Overcoming Overwhelm

6 August 2008 at 3:35 pm Leave a comment

As solopreneurs we are at a high risk for overwhelm—one missed deadline by a supplier, one mis-shipped material, one mis-placed file—and our carefully planned project schedules are thrown into a jumbled mess. Or somedays it’s the thought of having to be the collections officer, the bookkeeper, the marketing coordinator, the sales rep, the office manager, etc., when what you really got into business for–the design–seems like the last thing you can get to.

And so you slip into that frame of mind, where you’re sure the next phone call is going to be even worse news, the next e-mail will just be more trouble…and your negative feelings become self-perpetuating and self-fulfilling, because when you believe you are overwhelmed, everything seems overwhelming! Your main thought is “I don’t want this, I can’t handle this,” but when anyone tries to offer assistance, the main response is often a childish “I fine, I can do it, just leave me alone.” Nice.

The thing I’ve come to realize is that “overwhelm” is often a great shield to hide behind. We can get so caught up in the drama of everything that needs to be done, of all the problems and issues and concerns, that we can use it as an excuse for missed deadlines, poor behavior, and a wide range of other bad habits. Other people, we think, will realize that these things are beyond our control because there’s just soooo much going on.

And here’s the thing, giving into overwhelm diminishes your responsibility and shifts the “blame” to others: your vendors, your clients, your co-workers, etc. It’s “their” fault you’re in this situation.

So the next time you feel yourself getting caught up in the drama of overwhelm, take just a minute and think about what it gets you. What’s the prize for feeling rushed, stressed, abused, mis-understood, etc. That it shows how much harder you work than anyone else? That you care more? That you’re more committed? Those are the most positive spins to be on it, and if true, surely there are better, more productive, less draining ways to demonstrate your professionalism and commitment! Or is it about sticking it to “them”, you know, the “them” that put you in this situation?

I found that the key to calming the storm of overwhelm is to recognize how self-perpetuating overwhelm is and how much “being the victim” helps me justify not-so-professional behavior. And that’s not what I want to be known for, not what I want to project and not how I want to live. Now I’m not perfect, by any means, and still find myself in that overwhelm state of mind. But now I force myself to be aware of it and think about what trade-off I’m making: overwhelm or ????

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Entry filed under: Client Relations, Experience Enhancement, Marketing. Tags: , , .

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