Hey, hey there, bold leaders. Welcome to another episode of the Bold Leadership Revolution podcast. I’m your host, Tara Newman, and I’m here to talk to you today about overwhelm. So many of us are feeling overwhelmed right now and I really want to have a conversation with you about it so we can normalize what we are feeling as leaders and as women and as business owners. And I want to get a simple tool into your hands that will help you probably in less than 20 minutes a day if you implement it, it will help you reduce overwhelm and save you a ton of time, energy, sanity, and money.
But first, do you have the feeling, or the belief I should say, do you have the belief that more work equals more profit?
Have you ever felt like you’re doing a lot of work but you don’t see that reflected in your profit margins or in the income you take home to provide for your family? If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. A lot of entrepreneurs are working harder than ever before and feeling frustrated, overwhelmed and downright annoyed at their output versus their profit. And that’s why I’m delivering a free audio masterclass that you can learn the simple business system that I use in my business, that my clients use in their businesses that help generate real financial results with zero overwhelm, stress or even extra tech. So if you want better results by up to 25% that’s research based, evidence backed, then I want you to head on over to our show notes and sign up for the masterclass that I am having. It will go live on Monday, May 11th, so don’t forget to head on over to the show notes and sign up for that masterclass.
Now I want to say that if you’re feeling overwhelmed, if your brain is feeling overworked, foggy, fried, this is normal. I know that there are a lot of different camps of people that are talking around overwhelm, overwhelm is a choice, overwhelm isn’t a choice. And really I’m not here to debate whether or not that’s a choice, but right now it’s our reality. And I want to put a tool into your hands that helps you choose to take action instead of sit in your overwhelm because I think sometimes we sit in our overwhelm and we get stuck because we’re not really sure what will solve the problem, how to get out of it. How do we move forward when we have so many irons in the fire? We’re being asked to adapt to a wildly different form of life right now, and I don’t see this stopping anytime soon actually.
Just in the last week, I’ve had to learn how to take my kid to the doctor because they’ve changed all the protocols on how you take a child to a doctor. I had to learn how to pick up pet supplies because that has completely changed now. The local pet store that I visit is only allowing two people in the store at a time. We have to have face masks on because I’m in New York and we’ve been mandated that we need to be wearing face masks. And in addition to that, the store is trying to keep their staff and their customers safe. So they’ve basically shut off the whole store and you basically have to go in and just order what you want and then the person goes and picks your stuff off the shelf. So now I’ve had to learn this completely new way of picking up some pet supplies and also how to go grocery shopping. And that’s even different than it was two weeks ago because like I said, in New York now, we have this mandate where we need to be wearing masks.
And just today as I’m recording this episode, I’ve learned that school is now closed for the rest of the year. So we are being asked to adapt to a wildly different form of life. And that is taxing. Also for the last eight weeks I’ve been working at home with two kids and two dogs, which has created way more context switching than ever before. And you might be saying to yourself, “Tara, what’s context switching?” You might not know. So glad you asked. This allowed me to go and do some research down the rabbit hole where I found an excellent article on Rescue Time’s website. Rescue Time helps you track how you spend your time while you’re on your computer. This is not an ad for Rescue Time. I do use it because I like to time track, but they had a great blog post around context switching and they say according to computer scientist and psychologist, Gerald Weinberg, taking on additional tasks simultaneously can destroy up to 80% of your productive time.
“With most workers these days trying to juggle five tasks at a time, we’re losing up to 80% of our productive time each day just to context switch.”
And here’s how this looks in practice. This is all from the article that I’m quoting. Focusing on one task at a time equals 100% of your productive time available. Juggling two tasks at a time equals 40% of your productive time for each, and 20% lost to context switching. Juggling three tasks at a time … If you’re getting the sense that multitasking is not efficient, you would be correct. So juggling three tasks at a time equals 20% of your productive time for each and a 40% loss to context switching. They go on to say further, with most workers these days trying to juggle five tasks at a time, we’re losing up to 80% of our productive time each day just to context switch. In their own research, in Rescue Time’s research, they have found that software developers, as an example, spend just 41% of their time each day doing, well software development.
So now take this concept around context switching and add maybe you’ve got a kid’s home, maybe you’ve got a spouse home, maybe you’re sharing an office with a spouse or a partner or another loved one who’s living with you and you’ve got the dogs and you’ve got your tasks. It’s like nothing is getting done, and how exhausting. And all this new information is causing us to do all this context switching. All of our brains are being overloaded with stress hormones, which made me take a brief stop over at the online publication of Scientific American, where in an article titled stress hormone cortisol linked to early toll on thinking ability, they say the stresses of everyday life may start taking a toll on the brain in relatively early middle age. The study of more than 2000 people, most of them in their 40s, found those with the highest levels of stress hormone cortisol performed worse on tasks of memory, organization, visual perception and attention.
Higher cortisone levels measured in the subject’s blood were also found to be associated with physical changes in the brain that are often seen as precursors to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia according to a study published in October in Neurology. This is from that Scientific American article, which I am aware of because when I had adrenal fatigue, that was one of the biggest concerns was that my brain was being flooded with cortisol and that is a precursor to Alzheimer’s and forms of dementia. And the brain fog is real and significant. So it begs me the question that since we are all here in a state of overwhelm, and I’m saying all, which is a sweeping generalization, but I also think is really damn accurate, that at any point in time we are all in and out of this overwhelming sense of overwhelm.
So it begs the question, what’s the cost of your overwhelm? Because it’s expensive. Not only is there lost opportunities, lack of presence, chronic exhaustion, it erodes your confidence. That dizzy spinning feeling just feels awful and it just takes your confidence out when you get into that state. Overwhelm stands in the way of your quality of living and hurts your ability to think. We just heard from that article that this has real tangible health implications. Overwhelm keeps you from focusing on what’s the most important, what matters the most, and doing your most meaningful work in the world. For some, their work causes stress. And in that case, you need to find work that fuels you and doesn’t drain you. Because when you show up for your most important work, your work will bring critical levels of meaning and purpose to your life, which is both incredibly healing but also healthy.
So I hope I have your attention for a few more minutes because I want to get that simple tool into your hands that you can implement in less than 20 minutes a day that will save you time, energy, sanity, and money, which as you can now see, are true costs of staying in a place of overwhelm. And what I really want to share with you today is how you can be using our SLOW method in a different way to help you reduce overwhelm. I’ve been sharing different applications of the SLOW method, and people are really loving hearing how they can apply or operationalize this method that we created into their life to get powerful results.
And so the reason why I actually discovered, or how I discovered the SLOW method was last year when I was on sabbatical and I knew I needed to slow down. It was the first time I was taking a full month off in my business. I had planned for it for 18 months and it was the single most uncomfortable thing that I think I did all last year. To be honest, I did not like it very much. I did not like taking a month off. It sounds divine, but many of us have been conditioned to move fast, to fill our day, to move from task to task, and taking that level of time off felt radically uncomfortable. So when I sat down and was having this self chat with myself during a CEO debrief, I said to myself, “Okay, what does it mean to slow down? Can we contextualize this? Can we make this concrete?”
So my clients and myself, myself and my clients, and all of those highly ambitious women out there and men, I use this method with my male clients, and it was a matter of fact, it was a male client that I first unveiled this to and his jaw dropped at the power of this method. And so how can we take that saying that you hear so frequently, you have to slow down to speed up, and give it some context and make it concrete so that you can actually go out and slow down, so you can go and slow yourself down. So we’re going to use it today. I’m going to take you through it to have you reduce your overwhelm.
And so the first letter in the SLOW method is S, and it stands for Step back and reflect.
What does stepping back and reflecting look like when you are overwhelmed? You’re going to do a brain dump. That’s what stepping back and reflecting looks like when you’re overwhelmed. You are going to unload your brain onto a piece of paper. This was popularized, I believe, somebody can fact check me, by David Allen in the book Getting Things Done. I haven’t picked up that book in a really long time, but in that book he talks about how your brain is not a file cabinet. It’s not there to store things. And that’s so much how we’re using it. And when we go into a place of overwhelm, it’s like things go into our brains, but it doesn’t come out. Things don’t come out of our brains. It just all creates this log jam in there that starts to feel like a short circuit, literally feels like a short circuit.
So can you take 10 minutes? Set a timer. It’s only going to take you 10 minutes. It might even take less. And the more you do this, the easier it gets. So what I want to say is that if you’re going to sit down and you’re going to put 10 minutes on a clock and you’re going to try and do a brain dump, you might feel frustrated in the beginning. And that’s totally normal. When I first started making these brain dumps a regular part of my habit and practice, I actually did it three times a day. I mean, I’m a mom. At the time I was working in corporate. I had these toddlers that I was trying to parent in a life that was turned upside down because I now had kids and I was not great. Early motherhood was not a great time for me. I was not in a particularly adaptive point in my life. I spent actually most of it hiding in the bathroom to be honest.
So at that time, I needed to do these brain dumps morning, lunchtime, and evening. I actually felt like there was something wrong with me, that so much was pouring out of my brain onto this piece of paper. But that is actually a sign that you’re doing it right. So take 10 minutes, sit yourself down however you want to sit down. Do not overthink this. If you are a digital person, use a digital device. If you are an analog person like me raising my hand, do this on paper. Personally, I either do it on paper or I use my notes app in my phone. I really like the simplicity and the lack of distraction of a notes app for this. So just … that’s my get it all out on a piece of paper sound. And that is how you step back and reflect when you’re overwhelmed. You don’t have to answer any questions. You just have to get it out of your head. Your head is not a file cabinet, as David Allen would say.
“L stands for Lower pressure and expectations.”
L. L stands for lower pressure and expectations. And here’s what that looks like when you’re overwhelmed. Lowering pressure and expectations when you’re overwhelmed, we want to ask herself what would take the pressure off. You know what will take the pressure off? Deleting stuff. That’s what will take the pressure off. I want you to look at that brain dump and I’m going to challenge you, and this is going to be wildly uncomfortable, but I want to challenge you to delete 80% of what is on that brain dump. A good portion of it is mental chatter. The other portion is things you think you should do or the things you’ve been told you have to do or the things you’re doing to please somebody else or the things you’re doing that put others first and not completely taking care of yourself. So full permission to delete like 80% of what you have going on there. And if you can’t delete it, I want you to see if you can automate it.
So for me, this is the big thing for me back in the day when I was practicing this process were errands. So, errands. My mom did not work. I grew up with a mother who didn’t work. My dad would leave her messages on an index card. I can still see them. I shudder. But he would leave her notes on an index card every single morning that these were the things that he needed done, and she would go and run his errands. And that’s how I grew up. So I grew up in a world where a woman running errands was a very important part of her worth in the family unit. And so when I did this brain dump, I looked at my list and there were all these errands. I’m like, “I don’t need to do all this. This is just a lot of BS.” We don’t even need these things, but they’re on my list.
And then there were the things … So, I deleted. I deleted. And then there were things that were on the list that, and when I say I didn’t need it, like go get the kids shoes. Well, do they really need new shoes right now or can I get another little bit out of these shoes when they were toddlers. And most of the time I was putting things on the list that didn’t need to be on there and they could go more time without a new pair of shoes, but in my head I should. I should be buying my kids another pair or a new pair of shoes. And that just wasn’t true. So I had to really check my narratives there.
And so then it became, okay, there were errands that needed to be done. We did need paper towel and toilet paper and cleaning supplies or dish washing detergent or things like that. And at the time, this is when Amazon was really starting off with their subscribe and save. And I was like, “Oh well I don’t actually have to be the one doing the errands. I can delegate it to this automation and have it be completely automated and set up a schedule of when it will be delivered to my house.” And as a matter of fact, in the process, you get to save some money because they give you some money off for subscribe and save.
So what will lower pressure and expectations? Deleting things. Delete, delete, delete. And what you can’t delete, can you delegate? And I don’t mean necessarily paying someone to do them to you. You can automate them like I gave suggestion or you can simply ask the other humans in your house because most likely if you’re listening to this, you’re a woman and you are not asking for help in the house because we’re supposed to have this all figured out and we’re supposed to be responsible for all these things. But can you ask the other humans that live with you to take up some of this, some of these tasks? I always say your success team, you first build your success team at home. You first look at the roles and responsibilities in your home before you look at the roles and responsibilities in your business.
If you want to create a great team in your business, create a great team in your home. It’s just a really fun place to be curious around roles, responsibilities, delegating task, having conversations. It’s low risk. It’s these people are here and hopefully you’re in a home where people love you and support you and want to be helpful and things like that. So I always say it’s kind of a low stakes place to start building a team. So what would lower pressure and expectations? Delete, automate, delegate.
Now the O is Own the now. What is important now?
Own the now. What is important right now? How do you know what’s important right now and what is now? So for me now is near term future work. Near term future work for me is the week, a two week sprint, maybe a month. That’s near term future work. That is what I define as right now. And what is important right now, because oftentimes we get so focused on what’s urgent. So if you have any familiarity with the Eisenhower matrix, urgent versus important, we spend way too much time on the urgent and not making time for what’s important. What’s important are things that help you drive sales and revenue in your business. What’s important are things that will help you improve efficiency because when you can make money and be efficient, you will be wildly more profitable.
So that is always what the tasks that you should be taking on first and prioritizing, should be around making money, improving efficiency, focusing that gets you focused on profit. In your home, because I gave a home example before, what’s important right now in your home? Listen, you can define that and you can define this any way. It doesn’t have to be revenue and efficiency based. I mean if you’re in business, I think it needs to be because that’s that whole first layer of importance in any business. But this could be too, like what’s in alignment with your values? What’s in alignment with your vision? So these are the things that we prioritize and make important. Same thing in your home. It would be focusing on your personal values and what’s important in your home life right now. What goal do you have for yourself personally or with your family, with your partner that would get prioritized as important? That’s what you do right now.
The W is what’s next.
And the way I think of what’s next is when you sit down to do this brain dump, what’s next is the park list. I’m sure you’ve heard of the park list. This is where you’re going to park things to come back to, to look at just week after week and decide whether or not they’re still relevant or important. But it’s kind of like a place where you can set it and forget it. What’s next? So what’s 30 days out from now? 60 days, 90 days, a year, depending on how crazy your brain is, three years from now, park it there and you keep coming back to it to see if it’s important and if it needs to be moved into the now category.
And so that is how I would look at using our SLOW method to help you radically reduce the overwhelm that you’re feeling right now. It’s going to give you that process to slow down, step back and reflect, to lower pressure and expectations, to own what’s now and to have a place to put what’s next. And I truly hope that if you’re feeling overwhelmed … and here’s one more trick for you. Before you sit down and do this, right now as you’re listening to this, because I’m about to wrap it up, so this is your most immediate next step is I want you to ask yourself on a scale from one to 10, how overwhelmed am I feeling right now? All right, make it tangible. Get a number. Check in. And don’t overthink the number. Seriously folks, whatever that number is, just go with it. Just let that intuitive hit come and give you a number, and you can do some questioning around that.
Like okay, if it’s a 10, I mean I have people tell me that they’re at a 14 all the time, even in non pandemic times. So listen, no judgment. So okay, I’m at a 10. Why am I at a 10? What about my system is telling me I’m at a 10? Okay, well I can feel like my brain is just stuck. It’s got that log jam feeling and I feel like I’m spinning and like I’m about to face plant on the floor because the spin is making me so dizzy. So that’s how I know I’m at a 10. Now then I want you to go and do this exercise. I want you to go through the SLOW method, step back and reflect, lower pressure expectations, own the now, what’s next. Get it all down, 20 minutes. Do not take any more than 20 minutes. If you’re taking more than 20 minutes, you’re overthinking this. And I love my over-thinkers but let’s just not do it here.
And then I want you to do that again. Okay. I did my brain dump. I deleted my 80%. I’m focused on what’s now. I’ve got my list of what’s next. On a scale from one to 10, how overwhelmed do I feel right now? And get your number. Maybe you brought it down to a nine. That’s amazing, from a 10 to a nine. And what makes that a nine? What’s the difference between a 10 and a nine? So just get curious here. And I think that one of the biggest problems with overwhelm is the stigma we put on it and the judgment, the self judgment and the self doubt and the negative self talk that accompanies the overwhelm. So this is really a process for befriending overwhelm, not seeing it as a sign of weakness. I 100% raise my hand. I have been overwhelmed repeatedly over the last few weeks. I have used this method myself over and over and over again to systematically step by step with a process, reduce my feelings of overwhelm.
And so use this as a tool for curiosity. And if you use this tool, I want you to make it a habit. I want you to be doing this daily. But after you’ve done this for a few days, I really want you to reach out to me. I want you to reach out to me and let me know, and you can reach out to me either on Instagram, I’m @TheTaraNewman on Instagram. I haven’t been there as much because I’ve been spending a lot more time in my email, which if you’re not on my email list, you’re going to want to jump on my email list because I’m writing some of my best content right now and saving it for my email list. So I want you to get on my email list and then respond to the email that I send and let me know how you’re getting along with this method.
And I am receiving responses, lots of them. I am responding personally to these responses. They’re coming directly into my personal email because this feels really good on my energy. Right now, if you remember from my last episode, I’m talking about doing what’s easy on my energy and this is really a form of serving that feels easy on my energy is to create this pen pal like relationship. So hop onto my email list. Let me know how it goes with this. Great way for you to get on my email list is to sign up for that masterclass that I talked about in the beginning of this episode. That will also help you reduce some of these feelings of overwhelm. So jump on, get that masterclass, jump onto my email list and let’s be pen pals.
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