Updated: Mar 24, 2020
No wonder you're overwhelmed... you trying to store things in your brain. Silly you!
I know I'm not the only woman this happens to...
You try to fall asleep at night but your brain is busy, busy with ideas and reviewing what has happened today and what needs to happen tomorrow.
Then you get up in the morning and see the pile of laundry that needs to be folded, the dishes in the sink, the garbages to be emptied, the chores to be reviewed with the kids...
You're reminded to call your mother, to prepare a lesson to teach at church, to call your sister, to pull the meat out of the fridge to defrost for dinner, to fix the oil leak in the car...
Your three-year-old needs breakfast and grooming, your morning routine needs to get done, you remember an email you need to send, that you want to learn French and you need to practice and darn it! -- you need to take your vitamins!
Then there are meals to prepare, errands to run, more emails to send, a newsletter to write, an employee to hire, that book you want to finish (reading), that book you want to start, the book you want to write...
The menu needs planning, the grocery shopping needs done, the schoolwork (or homework) needs managed...
Your teenager needs help processing some emotions, your nine-year-old needs one-on-one time, you want to connect with your husband, and you need sleep...
Well, you get my point.
If you're like me, this 'stuff' to do goes on and on...
I recently created this flow chart (it's a system for managing my 'to-do' list 😆):
I showed it to my husband. He said, "It looks like your brain!"
Why yes, my brain does feel like that.
So is it any wonder that the pressure builds until I reach a state of overwhelm?
(This happened much more often when I was a young mother and 'lacking skills'... it still happens on occassion.)
One afternoon I finally cried on his shoulder exclaiming,
"I can't do everything!"
"You don't have to," he told me.
He was right. He 'swayed' me until I felt better.
(No, that's not an innuendo! ☺️ Think of slow-dancing without music.)
And then, as always happens with me, I picked up the book that had the answer I needed.
I'd read it two years before when I'd been in a similar state of overwhelm (PLUS I had lost my sense of identity as an individual because I was being 'just a mom').
This book had 'saved my sanity'.
Now I picked it up again and I found the same deep sense of relief as I read and implemented.
Yes! This is exactly how I feel!
Yes! This is exactly what I need to do!
You see, every single little thing I mentioned above -- the 'laundry list' of 'stuff' -- everything you notice, think of, and need or want to do -- becomes an 'open tab' in your brain.
Just like on your browser when you open a new tab for every new topic or idea you want to look up or research...
...we do the same thing in our brains. We open tabs -- the laundry tab, the dishes tab, the 'goals I want to work on' tab -- on and on ad infinitum.
This constant, unproductive preoccupation with all the things we have to do is the single largest consumer of time and energy. -- Kerry Gleeson
But all of those tabs are using some of our 'processing power'. They are being tracked by a subconscious part of you.
And even if you're not fully conscious of it, each of these 'incomplete' open tabs is pulling on your attention -- everything from 'learn another language' to 'send an email' to 'replace the batteries in my electric candles.'
Anything you consider 'unfinished' remains in your brain as an 'open tab'.
If you have two or three or ten open tabs it's no big deal.
But if you're like me -- or like many women -- you have hundreds of open tabs... and eventually, you feel your sanity slipping as you're overcome by overwhelm.
What is the answer?
CLOSE THE TABS! DO NOT STORE ANYTHING IN YOUR BRAIN!
Anxiety is caused by a lack of control, organization, preparation, and action. -- David Allen
Your brain is not meant to remember everything at once.
Every single thing you think of that you want or need to do -- now or in 20 years -- anything that bothers you, or that you worry about, anything at all needs to be written down.
Of course, writing it down is not enough. It must be captured in a system you can trust.
If you only write it down, your brain knows that the paper will be lost or forgotten and so it will keep that tab open, 'just in case'.
But if you have a system in place that will help you to clarify what the 'next action' is and will remind you when you need to take that action...
We need to transform all the 'stuff' we're trying to organize [or remember] into actionable stuff we need to do. -- David Allen
A system that will regularly (weekly) remind you of all those projects, goals, ideas, and 'to-dos' -- all of the 'stuff' -- so that you can take consistent action...
That is when your mind finally becomes empty and calm -- like a peaceful lake. And that is where your true power lies.
Because when your mind is empty and calm it is always ready for anything -- to respond appropriately to the challenges it faces moment by moment, hour by hour.
[To LEAD your family during times of crisis.]
Your ability to generate power is directly proportional to your ability to relax -- David Allen
This is where we find peace and confidence that everything that needs to get done will get done at the right time...
...and whatever we're currently doing is the most important thing we could be doing at that moment.
This is how we learn to be fully and completely present -- to give our full attention to the task at hand.
And that is the definition of contentment (and sanity).
(If you would like to learn more about implementing this system, scroll to the bottom and sign up for my 'Ambitious Mom Toolkit' below ↓↓↓)