5 Ways You Create Your Overwhelm (That’s Right, It’s Your Fault)

So how are you? No, let me guess.

You’re crazy-busy. Overwhelmed by your ‘to-do’ list, overburdened by demands, and overtired from racing around trying to get everything done.

You keep thinking you just have to work smarter, and maybe put in a bit more effort, and you’ll get over the ‘hump’.

Then things will get back to normal.

But you’ve been trying to get over the hump for months.

You like being busy, but this is ridiculous.

The sheer volume of information and demands is, well, overwhelming.

You’re too busy and overwhelmed to work out how to get yourself out of this mess.

Sounds like your life is one big, crazy, endless cycle of demands.

Your life is too precious for you to be stuck in this vortex.

Let’s face it, being constantly overwhelmed sucks. Big time.

But here’s the thing that no one will tell you. You could be contributing to the problem.

That’s right. This situation could be down to you.

1.  You’ve Become A Go-To Person

Go-To people are great, but you don’t want to be one.

Go-To people take responsibility seriously. They have high standards, want to do the right thing, and want to get things done as quickly and efficiently as possible.

If you’re a Go-To person, people know that no matter how busy you are, you won’t let them down. You’ll get the thing done.

Unfortunately, your reputation is keeping you busy. It’s keeping extra tasks and extra responsibilities coming in the door.

And part of you feeds on it. You feel important because people need you, and you’re efficient.

But you’re drowning in responsibilities, so you have stop this. Now.

I know your standards are high, and you’re concerned that other people won’t do things as well. But they deserve the opportunity to try.

Instead of doing things for others, offer to show them how to do them themselves. Sure, it will take longer in the short term, but they’ll become more self-sufficient, and soon there will be less for you to do.

2.  You Fall For False Hustle

Do you ever find yourself thinking, “I was really busy today, but I don’t seem to have achieved a lot”?

We all have days like that, but if they’re happening frequently you could be experiencing False Hustle.

Maybe you’re trying to keep your in-tray clear, you’re trying to answer all your emails, or you’re devoted to other time consuming, but ultimately fruitless tasks.

Maybe you receive requests for lots for urgent tasks each day.

Whatever the reason, you have to limit your time on these small tasks, or you’ll lose your whole day doing them.

The key is to spend most of your day on things that are important. Important to you, or important to the work of your team, or important to the organization.

Even with small, quick, “It will only take 5 minutes to finish” tasks, you should ask yourself whether they’re important. The answer may be ‘yes’ to a few of them, but anything you can put a ‘no’ next to, reduces your workload.

If you’re not sure whether something is important, ask yourself if anyone has committed to it.

If you’ve committed to be at your daughter’s athletics carnival, then that’s important.

If you or your team have committed to producing results in a certain area, then it’s important.

If no one has committed to the action, then it’s probably not important.

By focusing most on important tasks, you’re being strategic, and working smarter.

Remember: an empty In-Tray is a thing of the past.

3.  You Take On Too Much

You’re interested in everything, and you love to please.

Whether it’s at work, or at home, you love being involved.

If the local community want you to deliver neighbourhood newsletters, or your boss wants to start a new project, you’re there.

If the school wants your help fundraising, they can rely on you.

But I have to ask you, are you thinking straight? How often do you consider your availability before you jump in so enthusiastically?

Right now you should not be saying ‘yes’ to anything else.

Start flexing that ‘no’ muscle so you can get your life back in control. If ‘no’ is too hard, you can try something softer like, “I’d like to help, but I don’t have time right now”.

Once you’ve tried it once, I guarantee you’ll love the power that comes from having control over your life.

That in itself will make you happier.

4.  You’re Too Busy To Plan

You ‘don’t have time’ to file, or organise, or plan. You’re too busy, so you just jump in and start doing things.

You’re a person of action, and you’re great at getting the ball rolling.

But you spend a lot of time searching for things, because you’re not organised. And you sometimes waste time doing things in the wrong order, or worse still, doing things that don’t need doing.

So later on, you incur delays because you weren’t efficient.

You need to take the time to get organised. You must discipline yourself to store important files, and plan your work.

If you don’t you, end up looking like a hamster, running on a wheel. You’re using a lot of energy, but ultimately making no progress.

And you’ll get burnt out doing it.

5.  You Live In The Future

You’re overwhelmed by what’s coming. You’re not sure if you’re going to be able to handle the enormity of the task or project, when it comes to fruition.

You’re not sure if you should start a thing, because you’re scared of what it might become.

The trick is not to think about tomorrow, just focus on what you can achieve today.

So, let’s say you decide you want to run a marathon, but then you start to feel daunted by the amount of training involved.

You worry about your knees, and your back, and your asthma. You start getting all freaked out “because-it’s-so-much-work-how-will-I-ever-get-there …..”.

It’s overwhelming. So you wonder if you should stop, before you ever really got started.

Instead, you need to think, “Right now I don’t have to run a marathon. Right now I just need to be able to walk around the block without getting puffed out.”

You need to focus on the immediate, small steps (pardon the pun) that you need to take now. The small steps that you CAN achieve.

Focus on the piece of the project that you can achieve now, and have faith that you’ll be ready for each step as it arrives.

The Harsh Reality of Overwhelm

The truth is that we all deal with overwhelm every day. It’s just a matter of HOW you deal with.

Do you let it suck you into the vortex of trying to get it all done, or are you strategic?

I’m guessing you’re strategic.

So here’s how to think about your life, and all the stuff you’re trying to cram into it.

It’s a smorgasbord, or a buffet.

There are endless options and possibilities, all laid out, begging to be chosen. All the demands of the workplace are there, along with the demands of your family and home life.

You dreams and aspirations are there as well.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but most people are not great at selecting from a smorgasbord.

Everything looks so enticing that they overfill their plate, and then they overfill their bellies.

They make themselves uncomfortable by gorging, and they create a lot of waste.

They don’t make sensible decisions, and when they’re done, they regret their choices.

You’re cleverer than that.

You won’t allow the buffet to overwhelm you.

You can take the best of what’s on offer, and pace yourself.

You can select the most important options from the work demands, and the richest and most enjoyable selections from your family and home life.

You won’t overfill your plate, and you won’t allow yourself to become uncomfortable.

Because you’re here to enjoy yourself.

And you know that you can always go back for a little more.


Cate Scolnik is on a mission to help parents stop yelling and create families that listen to each other. She does this while imperfectly parenting two boisterous girls of her own, and learning from her mistakes. Download her free Cheat Sheet to Get Your Kids from “No” to “Yes” in Three Simple Steps and reduce your yelling today.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

6 Responses to 5 Ways You Create Your Overwhelm (That’s Right, It’s Your Fault)

  1. Thank you for every one of your efforts on this blog. My mum really loves setting aside time for investigation and it is easy to understand why. ラブドール

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