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6 Things To Focus On When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

Author: Lauren Coleman

Nothing makes us happier than welcoming one of the original RMW brides back into the fold so it's fab to have Naomi with us today. In her own words, Naomi has 'technically been on honeymoon since 2011' and joins us today from Australia where she spends her time teaching creatives how to balance productivity, creativity & pleasure. If feeling overwhelmed usually results in you heading to bed (which is one of my tactics) then this article is for you. Over to Naomi...

*Stands up*

Hello, my name is Naomi and I am a massive procrastinator. I get overwhelmed easily and as if that wasn’t quite enough, I also occasionally suffer from bouts of anxiety.

So naturally, when my son was only 6 weeks old and my husband was working 13 hour days, 6 days a week, I decided to quit my job and start my own graphic & web design business. Considering the nature of my person, this meant one thing... I needed to learn how to juggle it all and I needed to learn fast.

Thankfully, almost two years later... Both my business and my baby are intact and thriving. I can also say that I’ve learnt so much about overwhelm, procrastination, anxiety and what these things mean for productivity. So much so, that I now have a serious action plan in place that helps me motor through my to do list most days and stay relatively sane while doing it.

Charlotte thought it would be fun to bring this conversation over to Rock My Style so we can all have a good chinwag about the demands of life, feeling overwhelmed and how in the name of coco pops, we can all learn to relax about it.

It usually begins when Overwhelm comes knocking at my door, my first reaction is to freeze and/or panic about the amount of things I need to do. Then his good old friend Procrastination comes to join the party. So I end up ignoring my to do list and go hunting for good old Motivation and Inspiration to get me back on course. Usually I think I’ll find my Motivation in one of the following places:

  • Checking email for the 16th time
  • Reading Facebook posts
  • Thumbing through Instagram
  • Cleaning out my wardrobe
  • Making tea
  • Eating chocolate

I do these things with the best of intentions to snap back to it soon, but ironically spend the whole time worrying about the amount of things that await me when I find my Motivation again. After catching myself repeat this pattern thousands of times, I’ve figured out the six things I need to focus on to prevent being stuck in the company of Overwhlem and Procrastination all day.

Clarity

The very first thing I do when I start to feel overwhelmed is break out the paper and pen. I spend 10 minutes writing down everything that comes to mind. Everything. Pay that electricity bill, buy Sarah’s birthday present, get dresses dry cleaned, buy more teabags, call internet company, vacuum bedrooms, write HuffPost article, wash bedsheets... (That was literally what’s on my mind right now). With everything mapped out in front of me, I aim to delegate about a third to my husband (we are a team after all) and then I look at my calendar and decide realistically (key word here) when I can get to the rest.

Relationships

I have a block of time set aside each week that is purely for being with people. Saturdays. Morning consists of breakfast with my boys, the afternoon is usually spent catching up with friends and the evening is pure, quality time with my man. No phone checking, no to do lists, no email, just the people I adore, all day long. This time is absolutely non-negotiable and I find it fuels my focus for the rest of the week.

Energy

I know the RMS girls are big proponents of clean eating (most of the time!). And I am also on board. But since we all know that we need our veggies etc. Let’s focus on two different areas that have been the most life changing for me in terms of increasing energy... Water and Sleep. *eyeroll* Boring, right? We all know we should be drinking 8 glasses of water a day. But I am telling you now, out of all my research, the absolute number one thing that prevents me from focusing and spirals me into overwhelm... Is dehydration. Don’t believe me? The next time you’re feeling scattered, go and get a big glass of water and tank it. I guarantee you’ll feel fresher and more focused almost immediately. As for sleep, I’m not a big fan of telling people how much sleep they need to get. That's just a slap in the face to new Mums and night owls. What I will say is, make sure the sleep you DO get is quality sleep. To do this, try not to look at screens for at least 15 minutes before bed and make sure your room is super dark and clear of clutter. It’s a whole post of its own, but trust me, my morning energy levels have skyrocketed since I started paying attention to sleep quality over sleep quantity.

Atmosphere

I’ve been trying to write this post for RMS all morning, I’ve been mulling over the points in my head, but couldn’t quite get it to appear on screen. Then I got overwhelmed. Went to get my glass of water (I’m telling you, it works) and looked around at my house. It was a bomb site. Not a bit of wonder I couldn’t work properly! So I set my kitchen timer for 10 minutes and tidied in that speed you can only seem to achieve when you know someone’s on their way over. When I stepped back and admired my nice tidy space (albeit with dirty floors) I felt more energised and ready to work. So if you find yourself procrastinating by tidying up your desk or doing the washing, do it. Because that clutter is clearly on your mind and robbing you of the focus you need for the tasks at hand. But always set yourself a time limit.

Taking

This is my favourite one. How much information are you taking in from other people? If you’re reading Buzzfeed, Facebook, Blog Lovin, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or your other productivity poison of choice, it’s not a bit of wonder that you may have no room left in your head for your own tasks. Remember that every time you check social media, you’re consuming other people’s lives and choices, but delaying your own. In saying that, I am the girl that lies in bed checking Instagram when I wake up, it makes me happy and inspired to start my own day. But to combat the time suck, I make sure it’s for no longer than 5 minutes. I also subscribe to no more than 10 of my fave blogs (RMS & RMF hold two of those spots obvs) but I have them delivered to my inbox, so I don’t get lost in the land of blog feeds. All in all, I am SUPER conscious of taking up brain space with other people’s information. Because the internet was clearly invented to distract us from our own lives. And man does it well.

Enjoyment

The last tip I have is probably the most important. If you’re not making time to do things on a daily basis that bring you pure enjoyment, there’s a good chance your brain is going to check out of the things you need to get done. For some (Charlotte) that’s exercise, for others it’s looking through interior design magazines, playing video games, watching soaps, scrapbooking, baking, reading etc. We all need to allocate downtime that makes us happy. And it doesn’t have to be hours on end, it can be 20 minutes out of the day. I find that if I give myself some real downtime, it feels indulgent and luxurious. It took a while for the “But I should be doing that” guilt to subside, but now I know the benefits to my productivity, I never miss my 20 minute fiction break on the couch.

You’ll notice that all of the points above spell out the word C.R.E.A.T.E. This is for two reasons. One, I need an acronym that makes it easy to remember when I feel overwhelmed and two, it reminds me that I am more than capable of changing my own mindset. That at any point, (be it first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon), I can choose to take back control of my time. I always get to create my day, my way.

I’d love to know if you procrastinate or feel overwhelmed as much as I do? Do you think you’ll give any of the tips above a go? Or maybe you already swear by some of them?

{Contributors}

Article by Naomi Liddell

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Lauren likes Paris, Prosecco and Paint Charts
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33 thoughts on “6 Things To Focus On When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

  1. This is golden! It couldn’t have come at a better time for me because last week I gave my notice from a company I’ve worked at for 25 years (I know, right?) and my hubby and I are starting our own business. Seriously feeling the overwhelm at the mo, so I’ll definitely be tucking this article away in times of stress! Loving the point you make about putting periods of time away just to be with your tribe too – I’ll definitely be putting that into practice!

    1. 25 years?! Jeez-O! Good luck with your new venture though! Are you in a position to tell us what it is yet?
      The best thing I find with running my own business is… What’s the very next actionable step? Got that done?… Then, what’s the very next actionable step? And so on.
      You’ll rock this thing! Congrats again Denise 🙂

  2. Love this, very motivating and great for a Monday! You mentioned anxiety which I am getting daily at the moment and I was wondering whether you can recommend

    1. Honestly Kate, any books I’ve tried to read to help my anxiety only exacerbates my anxiety. Go figure!
      But I do find meditation and calming apps like Calm, Headspace really good for that. I also absolutely swear by the Saagara.com app ‘Relax’ and their breathing exercises when I’m feeling particularly panicked. It’s an instant calm-me-down.
      I hope this helps. Anxiety can feel really all consuming, but it’s just a feeling and ALL feelings pass. If you feel it’s really getting on top of you though, go and see your GP. xo

  3. What a great article. I’m just on mat leave again with my second and am giving serious consideration to starting my own consultancy rather than return to my job next year. But one of the main things that makes me ultra nervous (apart from the confidence that I’m good enough!) is making sure I can manage my time effectively to fit it all in…including time with the babes, my husband and friends. Really really useful…thanks Naomi xx

    1. Yay Lo! How exciting that you might be starting up your own consultancy. The juggle is REAL, but as you’ll know already, there’s nothing in this world that makes you realise the benefit of super focused short bursts of time like a baby. It’s very possible to manage, just takes some practice. I’m thinking of doing a ‘Day in the life’ of a day working at home with my kid on my blog soon 🙂

  4. I used to be the Queen of Procrastination but that has changed since my 9 week old baby arrived. He is quite fussy and will only be put down for short time periods and similar with naps. Knowing the clock is ticking I have become a whizz at multi tasking house work. I definitely recommend the timer approach Naomi describes as you then do the essential and don’t get bogged down. The house is still pretty messy but at least we are all fed and have clean clothes! My next step is to actually get a cleaner so I am motivated to keep things a bit more tidy…..

    1. Man-oh-man these kids Kat, they make you focus like a mother trucker. Also I am with you on the cleaner front. I feel like my life would reach new levels of zen if I didn’t have that burden.

  5. Such practical tips! I’m currently on maternity leave from a highly stressful job which demands creativity, stressing about returning. I am going to have to be strict with my time in order to achieve that work /life balance and feel that your suggestions could really work for me personally. You are so right about the hydration thing- Still, I needed the reminder!
    Thanks so much for sharing x

    1. Soak up that maternity leave Jenny! And when you return, life will just take on a different rhythm. You may need to make some tweaks as you go, but you’ll find your balance.

  6. I am a huge procrastinator and really find that the longer my to-do list gets the worse it is. I have lost my blogging mojo in particular recently and I think it has just been a case of being overwhelmed and letting procrastination take hold. I will DEFINITELY be using these tips immediately to try and get myself back on track xx

    1. Excellent Emma! So glad you got some value out of this. Blogging mojo is so goddamn elusive. I have to set myself a strict 3x per week schedule or I’d never get a post written. Good luck getting back on it! Go drink some water 🙂

  7. Wow thank you Naomi and RMS – this couldn’t be more timely for me. I was talking to my husband at the weekend about how overwhelmed I was feeling. Even though we had a lovely day out yesterday with my stepdaughters, I felt that I wasn’t concentrating properly, which is awful. What is the point if you can’t enjoy the things that matter most?

    I’ve been feeling more and more like there’s something weighing me down and we attributed this to our huge to-do list (house stuff, cars, tax return, work, finances…even holiday planning feels like a negative when its added to The List which is clearly not right!) that never seems to be reduced. We need focus and procrastination is my middle name, so I am determined to put this advice into practice…

    x

    1. Mrs M, I’m sorry you’ve been feeling like that lately, but SO glad that this was able to help you out!

      My biggest recommendation is to make sure you have one day (if not two) where you don’t have to tackle a single thing on your to do list. A day for pottering and spending time with people you love. It’s been a lifesaver for me.

  8. Love this Naomi. Started reading in a procrastinating moment just as you described! Very helpful tips. Off to drink a glass of water, write a list (I’ve always been a list girl) which sure does give satisfaction when crossing off the completed tasks and then to start writing a reflective account for Uni ?

  9. I’m ironically procrastinating by reading this – but just wanted to say that there are some good practical tips here – will try the glass of water right now and get re focussed!!

    1. Haha, the irony of writing a blog focused mainly on productivity does not escape me Sarah. I also hilariously spend ages on Pinterest sometimes gathering productivity tips. So funny. Hope you got your water and found your focus 🙂

    2. Just thinking the exact same thing. I feel like I should read it every day, but for now I’m definitely on board with the water – will give it a go when I hit my afternoon slump.

      So lovely to hear from Naomi again. Hiya! x

  10. No offence to author or commenters, but the day I have to diarise my husband, family and friends is the day I come off social media, get a different job and get a grip. This may be normal to many people, but it ain’t normal. That’s just madness.

    1. No offence taken Faye 🙂 We all have different levels of time demands and priorities. It’s funny, because I don’t see having time off scheduled as a negative thing (and Saturday isn’t the only time off obviously, I’d go mad). It’s just nice to know that those times are for people and people only, like Charlotte has her Mama & Mabel days on a Friday. It makes space to really enjoy the time, instead of juggling even things like washing, cleaning, groceries etc. I don’t see it as prioritising my work over them, I see it as prioritising them 🙂

  11. I loved this post Naomi, thank you! Good, wise advice and clearly set out, which is exactly what I need when I’m feeling overwhelmed. So much of this rings true for me, when my chair-drobe reaches new heights I get so anxious, until a serious blitz has to take place. The other thing that makes me stressed and like I haven’t got my sh*t together is not having painted toenails or any existing varnish being chipped – sounds ridiculous as nobody else would ever know at this time of year, but it winds me right up until I have time to fix it!

    My only other recommendation is writing a list – the notes section of my phone is full to the brim – often I don’t even look back at them but just writing them down helps me prioritise whatever is going on!

    Once again, RMS hitting the nail on the head. Thanks guys! X

    1. Haha! Chair-drobe. I have one of those. AND a floor-drobe. I also feel you on the chipped nails thing. I type most of my day, so having chipped nails in front of me is too distracting 😉
      Also, a list is always a saviour.

  12. A great post Naomi. I am with you on ALL of this. I don’t drink enough water, I go to bed early when I feel overwhelmed, I spend about an hour and a half too long every day looking at Facebook and I don’t write enough down. However, I did invest in a Day Designer and it’s helping me loads, I do take at least an hour a day to myself, either walking my puppy or exercising and I always make sure Sunday is for me, my man, my boy and my girl. Oh and I enquired to a local cleaner today…WHOOP! This year I am planning on growing my current site and starting a whole new one so I better get me a water cooler and turn off the Facebook feed pronto.

    1. Haha Kelly now I want a water cooler!! Good call on the Day Designer, I have the (pricey but awesome) GetToWorkbook and I absolutely swear by it. Having a planner makes all the difference.
      As for FB, I had that problem too. I fixed it by deleting the app on my phone and installing Rescue Time on my computer. It tells me just how much time I spend on each site, the first week report is an eye opener, but it really helps deter you after. 🙂

  13. I started reading this earlier in the week as part of early afternoon procrastination, and am trying to use some of the tips. Am I the only one wondering where the lamp in the opening photo is from? I’m trying to resist an afternoon of searching online!!

    1. I was wondering if anyone was going to ask about the lamp Kathy. It’s gorgeous isn’t it? It’s from Cox and Cox via Prezola.

  14. Love this….I sometimes think I could get a degree in procrastination! The timed tidying is What I need as I def get carried away, I also go for the when I’ve done these of the list I can have a cuppa. And I totally get the chipped nails comments, I’ve solved this by painting them at my desk, nails dry and it stops you wandering off or doing anything other than typing so you don’t smudge them! Now I’m off to start first job on list…

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