A Practical Plan for When You Feel Overwhelmed

In general, September is often a difficult month: I’m catching up from summer vacation as are many of my clients, projects tend to regain momentum, the Jewish holidays reduce my work days, and our kids need more of my time as they readjust themselves to new grades in school.

But this year feels worse. On top of my regular client work, I have three strategy offsites to design and facilitate, my publisher‘s edits of my next book to review, and a TEDx talk to prepare and deliver — all in a month. And then, of course, there’s my weekly blog.

Just to be clear: I’m not complaining. I feel incredibly fortunate to be so busy doing work I love. Still, it can be overwhelming.

And here’s the crazy part: I just spent the last two days trying to work without actually working. I start on something but get distracted by the Internet. Or a phone call. Or an email. Or even a video online that has no value whatsoever. In fact, at a time when I need to be at my most efficient, I have become less efficient than ever.

You’d think it would be the opposite — that when we have a lot to do we become very productive in order to get it done — and sometimes that happens.

But when we have too much to do, we can freeze. Spinning without traction, we move fast but don’t make progress on the things that are creating our stress. Because when there’s so much competing for attention, we don’t know where to begin and so we don’t begin anywhere.

Full history:

Peter Bregman

Peter Bregman speaks, writes, and consults on leadership. He is the CEO of Bregman Partners, Inc., a global management consulting firm, and the author of Point B: A Short Guide To Leading a Big Change. Sign up to receive an email when he posts.