focus on What Really Matters

Man deciding what to buy from a number of food vending machine

Every day we are faced with a multitude of demands on our time. New technologies make it easier and easier to connect with each other and all this can easily lead to overwhelm. This is the state that we have so much to do we stop being productive. Our typical response to addressing these increased demands is to work harder. If we can get on top of it we will be able to manage it. The reality is very different. Working harder is a surefire way to becoming even less effective.

A Source of Overwhelm

So what can we do to avoid falling into a growing state of overwhelm? A recent experience provided a clue. We are in the process of moving to a new house and there seems to be an endless list of things we need to do. I’m not talking about nice to have’s. These are things that have to get done. It is a recipe for overwhelm. As I start the day, there are several things on my mind and then I notice something else or my wife will highlight something that needs to get done. My attention shifts and before I know it, I am working on something different.


Things are getting done but this constant shifting from one thing to another surely isn’t productive. It is as though these distractions are being put in my way to lure me away from the things I should be doing. So what can we do? In my case, I’ve started shifting my attention from the all the things that need to be done. Instead, I am stepping back and looking at the high level priorities. Moving into our new home is exciting and important, but even more important is selling our previous one. This will allow us to pay off our loan and eliminate the need to make the 25 min trip between them.

So what should I be focusing on to sell our prior home? Empty it of all our stuff. This is my #1 priority and it comes before most everything else. Yesterday I removed the final things and reflecting back on the process has been interesting. I’ve noticed many distractions that have tried to grab my attention. Each has required me to either say no to myself or to recognize I’ve been sucked in and then stop. In fact, it has been so easy to get distracted and find myself working on something else. It feels very rewarding but it really isn’t helping.

This experience describes my working day perfectly. Going forward, I will aim to be more focused on the big picture and direct my attention accordingly. What are you doing to manage your distractions?

Comments (1)

Such a timely message Andy.
Your description of the way you get distracted from one thing to the next, along with the delusional thought that “if I just work harder and get on top of it, it will all work out“ really matches my own experience. Apart from remembering, when I can, to step back out into the big picture, the only other thing that I’m doing is to do my very best to include a short period of meditation every day. Thanks for this!

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