Konubinix' opinionated web of thoughts

Overwhelm vs Overload - What's the Difference and What to Do! (Part 1)


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From Next Action Associates

When you realize you have too much work (overloaded), you feel overwhelmed. It appears to be a correlation and not a causality. You could be overloaded or not while being overwhelmed or not.

To deal with overload, you need to change your procedures, like how often you read and answer to your emails, or how often you say no to new demands. To deal with overwhelmed, you need to change your perception, to feel more in control of your actions.

Most of gtd is about dealing with overwhelmed, not overload. You are mostly in control in how you feel about your work (dichotomy of control).

One main cause of overwhelmed is that you don’t have a trusted system and keep things in your head. We know that our working memory is quite limited, and hence our head cannot be a trusted system. This feeling that stuff can be forgotten and the effort of desperately keeping those in mind and feeling like you are loosing the control brings the feeling of being overwhelmed. You feel like you undergo your life rather that you are an actor of your life1.

One way to be more in control is to perform the 5 steps of gtd. In the first step, he using recommends the mind sweep.

When you overcame overwhelmed, you are likely to still be overloaded. If you realize this, first ask yourselves if this is appropriate. In some situations, like when starting a business, it is acknowledged and considered normal to be overloaded.

If you think it is not, then you need to change your procedures. It is hard, because of social pressure and of the cognitive dissonance of realising that your mind wants to do much more than your body will be able to.

We tend to say yes because:

Keeping a trusted system, and in particular taking a look at the project list helps saying no because your are already committed elsewhere and don’t want to betray the trust you have been given. Remember that saying yes to something is saying no to something else.

Therefore, when being asked for something, you can answer “I would love to, but I already promised this and that and don’t feel2 I could fulfil those promises while saying yes to you”.

At last, he advises to have a maybe list, to keep track of stuffs you cannot commit to right now but don’t want to forget, so that you can still have a clear mind.

  1. therefore, in that situation, increasing the overload indeed increases the overwhelmed ↩︎

  2. gut feeling is an important part of gtd ↩︎