I got this e-mail today and as I was answering it, I got thinking there might be other readers feeling the same way. So here’s the question and how I answered it:

I’m planning to take your upcoming class on goalsetting. I feel like I’m not sure how/what can make me focus better. I wonder if it’s even possible for me to accomplish such a path sometimes. I find I tend to feel bad not to spend time with family and friends or my mind gets lost in worrying about them or pleasing them, etc…or taking time at 10pm at night to watch Donny Deutsch… or go do other things. How do you and the others really achieve all of this stuff and find time for everything else?

I know you get a lot of emailings from a wide range of personal growth teachers. Maybe Step One for you is to really decide what is most valuable–even rank all those emailing as A, B, C–and unsubscribe from the Cs. Only look at the Bs if you have buckets of time to spend. (This advice comes from a fine classic by Alan Lakein called How To Get Control of Your Time and Your Life.)

Secondly, do you have a theme, an organizing principle? It sounds as if Simplify! might be fitting for the next 90 days. Then every activity, invitation, distraction is held up to that mirror. Does it take me closer or farther away from a simpler, richer life?

It’s sorting again. A, B, C.

Also, if cleaning up your office is a starting point (and it’s a good one) do it with the spirit of William Morris who famously said, “Have nothing in your houses that you don’t know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Physical clutter is often very connected to mental clutter. It’s also easier to handle. So if you tackle that project with the intention of getting rid of anything that’s not fabulous or meaningful or representative of who you are right now, you’re bound to get free of some of the mental stuff that’s also keeping you stuck.

If you feel guilty about not spending enough time with your family and friends, for instance, talk to them and negotiate something that works. Tell them you need to focus on laying a foundation for your business and ask them how you can spend time with them in a way that’s satisfying, but not excessive. A special day or gathering every few weeks may be a better solution than regular, but not so festive, times together. Then when you are together, you’re really there and not thinking about things you need to be working on.

Then there’s this fine quote from Jim Loehr who has a book on storytelling: Life is enriched because of the commitment, passion and focus we give it, not the time we give it.

3 Responses to “Overwhelmed? You’re not alone.”

  1. Dan Stratton

    Boy, if this post isn’t about me. I am going through exactly this, too. I have had the most stressful year of my life and I’m getting tired. I have started simplifying but getting out of commitments as best I can. I have found, though, that I am out of the practice of getting the important things done. I sit and stare at a list or procrastinate getting started until it is time for bed. I have started by just making myself do little things. Doing a little thing gets me started on something bigger. And then I find I have done something useful! Baby steps…

  2. Barbara Winter

    Dan, You’ve cracked the code! Baby steps are astonishingly effective; sitting and thinking, not so much. I also like to save odious, but necessary chores, for low energy times. Kinda goes with the mood. And then follow such things with a nice reward. Chocolate is good for such purposes. Thanks for sharing! Barbara

  3. Jen

    I use this philosophy not only with myself but with my clients. I have to say there are better days than others!

    What I am going to start doing because of your email is prioritize my incoming reading material. Right now I throw it all in a “Reading/Review” file, and then never get back to it. Thanks for the idea of prioritizing and unsubscribing!

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