When You’re Drowning in Tasks, Overwhelm & Stress

By Leo Babauta

I recently talked with a couple of people who are just absolutely slammed with business because of the current crisis, and feel like they are drowning in busyness and stress.

I can relate to that feeling — I’ve experienced it a bunch of times, including recently.

So I’m writing this guide to help you, if you’re drowning in your tasks, busyness, overwhelm and stress.

It’s something you can completely shift, if you decide you’re tired of it.

Let’s look at what’s possible, and then how to shift it.

The Realization

The realization I had is that when I feel like I’m overwhelmed and drowning in tasks … is that I created this experience for myself.

I denied this truth for a long time, but it’s a realization that was very powerful for me.

If I created the reality of being swamped and overwhelmed … I can create a completely different reality. I’m not a victim of my circumstances.

It might not feel like this is an experience you’re creating for yourself, and I get that. It’s simply because you have too much to do, and not enough time! But I’ve experienced it both ways, and I can tell you that we can create a different reality.

Let’s imagine something different …

You’re doing all of your tasks with completely focus. You’re at peace, calm. You are in love with the world, and grateful for this moment.

You’re doing all the same things, but the experience is entirely different.

What would that be like for you?

First Steps

Before we can shift that, we need to do a couple things first …

We have to start by recognizing that we’re incredibly stressed, and probably pretty tired. This needs to be taken care of before we can do much else.

So start by dropping your attention into your body, in a simple form of meditation. Notice how you feel. Notice the feeling of stress, of tiredness, of overwhelm. Without judgment, with full compassion. Give these feelings some space, and let yourself take some deep breaths. Give yourself compassion and take care of yourself. If you can do this for 5-10 minutes, it will make a world of difference. I’ve found that if you can do 30 minutes, it’s almost like a mini-vacation — you return nicely rested. A nap helps too!

The second step is to triage. Make a list of everything you have to do, all your tasks and meetings and calls and appointments and errands, if you don’t already have a list. Put as much on it as you can think of — including tasks from within messages and emails. This is your exhaustive list. Now triage: cross off ones you don’t need to do, mark other ones to be done later, send others to be done by other people. Of the remaining tasks, mark the top 3. Put those 3 on a new list to focus on. The rest you will try to get through when those top 3 are done.

This triaging will allow you to have a smaller list to focus on, instead of worrying about the rest. Below the list of top 3 tasks, add your hard appointments with their times. Now you can focus on one thing at a time.

Creating a New Experience

Now let’s talk about creating a different experience for yourself. You can choose how to experience your day.

Think of yourself as the Zen Master of your workplace.

You either take on what’s in front of you (someone talking to you, a situation you need to take care of right now, etc.) … or you pick a single task or message to focus on. This will be given your full attention. It is your entire universe.

You are fully devoted to this task, this email, this person in front of you. It is important enough to invest a portion of your life to. You fully immerse yourself in it.

You are fully present, in the moment. You experience the moment as peaceful, calm, open and joyful.

You are appreciative of this beautiful moment, as a tremendous gift to yourself. You are grateful to have all of this in your life, grateful to be alive.

Move through this task or situation, creating this experience for yourself. Breathe. Relax. Open to the beauty of this moment, this task, this person you’re with.

Keep practicing in this way.

You can create your experience. You’ll often go back to the old way you experience life, out of habit. Notice this, and return to the experience you’d like to have.

Become the flowing, focused, deeply appreciative, relaxed, joyful Zen Master of your world.

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