Overwhelm Your Overwhelm

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One thing I hear a lot from my clients, friends, colleagues (and, truth be told, from myself) is, "I'm overwhelmed." Or variations on that theme like, "I can't keep up," "It's just too much."

It's fashionable, really. Shows you're really in the game, you're a player, right? In fact, some people outright flaunt their frenzy as they flit from thing to thing. 

People defend their overwhelm: I mean, there's...

so much to do, 

so many emails, 

so many commitments, 

so many demands, 

so many interruptions, 

so many inconveniences,

so many frustrations,

so many expectations, 

so much noise, 

so much information, 

so many opinions, 

so many options, 

so much fury,

so many changes,

so many channels....

It takes no special effort to be overwhelmed. No degree, no innate talent, no specialized skill.

What it does take (for all of us) is a willingness to be overwhelmed. A belief that it's inevitable. Or, out of our hands.

And while I get why everyone is overwhelmed and definitely have empathy for it (after all, overwhelm is what often prompts people to seek out my work), I'd like to call it out a bit. I'd like to take it's power down a peg. I'd like to puncture the propaganda for a minute. 

In a sense, overwhelm is the false belief that you have no power. Overwhelm is a denial of agency. A shirking of responsibility. 

Overwhelm is the false belief that you’re not up to the task of your work and your life. It's basically, a lie. 

Now this is not to say that there isn't a good, understandable case for overwhelm. Yet, the only reason the score turns in favor of overwhelm is because we're playing without rules. 

Without rules to the game: overwhelm will likely win. With rules, you play on your terms (which should always be favorable to your "winning" or success, right??! I mean you can rig the game, you know...)... 

What are rules? They are the boundaries you put in place to protect your mind, body, and spirit - to protect your performance and peace of mind. They cure the pain of overwhelm. 

How to chose your rules? Figure out first the game you want to play. What are you after? What is important to you? Rules are the friendly fences you erect to protect what you care about. 

Then, follow the pain, follow the overwhelm and figure out a rule that will protect you from it, keep it away.

Are you overwhelmed by tiredness? Then, maybe a new rule for the time you go to sleep. 

Are you overwhelmed by your inbox? Then, maybe a rule that specifies the timeframe for managing your email. 

Are you overwhelmed by political rhetoric? Then, maybe some rules about the sources and frequency of exposure. 

Are you overwhelmed by all the social events? Then, maybe some rules about what to say yes to and what to say no to. 

The definition of the word "overwhelm" is: "to bury or drown beneath a huge mass of something. To give too much of something to, inundate. To defeat completely. To be too strong for; overpower."

It's interesting (and revealing) that we mostly use the passive form of "overwhelm" - we are the objects of some invisible player doing the overwhelm. And what's also interesting is the dictionary doesn't include a noun form of the word. We've adopted that because "being overwhelmed" has become "a thing," a reactive feeling when someone or something out there is overwhelming us. 

So let's turn things around and take back the power from this overwhelming phantom. Let's overwhelm overwhelm with some good rules. Let's call it out, see it for what it is - and keep it at bay with some basic boundaries. 

What has been overwhelming you? And what rules can protect you and keep you on your productive path?

PS Want to get some good, solid, tested, easy rules for managing your commitments on the daily? Then, I encourage you to check out the self-paced, online course: Workflow Mastery: The Disciplines of Accomplishment. This course will help you say goodbye to overwhelm. 



Productive Patterns

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I love patterns. I love connecting dots. I love connections, themes, analogies, synchronicities.

Perhaps it's because I love order, purpose, design. I find it exhilarating. Whether it's true or not, I believe there's inherent purpose - design - in life. And because of that belief, there is for me.

When I teach my Workflow Mastery course or other productivity courses, there's often someone in the room who deplores systems and routines (go figure). They argue quite vociferously that they want to be free, unimpinged by constraints, free to be creative, not boxed in.

Well, I listen with compassion. I do understand the drive for freedom, because I have it in spades. I do understand the love of creativity, because that moves me each day.

However, I have to speak to what I know to be true (once the person has unloaded their concerns).

Turns out, pattern and creativity are friends. In fact, they need each other. Discipline and freedom are best buds. Seriously. The productive paradox.

For this truth, I let Nature teach. Nature is incredibly ordered, scheduled, rhythmic. Look close up at a leaf or a pine cone. Watch the routines of a bird or a fox. Patterns, order, discipline. They are woven into life. They are the stuff of life.

Do these patterns inhibit creativity? Squash innovation? Predict a dull future?

Not at all.

Take a step back and you'll see the infinitely inventive ways that Nature relates, adapts, innovates, expresses. That crazy vine that just can't stop blooming. That unique location for a nest. That over-the-top, relentless beauty of a cherry tree in the Spring. That tumultuous hurricane that draws the seas into its being and travels its own route, regardless of anyone's opinions.

Nature is patterned, yes. It follows rules. And yet, it is free, creative, unbounded.

The productive paradox.

I believe that pattern and system and discipline provide the foundational strength and stamina to be creative, innovative, flexible.

I've seen with clients that when there is no routine, no system, no discipline, they are enslaved by their environment, scooped up by chaos, at the mercy of other people's agendas. Unmoored. Unanchored.

They tell me they're tired of not having an impact. Of going in circles. Of not seeing progress. Of dialing it in.

And so, I speak of the power of patterns. Of the right drop of discipline that can free them to do the great work they are built for.

What patterns, what disciplines free you? I'd love to know….

PS And if getting a little more order and control in the day-to-day sounds interesting to you, you might consider Workflow Mastery: The Disciplines of Accomplishment.



Why Hedge Your Bets?

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I'm part of a small group of women entrepreneurs participating in a program (led by business mentor and expert Michelle Pippin) aimed at growing our respective businesses. 

Today, I recounted an experience to this group, which led to a double "aha" (something like a double rainbow) that I'm sharing here because it has everything to do with productivity and all that stuff. 

Here's the story:

I'm working on a project in my business. I've written down the results related to the project, and included some aspirational outcomes (wouldn't-it-be-great-if... stuff). 

The other day, I took the aspirational outcomes off my list, because, as I put it, "It was bothering me to include them because it made the reality a little inflated."

In other words, it wasn't depicting the actual facts on the ground.

Well, here's what happened: One of the so-called aspirational outcomes... actually happened. After I took it off my list.

I was reminded again of the power of intention. And I expressed my lesson to the group today like this: "I see that I 'hedge my bets' and often miss on the intentional power to create through envisioning." Simple. Aha! Cool. 

It was interesting that I used the phrase "hedge my bets," and awesome that Michelle didn't miss a beat to zero in on that. She commented that we hedge our bets, so we aren't let down, to protect ourselves from being disappointed. And by hedging our bets, we take away some of the power of intention setting - what these aspirations compel and inspire us to do. 

Holy cow. And BOOM!

 

You see, I've been feeling for some time (like a really long time) that I've installed a beautiful glass ceiling over me. I mean, as ceilings go, it's a really nice one. It provides for me well. 

However, for all its protection, it still feels like a barrier that I can't break through (even though I built it). 

 

And then, there are those words. Hedge. My. Bets.

I saw that my lovely, homey glass ceiling (which lets in lots of light) has been constructed by Hedging My Bets. I created a ceiling to protect me from the risk of:

Disappointment

Vulnerability

The Unknown

Exposure

And so on ...

 

Holy. (Freaking). Cow.

Of course, I had to look a bit more into this phrase that came tripping off the tongue (actually the keyboard). Here's what I found out there in the Interwebs:

"The word hedge means to avoid making a definitive commitment, to avoid committing oneself; to leave a means of retreat open. It comes from the noun hedge, which means a fence made of shrubbery. The hedge that forms a fence offers protection and security, much like hedging a bet. 'Hedge your bets' first appeared in the late-1600s. The first use was by George Villiers, the 2nd Duke of Buckingham, in his play The Rehearsal (1672): 'Now, Criticks, do your worst, that here are met; For, like a Rook, I have hedg’d in my Bet.'" (www.english.stackexchange.org)

"The verb 'to hedge' derives from the noun hedge, that is, a fence made from a row of bushes or trees. These hedges were normally made from the spiny Hawthorn, which makes an impenetrable hedge when laid. To hedge a piece of land was to limit it in terms of size and that this gave rise to the 'secure, limited risk' meaning." (www.phrases.org.uk)

"The figure of speech 'to hedge one’s bets,' whether it be in relation to a market investment, or a wagering game bet investment, derives—albeit sometimes loosely speaking—as an allusion to 'fencing in,' so as to prevent loss by escape (a form of guarding or protection), as if with hedgerows or similar planting arrangements.

The chief characteristic of a 'hedged' bet/investment is that it requires a (generally profit-reducing) counter-endeavor—a likely-to-be countervailing bet, investment, operation—so that the net gain expectation, if any, is knowingly lowered in order to avoid or minimize net loss." (www.english.stackexchange.org) 

Soooo....

I saw that my own M.O. has woven into it this idea of hedging my bets.

And for all the imagined protection this way of operating has provided, it has required "a generally PROFIT-REDUCING COUNTER-ENDEAVOR - so that the net gain expectation, IF ANY, is KNOWINGLY LOWERED in order to avoid or minimize net loss." (emphasis mine)

Now, for some, maybe hedging a bet here or there would be a good idea! But I see for myself, that it's no way to live, or work. 

So now, being aware of this hedge-betting business, I want to play my cards more fully. You know, play full out.

I'm going to dream and declare and do (even if it bothers me because it seems "inflated" or not "realistic"). And that beautiful glass ceiling may just shatter (in an awesome, sparkling way) with my own exuberance and energy and effort. And who knows what I'll discover just beyond it? Pretty much only way to find out. Right?

I tell you this story to spread the "aha" magic.

What kind of "hedges" have you cultivated and manicured to hedge your "bets"? What dreams do you not write down because you are being realistic?

And how might you play your game beyond those elegant hedges?

Want to join me in dreaming and doing, imagining and intending, aspiring and aiming - free of all that hedging? (You know you do. It will be fun.)
 

 A view of hedges from my run today. #lindsayontherun

A view of hedges from my run today. #lindsayontherun


PS. If you’re a woman who is creating, running, growing a business - and would like to surround yourself with go-for-it women and straight-talk expertise from Michelle, check out the Women Who WOW The Online Alliance for Seriously Driven Women Entrepreneurs

PPS. If you’re into getting productivity findings, tips, etc. that work in the real world, I'll send them to you. Sign up here. Easy Peasy.  OR join the Facebook Group, Productivity Powers. Or both. 

PPPS. (Because, why not?) Want "a method in the madness"? A way to systematically manage all the details of work and life in order to avoid the crazy-busy trap and have the impact you most want? Then check out the self-paced, online course Workflow Mastery: The Disciplines of Accomplishment.

 

 

Productivity Is Not The Point

I’m a productivity trainer and coach. So, it might surprise you to know that I actually don’t care about whether:

Your inbox is empty.

Your office is neat.

You have an up-to-date to-do list.

Your files are in order.

You prioritize like a pro. 

You avoid multitasking.

You plan in 90-day periods.

You have a morning routine.

 

I don’t care about those things. Well… not exactly.

Let me explain. 

I’ve often wondered why a lot of productivity training makes me uneasy. I mean, I teach productivity. That’s my thing. 

Here’s what bugs me. “Productivity” is often taught (get ready for sweeping generalization...) as a kind of moral imperative by people who can’t comprehend how in the world you could ever have a messy desk or an exploding inbox.

There can be an undertone of superiority that sends a subtle message that these “productivity” techniques are part and parcel of good character, like personal hygiene and telling the truth. To me, much of productivity training has a weird goody-two-shoes vibe.

Why does this bother me? I mean, being on top of that inbox is important, ISN'T IT?!! 

It bothers me because it misses the point. 

 

Productivity is not an end in itself. It is the means. Inbox-Zero is not the point. So, no, I don’t ultimately care about your inbox. 

What I care about is your power. Productivity is about power. 

 

Okay, let's face it: “power” is a loaded word, and many of us have a visceral reaction to it. In fact, we shrink from it. It makes us a little (or a lot) uneasy. Why? Perhaps it’s due to the barrage of cultural messages about power. 

I mean, just look at the news: it is a daily diary of abuse of power – and always has been. And so, it stands to reason that we can unconsciously conflate power with its abuse. No wonder it makes us uncomfortable. In the social, economic, or political sphere, power is a pie and everyone is vying for a tiny piece, a little sliver. 

In the realm of productivity, however, I’m speaking about power in a more stripped down, basic, elemental sense. From this perspective, consider that power is neutral. Power is natural. Power is necessary. 

It fuels. It energizes. It plows the field. It turns on the lights.

It’s hard to get up in the morning without power.

Why do I teach productivity? I teach it as a means for people to access and exercise their natural, inherent power. 

What is power? Power is freedom and impact. 

Power is about agency – the capacity to affect an outcome, to move a needle, or to find it in a haystack.

Power is the capacity to make a difference, or a "dent."  Power is potent, but not flashy. This natural power I’m talking about is generative, beneficial, constructive. You might say, productive.

The reason I teach productivity is encapsulated in that moment when I’m working with someone to set up a way to manage their email and tasks and it happens:  I see this flash of light in their eyes (I'm not kidding.) It's that split second they realize that there’s a way to regain control over what has seemed out of control. I adore that moment. 

What is that flash of light in their eyes really? It is the recognition of their power. The power is back on. Lights on. Game on. They can see their way to greater agency. And that translates to greater impact, contribution, fulfillment, and meaning.

For me, that’s the magic. Something as mundane as getting an inbox under control or upgrading a to-do list or planning or managing one’s energy opens the door to a reservoir of personal power.

This isn't power you store up to use in some dramatic effort. This is the day-to-day power of making choices, taking action, and giving your best right where you are. 

So, yes, I actually do care about your inbox, and your office, and your habits. I care about how you ignite your motivation, manage your mindset and your energy. I care about how you connect and communicate. And I care about the method you use to fulfill your commitments, goals, responsibilities, and aspirations each day. I care about your productivity.

But not as an end to itself. 

It’s about what that productivity enables. The work and life it powers. 


Want to open the door to greater power (read agency, impact, meaning)?

Then, consider whether the self-paced, online course, Workflow Mastery: The Disciplines of Accomplishment  might be just the thing for you (or for others you know).... For details go here: