It seems I find myself here every spring: overcommitted and burnt out. During the summer months when people ask for commitments and life is quieter, it feels like I have all the time in the world. Then housework and work-work and family and events and projects gradually take up more and more of my time. Soon I feel like I’m drowning and would give anything for a week alone—completely alone—with no one clamoring for my attention.
Heck, who am I kidding? I’d settle for an entire afternoon alone.
I’ve found introspection to be incredibly helpful when it comes to addressing personal struggles. With that in mind, I’ve created the Overload Assessment Worksheet. At the end of the post I’ll tell you where to find the worksheet, but for now let’s walk through it together.
The overload elimination questions:
What am I doing right now that I could (and should) easily eliminate and/or delegate?
This seemed like the most appropriate place to begin, as I’ve found myself asking this question season after season. Happily, it seems I’ve gotten better about addressing this early on, because when I went through the worksheet nothing came to mind.
However, that might not be true in your case. Have you taken on too many work, family, or volunteer projects? Is it feasible and appropriate to get out of them? Take time on this question to consider whether you are truly giving these things your best, or if someone else might be better capable of taking your place.
What am I doing that will end soon?
The only reason question one was blank for me is because I’ve already made those hard decisions about certain committees and activities. It helps to list things that are ending—even if just for the season—because this will take a little weight off your shoulders and remind you that relief is just around the corner.
When I’m fed and well rested, what still hangs heavy on my mind?
We’re told to never make decisions when we are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired (HALT), which is brilliant advice. For me, hunger and fatigue are the biggest triggers to spiraling out of control. Everything becomes urgent, important, and apocalyptic. I completely lose perspective.
The point? Know yourself and don’t answer this question until you’re in a good place. If you’re in the process of getting there, ask a trusted friend to help you with this one.
Some responsibilities that weigh on me in my best moments are housework, bills, and parenting. As far as worries are concerned, I think about the health of my family, finding time to connect with friends, and losing loved ones. For the most part, I can’t do much about these worries.
As you answer this question, be sure to divide your answers between things that are truly your responsibility and all other concerns. And if you can’t address your worry with action, seek out a way to let it go, if possible. Don’t go borrowing trouble, my friend.
What zaps my energy?
Oooh, this is a biggie. Have you noticed that the things we turn to when we are tired often make us even more tired? For example, in the afternoons I turn to chocolate to go with my coffee, even though I know my body doesn’t process sugar well.
After the kids are in bed, and especially if it’s been a rough day, I’ll turn on some mindless television show, knowing full well that I’d be more refreshed and go to bed earlier if I opted to read instead.
Eating sweets and watching TV aren’t bad things in moderation. But when I’m looking to them to help me deal with the overload, they’re only going to make matters worse.
Some other things that zap my energy are skimping on sleep, eating too many carbs, spending time with negative people, too much time on social media, and even watching the news.
What energizes me?
This is another area where it’s vital to know yourself. I fall right on the line when it comes to introversion and extroversion, so I need people and alone time pretty much equally.
When it comes to people, I need date nights with My Guy, visits with my parents, focused time with all three of my sisters, and deep conversations with friends.
As for being alone, my Miracle Morning is a huge energizer for me. I try to make 20 minute power naps a priority most days. Time to create art, writing, turning on music, and a clean house all give me a boost.
It’s impossible to care well for others if you fail to care well for yourself. That said, it might be beneficial to create a list of your answers to questions 5-8 for daily reference. Place them somewhere you can reference easily. I find it helpful to tape these kinds of lists inside my cupboard door, right by the water glasses and coffee cups.
How can I choose joy in this season?
Things change. What brought me joy ten years ago is totally different from my list of today. Well, mostly different. I still cherish time with loved ones, writing, and sitting outside in the silence at my parents’ home. But today I also find joy in the soul-splitting smiles on my children’s faces, as well as in picking up my pen to create beauty.
The point is, we must consciously choose joy. That might mean:
- Lighting a candle and turning on some relaxing or energizing music.
- Making a list of things you’re grateful for.
- Taking a walk outside to enjoy nature.
- Or, if you’re crazy like me, turning on some Christmas music. That’ll put a smile on my face all year long.
The point here is that what brings you joy will probably be completely different from what’s on my list. It’s the act of choice that remains the same.
How will I choose to recharge?
This question might seem similar to the previous two, but take your time here. There are subtle differences.
For example, weekly planning time—especially when I get to spend 1-2 hours alone at Starbucks—totally recharges my batteries.
A quiet Sunday, without email or work or endless errands gives me a sense of calm and prepares me for the week ahead. Practicing this day of quiet is a huge struggle, and often an impossibility, but well worth prioritizing for me.
You might already know this about me, but I’m a workaholic. I LOVE working. There’s some mutation in my brain that makes me believe my value stems from my productivity. However, I know that if I choose to set aside my work when I put the kids to bed and spend the evening sitting outside with My Guy, I’ll be much better for it. Those evenings are precious.
And there are absolutely no words to describe how recharged I feel after an evening in the company of these friends.
What am I going to change in order to fight overload?
Of all the questions, this one requires the most thought. Now that we know what needs to change, we must ask ourselves—what are we willing to change?
Rather than practicing elimination, let me suggest replacement. So instead of saying that I will not eat sugar, I’m making a note to choose cheese or nuts when my tired brain asks for candy.
If I feel like I need a glass of wine to unwind before bed, I can choose some herbal tea instead.
Rather than obsess about the messy house and attack it all in one day, I’m purposing to spend 15 minutes a day cleaning. I’ll literally set a timer and clean until the alarm goes off.
Overload elimination is a lifelong journey
Just because you walk through the worksheet doesn’t mean all your troubles will be wrapped up for life or even for the next year. We need to constantly assess where we are, look at where and who we want to be, and then make the necessary changes. But we can do this.
You can access your copy of the Overload Assessment Worksheet in the Goodies tab. Let me know how it works for you. And if you think of ways to make it even more helpful I’d love to hear your suggestions below.