Does your head ever feel like the watermelon wrapped in rubber bands in the video by the Slow Mo Guys? Are you constantly wondering if the next commitment will be the one to make your head explode like the last rubber band placed on the watermelon?
We all feel like our lives have gotten out of control sometimes. The number of commitments and demands on our time can be overwhelming. We get bombarded by to-do lists, emails, texts, calls, work responsibilities, household projects, and many other things. Our attention is pulled in so many directions that we often have difficulty focusing and struggle to get anything done. This distraction can also impact other areas of your life.
Advances in technology have allowed us to work from anywhere because we're connected constantly to the world. The good part is that we can have a degree of location independence. We can leave our work area or office to do other things without losing our connection to work.
However, the same thing that makes life easier, also makes it easier to over schedule and to become overwhelmed. We start out by answering a quick work email while watching a soccer game. Eventually, we’re answering several emails and working on projects outside of work hours — often late at night or while on vacation. This cycle often leads to sleep deprivation that affects our performance, impairs our focus, impacts our health, and causes feelings of chaos.
Several books address the issue of overcrowded schedules. Although they take slightly different approaches and use different terminology, they all seem to share one solution - Protect your time by saying “No” to adding another task, taking on another project, or committing to one more thing.
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less states that saying yes to something is saying no to something else. The author discusses separating the vital few from the trivial many. He says that we should purposefully look at what we can take out of our lives instead of how can fit it all in. We can’t fit it all in or get it all done. This technique urges us to identify those few things to keep or get done, then forgetting everything else that would be nice to do. He gives the analogy of cleaning out a closet by going through your clothes and strictly getting rid of anything that you have not worn or are unlikely to wear in a given time.
The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More with Less is well-known as it relates to customers and business. However, when it is applied to your life, it describes an effective way to determine what to spend time on. The book gives tips for finding the 20% of the things that give 80% of your success. Similar to Essentialism, The 80/20 Principle advises you to block out or at least spend little time on the 80% items.
Derek Sivers, entrepreneur, and writer describes a way to choose your commitments in a blog post titled No more yes. It’s either HELL YEAH! or No. He says that if an opportunity arises and his response is anything less than “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!” — then his answer is no.
No matter which method or philosophy you use, the first step to stop feeling overwhelmed is to purposely set constraints, cut some things out, and focus on the truly important things that NEED to get done.