As my son and I pulled into the Hobby Lobby parking lot Thursday afternoon, my phone rang. My part-time consulting work called with urgent needs. You know that feeling when the needle scratches across vinyl? Our fun outing to get craft supplies to make adorable cloth pumpkins for our fall decor came to a screeching halt in one moment. I sat feeling overwhelmed as I tried to navigate the crisis that loomed at my workplace.
The Pile Up
The week leading up to this phone call had been FULL. I mean full. We hosted supper, had a precious houseguest from Germany, I went out of town for a speaking engagement, came home and spoke to another group of moms here in town, and we had several other big commitments along the way.
I wrote a book and a devotional on this stuff – time management, prioritizing, making room for what matters most. They share the title, “Slow Down, Mama.” Yet, here I found myself knee deep in overcommitment and the fallout that follows. We can master this stuff, but we always need to practice what we preach, and even if we do, we can end up slipping at times. Just like dust, overcommitment can creep into our schedules if we aren’t diligent to clean them out regularly. We can go from peaceful to overwhelmed in a matter of hours.
By Saturday, when my teen son had a frustrating interaction with me, I was laid out. My reserves were depleted. I had gone too far. I hit my real limit.
Hitting the Limit
Thankfully, I have a few things in place to help me out of this kind of dead end. I have great support. I have learned ways to get myself recharged when my battery light is blinking in the danger zone – Empty – Empty – Empty! It occurred to me you might like to know about the approach that is working for me when I feel overwhelmed. God knows we all hit our limits – and there’s no shame in that. We think we should be able to do it all. Why? I’m here to tell you that not one of us can or should do it all. Every mom I know feels overwhelmed at times – if not regularly.
So, when you hit a limit like I did, or when things just feel like they are starting to get a bit overwhelming, here’s what I suggest. Use the “I Ate That” method. No. I’m not talking about going to the pantry and eating all the Doritos straight out of the bag (not saying we all haven’t had that version of the “I Ate That” approach to stress!). I’m talking about using a simple approach to thinning out what’s on your mind and in your planner so it can get dialed down to manageable again.
The “I Ate That” Approach
The “I Ate That” method was something I coined because every word in the process ends with “ate.” Simply put, you do a quick brain dump. That means you pour out on paper everything that is making you feel overwhelmed or pressured. I like to dump mine in lists under life categories (like, “work,” “ministry,” “speaking engagements,” “homeschool,” “home care,” etc)
Then you go through the four steps:
- Delegate or Collaborate
Going through the Process
That’s it. Simple and Effective. Let’s break it down so you get a full picture of how this works. After you do a brain dump, you take time to EVALUATE what your priorities are for the given week. It helps so much to know what is most important in your week and then to use those priorities as a filter for what you leave in your week and what you cut out.
Next you go through and ELIMINATE whatever doesn’t fit in this week or this season. Cross out items that need to go. I’m pretty sure this kicks up some endorphins, I’m just saying. A lot of things can be changed at this point in the process. Maybe you planned a homemade supper that would take you an hour to prepare. You can change that to soup and sandwiches, or take out pizza. Modify to simplify.
Asking for Help
Next you need to ask yourself where you can DELEGATE or COLLABORATE. Can your children or husband do something for you? This past weekend as I hit empty, I sat trying to trim my coming week. I shot a quick text to my friend asking her to bring snacks for Bible Study. I sent another to a friend asking her to teach the Sunday School lesson for me. Sweet breezes started to blow as I asked for help and passed things on to others. I didn’t grow up knowing how to comfortably ask for help, but I have learned in adulthood. When others need support, I am glad to pitch in. I have learned to give friends the opportunity to bless me when I need it.
Finally, you get to PROCRASTINATE. I know, we all think that’s a bad habit, and it sure can be if we do it subconsciously only to have to face what we have put off when it piles up all around us. This kind of procrastination is different. In healthy procrastination we put off whatever can be postponed without causing harm to us or others. It’s surprising how many things are not as immediately pressing as we thought they were. Putting things into a coming week on the calendar, or realizing they don’t fit in this month or season gives us much needed elbow room.
You’ve Got This
So, there you go. The next time you feel a bit overwhelmed (or a lot) just sit down, do a brain dump and go through the four steps: Evaluate, Eliminate, Delegate or Collaborate, and Procrastinate. You’re welcome.
And now, I’m getting off the computer to take advantage of the time I freed up by using my “I Ate That” method this week.
P.S. You can find a sheet I designed to use for this process in my library of freebies. It’s available to you (along with a bunch of other useful freebies) when you subscribe to my weekly email.
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Teresa Gearing says
Great advice as always! I learn so much from you. Love you Patty!
Thanks, Teresa. I love you friend.
Ruth Ann Lingwall says
Making a list when I get feeling overwhelmed helps me too. I know I won’t forget anything and it’s easyto see what I think needs to happen. I need to try to Eliminate and Deligate more. I think I have Procrastinate down pat. Truly, procrastinate sometimes is helpful as the things that are not important fall off the list while the most important things get taken care of. Thanks for sharing your insight!
Thanks for sharing, Ruth Ann. I think some of the natural procrastination is a blessing. I find things can still loom like specters in my mind if I don’t make sure they are either written somewhere to be done or officially kissed goodbye. That especially happens when I am overwhelmed. I often imagine there is more that needs to be done than is actual. When I go to sit down and really take a look at what I’m up against, it’s usually more manageable than I had imagined. I am glad you shared here. You are welcome back anytime.
Horace Williams Jr says
Love these tips, Patty. Excellent advice, friend. It is easy to fall victim to overwhelm at times, isn’t it? Thank you for sharing your insights. I will be sharing it with my followers. Be well, sister and God bless.
Thanks, Horace. I sure appreciate you passing it on. I hope it blesses many. I have friends who say, “I’m too blessed to be stressed.” That’s a fact, but we still can get that feeling that we are in quicksand. This method helps me out — that and staying in the day at hand as much as possible. God advises that for a reason. We need to be focused on what we can see around us and not into all the “what ifs” and “whens.” I appreciate you, my brother.
Sandra Muller says
I love this ATE concept.
Yes, I know that feeling all too well. But you’ve got a great way for managing it when your battery is flashing empty. I will keep this in mind for the next time it happens to me.
Thanks, Sandra! I hope it blesses you.