If you’re feeling overwhelmed and battling with an overload of work, it’s time to stop. Here’s a better way of living your life so that you overcome overwhelm, while reducing chances of burnout.
In one of my goal setting teleclasses, the participants – who were all successful professional and business women – outlined the struggles they were having when working on their goals.
On further exploration, it emerged that some were moving through life in a rush. They reach the end of the week only to find out that they couldn’t account for what they’d done that week.
There simply wasn’t enough time to complete all the tasks they had each day or week. The result was that they were tired and feeling overwhelmed.
High achieving women are at high risk of taking on more work than they can handle as they move up the success ladder. If this is you, then chances are high that you’re currently battling with overwhelm.
Today’s article explores 5 reasons why you’re overwhelmed, overworked, and possibly battling with burnout.
5 reasons why you’re overwhelmed and overworked
You say “Yes” to a lot of requests and end up with more work than you can handle. This creates a very busy and out of control schedule.
In a coaching session, one of my clients complained that a colleague had a habit of pushing her work onto my client. This was pulled off so smoothly that anytime the work wasn’t done, my client would end up taking the blame.
It took guts and a lot of saying “No” before the colleague stopped offloading her work onto my client.
When you look at your schedule, what are the commitments that you’ve put in there that belong to other people? Isn’t it time to say “No” more often?
You’re a perfectionist and want to be seen as a success in everything you do. Nothing is good enough for you and you keep tweaking your work until it’s perfect. Unfortunately, this wastes a lot of time and gets in the way of other work.
I’ve also noticed that being busy is becoming a status symbol today. A lot of conversations centre on how busy people are and how much work they have.
The funny thing is that the more you talk of being busy, the more likely it is that you’ll attract more work to keep you busy.
#3: Poor planning and prioritization
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you have a lot of items on your task list and everything is important and urgent.
Not everything that’s in your to-do list has to be done now. What’s more important is to identify the tasks that have to be completed and then work on only those.
Try to keep your list short so that you don’t get overwhelmed when you look at it.
#4: Fear of missing out (FOMO)
This happens when you’re afraid of missing out on opportunities or information. You try to take all the opportunities that come up…just in case they don’t come up again.
Another challenge we have today is that we have access to information at all times. News, updates, adverts bombard us from all our gadgets.
24/7/365 access to the internet and social media through mobile phones has led to digital overload and created ‘update addicts’. People are now caught up in wanting to know or give the latest news first.
This keeps many people on the edge and can easily lead to procrastination on other important tasks as you’re catching up with information and chasing opportunities.
#5: Lack of rest and/or sleep
Many people today are operating on less than 4 hours of sleep a day. This leads to poor focus and concentration which in turn leads to making mistakes or not being to concentrate. On the extreme end, it can cause accidents when you’re driving or operating machinery.
I know this for a fact because there was a time when I used to sleep 3-4 hours each day. The loss of sleep accumulated and one day I fell asleep at the wheel when taking my children to school. I was woken up by cars honking at me and the only thing that saved us from having an accident was the fact that I had stepped firmly on the brakes.
A few days later, I was so tired that I drove all the way from Westlands to Karen on autopilot – totally zoned out. I was supposed to visit a friend in Lavington but absently drove home instead…and ‘woke up’ in Karen on the way to Langata.
These two incidents shook me up so much that I made a conscious decision to increase the hours I slept at night.
Is there hope?
Being a high achiever, I’m sure you tend to put more in your schedule than you can handle. You stretch your workload and the start feeling overwhelmed.
As we get closer to the end of the year, it’s also easy to overcommit yourself and try to get everything done before the year ends.
Over the next 4 articles, I’ll be looking at specific strategies you can use to reduce overwhelm. These strategies will also lighten your workload and reduce your chances of burnout.
Over to you now…
What has kept you overwhelmed and overworked?
Are there strategies you’ve used effectively to reduce your workload and free your time?
I’d love to hear from you so please share your experience in the Comments below.
(Image credit: David Castillo Dominici at Free Digital Photos)
Self-care requires that you create time for yourself and this may not be easy. When reading the 7 self-care tips for women, you may have wondered, “Where will I get the time? ”
In today’s article, I’ll explore ways you can create time for yourself and share strategies that have worked for me.
Where will the time come from?
Below are common areas where women lose their time easily.
A lot of women spend their evenings and weekends catching up on work that’s been neglected by the househelp. If this is you, then it’s time to STOP and take control of your household.
If your househelp leaves work for you to complete, then she is in charge and not you. You can complain, threaten, and shout at her, but nothing will change until you take charge.
A simple solution is to start by creating systems for running your household and then teach your househelp to use your systems and not hers. Replace your househelp if she cannot fit into your system and hire someone who can.
Sounds harsh? Yes, it is harsh…and it’s one of the reasons why Asians and Arabs keep househelps for years. In Asian and Arab households, the househelp uses the family’s system and is not allowed to deviate from it.
Personally, I’ve found that having systems for all the work in my house creates a better environment for everyone. This may seem strict, but the reality is that it gives us all a foundation to work from.
Having systems makes work easier to handle because everyone knows what to do and how to do it. Also, it’s easier for me to keep track and make corrections when the househelp starts slacking off.
If you have a live-in househelp and the work is too much for her, then consider hiring an extra househelp who comes in to do a thorough cleaning once or twice a month. The money you’ll pay this person is more than worth the freedom get when you create time for yourself.
2. Family, friends, and work
Start teaching your children responsibility from an early age. They can start by picking up after themselves and cleaning up their bedrooms.
My househelp doesn’t live with me and only comes to clean and wash clothes twice a week. I cook and the children take turns clearing up and washing the dishes.
I’ve taught my children (ages 14 and 12) how to make simple meals such as sandwiches, noodles, and omelets. We’re now working on simple salads and larger meals.
I work from home and them knowing how to cook saves me time when they’re home on holidays and I don’t have time to stop and make lunch.
My children started doing simple household chores 5 years ago and they wash their clothes or clean the house if need be (still haven’t mastered cleaning toilets, though…).
Having children help with housework will not just help you create time for yourself; it will also teach them to respect and appreciate domestic workers.
Husband, boyfriend or significant other
How much time do you spend picking up after your significant other? And how many of his roles and errands have become yours?
I won’t touch on picking up after him although that’s a really thorny issue for most women who find themselves in that situation. However, when it comes to roles and errands, there are changes you can make immediately.
If you have agreed on roles for each person with your partner, then let him do his part and don’t be tempted to let him slack off or hand over his roles to you as he goes out with buddies or for business networking.
Sad as it is, when women get married or commit to a relationship, many end up losing their friends and losing on promotions at work because they’re too busy on the home front.
In contrast, men who are in committed relationships rise very fast in their careers, especially if they have a Superwoman who takes care of everything at home (while being silently resentful).
Toxic friends and family
These include family and friends who take advantage of you or are always putting you down. It also includes people who complain and gossip a lot and those with a negative outlook to life.
When you say you want to make a change in your life, these people are at the forefront in a negative way – telling you how it’s not possible to achieve the change, or making snide comments about it.
Toxic people take a lot of energy and time from you and you need to dump them your life. They’re like energy vampires and feed off you until you’re drained. You don’t need them in your life anymore.
It’s almost impossible to implement a self-care system or create time for yourself when you’re in regular contact with toxic people. The moment you let go of these people, you will be free and have lots of time (and energy) for taking care of yourself.
Need some help with toxic people? Here’s an article I wrote on 8 toxic relationships you need to detox from.
3. Work and social activities
Once your family is handled, it’s time to hand back the extra roles you’ve taken up at work, with your friends and extended family, at church, in your chamas, and in your social and professional circles.
One woman whom I gave this tip recovered a lot of free hours each week as a result of giving people back their roles. Before doing this exercise, she was so busy that she used to sleep past midnight every day, had messed up her health, and alienated her family.
I also gave my mum this tip one day and she left a number of chamas she was in that were not serving her well.
If you find yourself regularly taking on other people’s slack at work or in committees you’re in, then it’s time to start speaking up for yourself so that people stop taking advantage of you.
4. Social media, email, the internet, texts and calls
These are some of the worst culprits when it comes to losing track of time. Here’s how you can gain control of these modern-day time thieve.
Opt out of updates and set a time of the day when you go online. Make this towards the end of the work day or on your commute home if you use public transport.
WhatsApp and Twitter are especially addictive. I recovered my evenings when I unplugged myself from Whatsapp which had taken over my life.
I’ve written a detailed article on how to reduce the time spent on Facebook and you can use these tips to take control of other social media.
Unless your job requires constant email updates, reduce your time to checking email twice a day for 15-30 minutes – at 11am and 4pm. Set a timer when checking email and stop when the timer rings. Also, systematically unsubscribe from most of the email newsletters you’ve opted into and delete unnecessary emails.
Aim for a zero-email policy in your inbox and install Unroll.me to help clean up your inbox and keep you in check. The first time I used Unroll.me, I ended up unsubscribing from 238 email lists. Now that was a real shocker!
It’s easy to get sucked into visiting more pages or following trending stories when you go online. Before you know it, the 15 minutes you had allocated yourself has turned to a whole morning…time lost that will never be recovered.
As with email, it can help if you have a specific time when you go online (with a timer of course).
Texts and calls
Phone addicts have a hard time ignoring texts and calls. They have to read messages or pick up calls. This habit will steal time from you.
Have a time in the day when you put your phone on silent mode or switch it off completely if you’re not in emergency services.
Mobile phones, tablets, and laptops have made life easier and communication more accessible as anyone can get hold you at any time. You need to be in control of these gadgets and not have them run your life.
Here are some strategies that have worked for me. Note that I’m an extreme introvert so some of these tips may not work for extroverts.
- Having a gadget-free policy at dinnertime: All gadgets are put off and we spend at least one hour together at dinner. This has helped improve communication in my home and I’ve gotten to know my children better.
- Separating your personal and professional communication: I have a separate business line and very few people (family, close friends, and my 1-1 clients) have my personal line, which I call my ‘secret service’ number. Having this separation has helped me unplug from work in the evenings and on days off.
- Having a communication threshold: My family and friends know that I don’t pick up calls between 6pm and 8pm as this is homework and dinner time, and my clients know that I’m not available after 5pm and on weekends unless it’s an emergency. I also treat my work time seriously and rarely make personal calls during work hours. On work days, I make or receive personal calls during breaks at 10:30am and 1:00-2:00pm.
- Removing social media updates from the personal phone: I don’t have any social media on my phone. That’s right…no Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, or any other apps. This means that when I have to connect with people, I do so directly. This strategy alone has created more time for me to write as I have free time in the evenings and on weekends; time that I used to spend with my fingers tapping away on the small phone screen.
On a funny note, my son who’s an extrovert used to get worked up when I didn’t read texts immediately and he took to waving the phone in front of my face while saying that it was rude to ignore calls and texts.
One day I got fed up and told him, “We grew up without mobiles or social media and we’d spend days waiting for letters or saving coins so as to make a call from the telephone booth.”
His response, “But mum, that was in the 1940s!” The shock was on me…because even my parents were not alive in 1940!
5. Watching soaps and other TV programs
TV programs do exactly as the name suggests. They program your mind to think in a certain way. It’s also easy to become addicted to programs and spend a lot of time in front of the TV (or the ‘idiot box’ as my sister calls it).
If there’s a TV program you like, discipline yourself to turning off the TV when the program is over. Also, find ways of having fun as a family without TV.
I find it sad when I visit people and we end up sitting to watch a Mexican soap for the rest of the visit instead of catching up and having a good time together.
TV will program you and suck the life out of you and your relationships. Use it, but with care.
6. Working without a plan or schedule
Many women wake up and hit the ground running. Their lives are an endless cycle of crises that need to be sorted.
Most of the time, such people are so frazzled and tired that they cannot stop to take a breath and relax. That used to be me until I learned the power of planning and using a daily schedule.
Here’s a planning system I’ve used for the last 4 years and it’s helped me manage my time as well:
- Yearly goals: Each year, create a list of 6 goals you want to achieve in the year. These goals cut across core areas of your life. I take 3 days off in November to evaluate the year and plan for the next year. Once the plan is done, I put it aside and fine tune it the week before Christmas.
- Monthly sub-goals: Each month, look at the yearly goals and create a list of 6 sub-goals for the month.
- Weekly targets: Monthly goals get broken into weekly targets so that you have 6 main targets to focus on each week, which are then spread out across the days of the week.
- Daily to-do list: Every evening, evaluate the work done that day and then create a to-do list for the next day. My daily to-do list never has more than 10 items, and I try as much as possible to put pending items from the previous day and the main goals for the year at the beginning of the day.
- Regular evaluation:
- At the end of the week, evaluate the week and create the next week’s plan.
- At the end of the month, evaluate what’s worked well and what needs improvement, and compare progress with the goals for the year. Do this evaluation before deciding on your goals for the new month so that you don’t leave things hanging from previous months.
Using this system, each day’s work feeds into the week’s targets; each week feeds into the month’s goals, and each month feeds into the year’s goals.
Having a plan and schedule will keep you focused on what’s important and make your life easier. You’ll also be able to eliminate time wasters and deliberately create time for yourself.
You can find a detailed explanation of my planning system in the article on how to achieve your goals effectively with 90-day goal setting.
Need some more inspiration?
Here are articles with additional tips on how to create more time for yourself:
If your life is not as happy and fulfilling as you’d like it to be, then it means that you’re looking for happiness and fulfillment outside of yourself instead of creating it from within.
You need to become a priority in your life. And it starts with creating time to take care of yourself and doing things you love.
What is one thing you’ll do or have done to create time for yourself? I’d love to hear from you so please share with us in the Comments.
(Image credit: saphatthachat at Free Digital Photos)
Self-care is an art that most women don’t practice. It involves creating time for activities that matter to you. Most self-care activities are independent of a woman’s other roles in the family, workplace, or society.
Many women spend their whole lives taking care of everyone else and some never get to put themselves first. Others are lucky and get a chance to change things, even in their old age.
For example, my mother did the unthinkable last weekend; at least for a woman her age.
She took a 2-day holiday (gasp!)…
…without my father (even bigger gasp!)
As if that was not enough, my two sisters went with her so it was a girly weekend out.
It took some time before my dad accepted that his wife could take time off from him and the home at her age (mum’s over 70 years old).
The girls had an amazing and relaxing time and they came back quite refreshed.
As we talked about it later, my sis and I realized that family holidays almost always end up with the women doing a lot of work, while the men and children rest and have fun.
By the time the holiday is over, you need another holiday to recover from the family one!
Why is self-care important?
My mum’s decision to do something purely for herself got me thinking about the fact that most women don’t practice self-care.
I mean it’s easy to dress well and take care of the physical part – the look and image – and then forget to take care of our own emotional and motivational needs.
So you find a lot of women trying to get these needs fulfilled outside of themselves.
If you expect your husband, boyfriend, relatives, children, friends, colleagues, business, job, chama, etc. to fulfil and motivate you, you will always end up with something missing in your life.
This is because no one can fully satisfy the emotional needs of another as some of these needs can only be met from inside yourself.
I work with women and one thing I get my clients to do as homework throughout their coaching program is to find ways to reward themselves on a weekly basis or when they achieve their goals.
All my clients have had a hard time with this exercise in the first few months they try it, and some actively resist it. They simply don’t know how to reward themselves.
In all my years of coaching, I’ve only met 2 women who told me, “Caroline, but I already do that.” These two women schedule some time to pamper themselves, do things that they love, and reward their efforts. And they’re able to do these things without family and friends.
I had a hard time when I started practising self-care. While I’m an extreme introvert, most of my relaxation and reward systems used to include close friends and family. It took time and saying “No” to other people in order to have time for myself.
Here are some things that have worked for me and other women I know.
1. Schedule ‘me-time’ each day
This is not time for catching up with pending work, but time for you to unwind and let go of the day’s stuff. It’s a ‘Do Not Disturb’ time for family and friends unless it’s an emergency.
For example, my family knows that I should not be disturbed during my me-time unless the world is falling apart or there is a major catastrophe.
During your me-time time you could:
- relax with a glass of wine;
- read a book;
- listen to music or an audio book;
- have a long bath with your favourite bath salts;
- do some yoga stretches;
- or do just anything you want to relax at home.
Start with scheduling 30 minutes daily, preferably early in the evening or just before bedtime. Commit to this appointment as much as you can until it becomes a regular part of your day.
2. Have a day of the week that is just for you
No errands, no running around, no cleaning up the house…it’s your girly day and you have 100% control of that day.
Monday is my rest day and I don’t make a plan for the day. It’s an open day for me to do what I want, preferably alone. While I sometimes choose to complete some pending work, I don’t take any clients on or do work that requires meetings with people – online or offline.
Sometimes I write all day long, read novels, spend part of the day at a beach restaurant, go to the salon and get pampered, shop for myself, spend the morning writing at Java as I have my favourite gourmet coffee, surf the internet mindlessly, meet a friend.…the list is endless.
3. Take a longer break once in a while
Just as with the weekly day off, make a conscious effort to take a longer break that is free of obligations and work each month, quarter or year. It could be a full weekend off or you can extend it to a full week if you want to.
What will you do in this time?
You could travel, book yourself in a hotel to do your yearly planning, take time to catch up on your hobbies and the things that you’ve neglected but that mean a lot to you…the choice is yours.
I know a group of women who take a long weekend holiday each year to bond. They travel away from family and spend the time just relaxing and catching up. They are a very tight group and have helped each other through some major shakeups in their lives.
4. Take the day off on your birthday
This has been one of the best things that I’ve done for myself over the last 3 years. I never plan what to do on my birthday in advance; it’s more of a spontaneous thing.
Last year, I spent the day at a beach hotel. This year, one of my clients travelled to Mombasa and we had an amazing morning session (we’d been working virtually and had never met physically), after which I spent the afternoon relaxing at the beach with my family.
While this year’s birthday included my family and a client, it was all in my control and I consciously chose to spend time with them.
5. Recreate your hobbies
Start doing things that you love, even if it’s just for an hour each week.
Many women give up their hobbies as they grow up. We become so busy that we end up with nothing to do in our free time except take care of other people. This gets worse with marriage and motherhood because the needs of our families now supersede our own needs.
I love knitting, cooking, reading, writing, and spending time at the beach. These hobbies are now a regular part of my life because I’ve chosen to make them so.
- I knit when my mind gets clogged up and have gotten some amazing insights during the process.
- Writing has become a regular part of my life now and for example, this article was written in the morning in my pj’s – before breakfast – because there was an idea that needed to be put in writing immediately.
- Thanks to Amazon Kindle, my virtual library of over 5,000 novels – sheer delight!
Your hobbies are your lifeline. They’ll keep you sane and give you motivation and fulfillment.
6. Reward yourself on a regular basis
What do you do when you achieve a goal or sub-goal? Do you take time to celebrate? Do you give yourself a physical reward?
One thing I teach my clients is to build rewards into their goals for the year. For example, if you have a goal to grow your business income from Kshs. 100,000/- a month to Kshs. 300,000/- a month by the end of the year (which is doable in business), you then create milestones of say, every additional 50,000/- you earn. And then you build in rewards for these increments:
- At Kshs. 150,000/-, you will… (e.g. treat yourself to lunch at XYZ restaurant).
- When you hit 200,000/- you will… (e.g. buy a new handbag with matching shoes).
- When you hit 250,000/- you will… (e.g. go to the spa for the full works).
- When you hit the bulls eye of 300,000/-, you will…
Make sure your rewards are meaningful to you and that they don’t cost a lot of money. You don’t want to take away all the extra money you’ve earned.
You can also tie your rewards with other self-care activities. For example, I used to hate (and fear) marketing and no amount of threats or rewards worked. I finally created a reward of buying a novel on Kindle each week when I complete the marketing calls planned for that week.
This worked so well that I upped the reward to 2 novels a week when I complete the marketing calls and conduct at least 2 sample coaching sessions that week.
Anticipating having new novels to read on Sunday afternoon is enough motivation to get me making the calls and inviting people for sample sessions.
7. Don’t give up
When you start taking care of yourself, it will mean that you have to take the time from someone or something else. This will cause some upheaval in your life and in the lives of people who were used to you behaving in a certain way.
Change never comes easy to those being affected negatively by the change and some people will try to get you to quit. Others will attack you outright with hurting words and/or actions, especially when their efforts to make you quit fail. There will be a period of chaos before things settle down.
If people are used to you being a doormat and taking up their slack, then they will not give up their power easily and their words or actions may cause you pain. This is the price you pay for not having taken care of yourself in the past.
Don’t give up. Start small with little things and work up to the big ones.
And please don’t get so excited that you try to make big changes all at once. The stress you’ll put yourself and your loved ones through is not necessary. Start with small rewards or with taking your daily me-time and then work upwards to the bigger things.
Are you ready for this?
In this article, I’ve explored ways in which you can practice self care.
When you make yourself a priority, you will be happier and more fulfilled. You will perform better at work and with time (after the initial shakeup) your household will be a happier one too.
The examples I’ve given above are simply guiding points. All you need to remember is to take care of yourself without going overboard or abandoning your obligations.
You don’t have to wait until you’re in your 70s like my mum before you make a decision to start putting yourself first in your life. You need to become a little bit selfish and implement self-care activities in your life today.
Do you have other self-care tips? What has worked for you in the past and what didn’t work? Please share your experience with us in the Comments.
You may have noticed that self-care requires creating time. In the next post, I’ll explore what you can do to create time for yourself.
(Image credit: SweetCrisis at Free Digital Photos)