So, you have a super long list of to-dos and no matter how much you do the list keeps growing.
There aren’t enough hours in the day because they’ve all magically migrated to nighttime where you lie awake for hours too tired to be productive but, too stressed to get to sleep.
You, my friend, are overwhelmed and about to crash!
No worries! In the next 5 minutes, you are going to learn the 5-best brain-hacks for Overwhelm!
Okay so, the first thing we think of when we look at that ever growing to-do list (besides I’m going back to bed!) is usually, how the heck am I going to get all of this done??? Then, we run around panicked trying to do 10 things at once and accomplishing nothing…. that is the definition of suffering! Let’s stop doing that. Introducing…..
Brain Hack #1 – No More Multitasking!
Multitasking might seem like a bright idea but for your brain, it does way more harm than good. In reality, we aren’t actually able to multitask… When we try to do multiple tasks at once, what we end up doing is rapidly switching our focus back and forth between tasks. For our brains this takes a ton of work and is exhausting. It actually impairs our brains ability to function well later. It is way more efficient to focus on one task until it is completed. We can do this by having clear goals and limiting our distractions during our focused work time. Cell phones down and away, tv off, or office door closed. Pick one task. Get it done then move to the next. When you are working, you work. When you are breaking, you break.
Brain Hack # 2 – Picking What To Focus On
So now that we know HOW we are going to focus our attention, let’s talk about WHAT we will focus it on. Pick a maximum of 3 goals. One of the biggest mistakes we make is striving to clear a huge list OR we pick the biggest complex problems we have and struggle to solve. As we strive to get them done, we are literally vibrating with stress and making ourselves feel worse – not to mention exhausting our brain. Let’s try a different algorithm… try picking one that will alleviate the most anxiety, one that can be done the fastest and/or one that can be done right away. Bonus points if you pick one of each. The idea is to get things done in a way that helps you recover your energy so you can use it to work on other tasks.
Lots of folks will read this and wonder, “if I only do 3 things per day, how will I ever get anything done?”
I would offer that, trying to accomplish your entire list while working in a way that depletes your energy resources will eventually lead to a state of accomplishing nothing! Slow and steady wins the race… remember the tortoise and the hare ?
Brain Hack # 3 – Automate and Standardize
This one is literally my favourite!
Our brains thrive on efficiency! This is why we have procedural memory. Procedural memory is the process that stores the steps to something we have done repeatedly. Walking, riding a bike, driving our cars. These are things we can do without reviewing every single step each time we begin. That’s because our brain has remembered and automated each step to save us the time and energy of constantly starting over. What’s extra sweet is that we can hack our brain’s procedural memory to help us get more done without spending more energy!
Here’s how… Think of the time during your day where you have the least routine but feels the most stressful. Now think of ways you can bring order or “steps” to that time. For example, if your mornings are chaos… think of the things you know you must get done and the order you think they should best be done in. For example, get up, shower, brush your teeth, get dressed, grab your watch and cell phone, etc… until you are out the door and on your way to work. Print these steps on a piece of paper, post it along your morning path and repeat this routine continually until it becomes habit. Eventually, you will notice your brain taking over. Completing a routine takes far less time and energy than figuring out each step of every morning. Once you’ve mastered one automation, find more ways to automate your way to rest and success!
Hack # 4 – Learn To Listen
Our brain isn’t shy about the things we need. It will tell us in as many ways as it can but one of the biggest problems most of us have is … we don’t know how to listen. Our brain talks to us through body cues. When we need food, our brain cues us through the sensation of hunger. When we need sleep, we yawn or start to feel drowsy. If we take time to slow down and check-in, we can learn to listen to what our brain needs. So how do we “listen”? Here’s one easy way..
Set your alarm for 3 points in the day when you will check in. When the alarm sounds, find a comfortable place to sit quietly and ask yourself, “How am I doing right now?”. Listen to whatever comes up. Sense how your body feels. Is it tense? Are you thirsty? Are you stressed? What do you feel emotionally? After taking a minute to scan your body… ask, “What do I need right now?”. If you can, make a note. After some time of identifying your needs, take a deep breath and return to your day. Find a way to incorporate what your body needs.
Don’t worry if this feels funny at first or if you don’t “hear” anything. We are not a mindful society and these practices can take time to become procedural like we discussed in the last hack. The most important thing is that you learn to listen to what your brain is telling you it needs!
Hack # 5 – Sleep!
Last but certainly not least! Sleep!
Sleep is the #1 brain hack ever and is the one that will give you the most bang for your buck! Sleep provides the brain with the opportunity to regroup, clean itself up, and consolidate everything that it has taken in. If you’ve ever experienced prolonged insomnia or forced yourself to stay up for more than 24 hours, then you know how impaired our brains can become without sleep. We struggle to make good decisions, our memory goes out the window, and our emotions are almost impossible to control! Not a good picture.
So, getting sleep is priority #1 for the overwhelmed. Even if it seems more difficult. One of the ways to improve sleep is through good sleep hygiene! Take time to wind down before bed. Change up your bedtime routine and try something new that allows your body to relax. Tons of research points to cell phones as being a major disruptor to sleep so, try having focused phone time at least 1-hour before bed. Try snuggling down with a book or magazine or, soaking in a warm bath. Avoid doing work in your bed or sleeping area, you want your brain to pair your bedroom with sleep. Winding down is different for everyone, so it might take some time to find your ideal bedtime routine. Don’t worry about getting it perfect… just look for consistent waits to improve the quality and duration of your sleep.
So those are the 5 ways you can stay productive AND rebound from overwhelm!
Leave us a note in the comments! We would love to hear which of these hacks worked best for you!
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