Fighting Overwhelm

Networking Goal for 2018: 272 people

Current number of people in my network: 145

Up from last post: +8

Hey, you networking mavens, you!

I had planned — and would love — to talk to you all about the joys of reaching out to people you already know. I was sidetracked by also wanting to talk about, holy moly, the number of unexpected gigs that have started coming my way because of my increased networking. But while money and fellowship are both topics I will cover in the next couple of weeks, there’s something else I have to talk about first:

Overwhelm.

I knew that taking on networking this year in a big way was going to be a challenge time-wise. To some extent, I built that in. Networking came instead of some other things I really enjoy, like reading, and also forced me to be more focused in my work. You have to make room somehow.

What I did NOT anticipate was that I would start getting more work, almost immediately, from networking.

Showing up to things, reaching out to people, had the unforeseen consequence of reminding them that I was available. Which is great, don’t get me wrong, I love a steady stream of work, but it also threw my already tightly-scheduled life into disarray.

I cannot in good conscience tell you to go out there and network your little heart out without first warning you that doing so will definitely lead to more time spent connecting with others, and may also bring in more work than you can handle without serious juggling.

Good problems to have, but challenging nonetheless.

So, today, a quick look at overwhelm and how to beat it. I don’t have all the answers, but I have a few things that work for me:

1) Clear the decks. Get ahead where you can. It’s impossible to work flat out every single day (at least for me), but if you can devote a couple of days to clearing out all half-finished projects and anything else hanging over your head, it is well worth giving yourself both the physical and the mental space. 

2) There is such a thing as decision fatigue. If you can make one blanket decision ahead of time, do it, so you don’t have to waste energy deciding every time. There are, for instance, some people who wear the same T-shirt/jeans combination every day. If you can lay out all your clothes for the week — or make and freeze all your dinners — or do all your grocery shopping — on Sunday, it gives you more brain space when you need it throughout the week.

I made a blanket decision to go out and network every opportunity I got for the first six months of the year, which means I don’t need to weigh pros and cons every time, I just go. Look for anywhere you can automate your response and conserve decision-making power. You are going to need to have these habits ingrained when you get busy.

3) Recognize overwhelm for what it is: too much on your plate for any reasonable human to accomplish. Here’s what it’s NOT: laziness, incompetence, lack of ambition or wherewithal. All these opportunities are flying to you because you deserve them and you can handle them. You’ve got this.

Finally, and most important of all:

4) Start saying, “No.”

Not to the opportunities, but to the other demands in your life that are no longer serving you. I was so annoyed with myself the other day because someone asked me to resend something he’d lost, and then text him to let him know I had so that he could make sure to get it this time, and, oh, while I was at it, send him some other info that he did have, but didn’t want to have to look for.

And I did.

No. No. This was a perfect opportunity to say NO. All I needed to do was resend and ask him to confirm receipt via e-mail. Five seconds rather than ten minutes of my time. “But it’s only ten minutes!” my inner perfectionist wailed. And I gave in — but I shouldn’t have. Those ten minutes eat into time we need.

Say no to the minion duties. Delegate. Provide others with the opportunity to step up. You do not have to shoulder the world. Focus instead on the work that only you can do.

And be good to yourself. You’re a rock star.