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101, Part 25: Confusion and overwhelm are expensive, and have absolutely no upside.

Leadership, Motivation, Productivity, Values

This post is part of a series dedicated to the skills needed to be a boss at mental + emotional management. Here’s the introductory post. And you can find the whole series to-date here.


Confusion and overwhelm are expensive, and have absolutely no upside.

Associated Skill:

Recognizing confusion and overwhelm, and moving past them.

I hear you: Okay, okay. I get it. You want me to plan, you want me to commit to myself. You want me to be the boss of my brain.

First, yes, that’s exactly right. I think you’re incredible and will continue to sell you on your own potential until my last breath.

Next, I also hear you saying: and planning and mental management and white space and recognizing thoughts are all well and good for someone who has a ton of time on their hands but I’ve got a company to run and a constant stream of fires to put out. (Like that mixed metaphor? You can just use the stream to put out the fires.) Sometimes I don’t even know where to begin, or how I’ll ever get out from under my endless list of things to do.


Take a deep breath.

And really hear me.

Overwhelm will not aid you in getting more done. Nor will confusion.

Just think about that mathematically for a moment. Let’s start with a day, no, a morning. You’ve got 8AM-Noon. Four hours. Two hundred and forty minutes. Two movies. 12 TED talks.

Is there any upside at all to feeling overwhelmed during those four hours?

Will you get more done from a place of overwhelm?

Will the quality of what you get done increase?

Does overwhelm create special achievement powers that you can’t access when you feel calm?

Do you enjoy what you’re doing more? Feel more connected to your purpose?

Nope. Overwhelm, and its evil twin confusion, are liars.

They tell us there’s too much. There’s just exactly the amount that there is. And we get to decide specifically what we do.

They tell us there’s no time. There are 24 hours in a day. Always. Never more, never less. Every person has the same amount, and we can’t do anything to increase the number of hours we have. But we have absolute control over how effective we are with each of those hours.

They tell us we don’t know what to do. We always know a step we can take. And taking action always gives us a return, a measurable result or a new piece of knowledge. Believing we don’t know gives us bupkis.

Overwhelm and confusion serve absolutely no purpose, and they are far, far too expensive. They cost us time. They cost us knowledge. They cost us grit, self-reliance, and confidence. And worst, they cost many of us realization of our dreams.

And when we are in the midst of them, they feel very, very real. Blinding. Paralyzing. And sometimes, comfortable.

But they are lying. They are not the truth.

Because you can go about your day experiencing overwhelm, or you can go about your day experiencing determination and conviction. The day doesn’t care one way or the other. It’s just a day. A period of time. A revolution.

And if you had been working with a doubly-long to-do list for the last year, and someone swooped in to cut it down to its current size, you’d feel relief, or joy, or something else amazing. Not overwhelm.

Execution is deciding on priorities and then taking one step at a time.

That’s it.

Overwhelm isn’t required. It hurts, harms, hinders.

When we eliminate it, when we stop believing it and just make a plan then start executing, we find the space that we believed wasn’t there. We become the masters of time, and of ourselves. We decrease the crazy stress chemicals running through us.

Doesn’t that sound nice?

As a coach, when a client says, “I don’t know,” I always ask, “what would you do if you did know?” They always have an answer. When someone says, “I don’t know where to start,” the same is true. Asking where they’d start if they did know, or asking what they’d pick if they had to decide on a first step, always results in an answer.

Overwhelm and confusion are liars.

You always know.

There is enough time.

Your day is yours.

You are the boss of your time.

You are amazing.

How to Practice

Don’t allow yourself to say “I don’t know.” When you notice yourself thinking “there’s not enough time” or “there’s too much to do,” take a deep breath and say, “what do I most want to get done in the time that I have?”

If you’re thinking differently after reading this, and you’re into it, don’t stop now. I offer a few free 30-minute coaching calls each week, and one of them could be yours. All you need is a desire to see what else is possible. What are you waiting for?