If you work hard but feel like you’ve accomplished little or nothing at the end of the day, or get paralyzed by the sheer number of things in your inbox or feel defeated before you start some days by the number of things you have to do, you may be suffering from a decision making problem.
Think about it this way. Yes, our modern world can be overwhelming and choices seem to get more complex. But have you unknowingly started to ignore the fact that you have choices around how you spend your time? Most of us feel like we have to do everything we see others do, when in fact doing it all usually translates into getting nothing done, missing key milestones, and failing to achieve your goals around the things that are most important to you which ends up making you feel frustrated. Doing the wrong things over and over again leads to burnout.
Awareness is the first critical step to getting out of overwhelm. Overwhelm and the resulting indecision and exhaustion that follow can serve as useful signals telling you that your life is out of alignment, and that you are not happy with your choices. You need to make some different decisions. Here is a simple decision-making process that can reduce overwhelm, clarify your decisions and re-energize you.
Remember, you always have a choice so make a choice. When something comes up put your decisions into one of 3 categories: “Yes,” “No” and “Maybe” and do it by trusting your gut not listening to the voice in your head. We have all been taught to think it through, do the pros and cons, reason it out, when in fact no one should ever make a decision in their head. The decision-making that is right for you varies by your energy type and I can assure you there is no type that has their decision-making center in their head.
For example, should you take on that big client or that extra assignment at work? If your immediate gut reaction is negative, then your answer is No, honor it. Trust your instincts. What about the vacation you’ve been wanting to take but have been putting off for years? Probably the Yes pile, right?
Without thinking about how each thing is going to happen, or what the consequences might be, go through your list of things you need to decide about and make your choices with your decision center.
If it’s neither Yes or No, put it in the Maybe pile. The Maybe pile is usually filled with things you’re uncertain about and is the category that seems to be the biggest and bogs you down the most. Here’s the kicker: Your Maybe pile is very likely an extension of your No pile. Big Maybe piles are only overwhelming if you think of them as “Yesses”—or “shoulds.” Give yourself some time to feel into it and get clarity about what your gut feeling is. Revisit the Maybe Pile until you feel there is a definitive “Yes” or “No” . Depending on your energy type this might be quick or it might take weeks or months!
Until you’re clear that you’ve taken care of all the “Yesses” in your life, everything else is a “No.” It’s that simple. Working from a small, contained Yes pile helps you focus and let go of “what ifs.” Finally, overwhelm starts to go away. A simple decision-making process like the above can be all it takes to reduce tension, help you breathe more calmly, and give you more energy.
But wait a minute, just say “No”, really? How can we do that? What about those consequences? How you handle the consequences is a choice too. There are always consequences embedded in every decision. It is really about getting clear on what is most important to you and setting up some good boundaries to protect your “Yesses” from attack from forces that want to pull your attention in another direction, a direction you know is not the right one for you.