Burnout can often come when you are so overwhelmed with information, possibilities, and ideas that you have no idea where to go next. It’s like planning a vacation, but you’re not sure where you want to go, when you want to leave or return, how you want to get there, or what you want to see along the way. Mountains? Beach? Safari? Skiing? It’s all on the table.
Even if you have the end result in mind – trip to beach, let’s say – the possibilities can still be overwhelming. Studies have shown that a confused mind does nothing, and nothing is more confusing – and tiring – than a plethora of options to evaluate, rank, and act upon.
Sometimes you can feel overwhelmed and burned out not only because there are so many options, but because you have no idea what your criteria should be. To go back to our beach example, if you don’t have a departure date in mind, a specific destination, or a price range, you’re going to have a difficult if not impossible task in sorting through all options to find the “best.”
If this sounds familiar, the good news is that your frustration and lack of motivation are temporary. Typically as soon as you can identify your end goal and define some parameters for your decision, you can move forward. It’s the dozens of possibilities combined with the lack of decision criteria that make for the banging-the-head-against-the-wall feeling.
So before we get into some specifics of handling overwhelm, here are a few quick actions you can take if you’re feeling bogged down and mired in choices:
Define the ideal outcome
Back to the beach example: Do you want to relax, skydive, be surrounded by people, or be on a desert island? Get clear on what you want to feel, have, or do.
Eliminate the obvious
If there are some options that are just so far out there that they’re not even in the realm of possibility (like a three-month trip to Richard Branson’s private island), get rid of them. Do a quick pass through your contenders to narrow down the choices as much as possible.
Make a list of criteria
For our fictional vacation, is cost an issue? Travel time? English-speaking?
Once you’ve taken as much off the table as you can, you may feel motivated enough to move forward with clarity.
Well.. these are some ways to quickly wade through the information and/or options overwhelming you. For some people, that fast sort-and-purge may be enough to get you on track. But if you’re still stuck and feeling burned out as the result of the avalanche of choices you face, here are some tips to help you move from “stuck” to “superstar:”
Make progress, however small
Sometimes all it takes is a bit of traction to get yourself moving again. Think of a car stuck in the snow, spinning its wheels. The snow is so slick, the wheels can’t get purchase and so they just spin and spin. But with a handful of kitty litter or sand, there’s enough grit that the wheels have something to push against and Voila! The car moves. The same can be true for you. All you need is a little handful of something to let you make progress.
Your “little something” could be cleaning off your desk and getting rid of all the extraneous papers and projects. Or you could make a phone call, submit an article, write an email. What it is, is less important than the actual process of undertaking and doing something.
Swallow the Bitter Pill
Sometimes we’re not really overwhelmed with tasks, we’re overwhelmed with tasks we don’t want to do. We’re burnt out because instead of just doing what we need to do, we think about it, whine about it, and resist it. Resistance, whining, and mentally rehearsing the task all take a ton of energy, more than it would take to just do the stupid thing in the first place!
Maybe you’re resisting a sticky personnel problem, like a poor performance review or even firing someone. Or maybe dealing with the “business” side of business, like finances or taxes, is where you get bogged down. Oftentimes these rotten little tasks build up until we feel totally overwhelmed by them. Doing one or two can get you moving again.
Make a choice
Ask anyone who’s planned a wedding or other huge event and they’ll tell you that the whole thing seems like a big ball of snarled yarn. You can’t book the church until you get the date. You can’t get the date until you talk to the caterer. You can’t get the caterer until you choose the reception locale. You can’t get the reception locale until you get the church. And you’re back to the beginning again. It’s enough to make you want to elope!
What works in these situations is to just put a stake in the ground. Decide to do one thing, however small. Even knowing you want fish for dinner and you want an outdoor reception will help narrow the field. Once that stake is planted, you can begin to make other decisions based on it.
Give up the idea of “perfection
Whatever goal you’re tackling, whether it’s a product launch or a wedding or a new YouTube show, you probably want it to be the best it can be. But striving to make everything “perfect” is just going to drive you nuts. Perfection doesn’t exist, and looking for the “perfect” harpist or camera or website design is going to have you wasting time. Instead, look for “adequate” or “good enough.” Once you release yourself from the bonds of perfection, you’ll be able to move forward more easily.
Photo - Flickr:Bumpy