Taking the Over Out of Overwhelmed
You didn’t finish the report that was due yesterday because the project is a lot more complicated than you realized and you have to do way more research before you can even start writing. You missed the 7:30 bus, which meant you missed the subway, which meant you missed the morning meeting. Your boss hasn’t been responding to emails over the past few days and you don’t know if it’s because she’s not happy with your work or because of other things that have nothing to do with you are keeping her busy.
You’re so overwhelmed, instead of concentrating on the job at hand you’ve let yourself fall into the what-if trap. What if I can never figure this out? What if my boss actually hates me? What if I’m not cut out for this job? What if I can never find another job?
Stop, look and listen
Before you fall into the what-if abyss you need to perform a self-intervention. Listen to the thoughts rolling around in your head. Are they familiar? Is this a situation you’ve found yourself in before? Could it be that your boss has priorities a little more pressing than immediately responding to your emails? Is your job actually in jeopardy or are you blowing a bad day out of proportion?
Once you put things into perspective and realize the worst case scenario may not be waiting for you around the corner, you can take some steps to bring things under control.
Do one thing
You may still not be able to get that report written before the end of day, but what is the next thing you can do that will bring you closer to your goal? That’s where you need to focus your attention. Be specific. I need to do X so I can do Y. Focus the next hour on doing that one thing. After that you can do the next thing and the next. Lay out a step by step plan that you can follow.
As you complete each step whatever was overwhelming you should scale down, to difficult, then manageable, and eventually to done.