I Did All That — It’s Still Not Working
OK, I hear you. I said at the beginning, transitioning to owning your time and attention takes a while. Our cultures don’t appreciate it, and don’t encourage it, and they do encourage and celebrate people who can handle being continuously swamped.
Maybe it’s just that way, temporarily: there will be times when you are genuinely overwhelmed. Massive growth, a huge product push, a terrible system failure — these things happen. But they should be identifiable, and temporary. If you know what’s causing the overwhelm, and you can see an end to it, OK, well, maybe you just have to deal. If you can’t see it, and the end is many months or years away, take some action.
Maybe it’s your company culture: does your company culture celebrate overwhelm, over-nighters, “eighty hour” weeks? If so, how do you feel about that? Maybe you fit! Maybe that’s OK. Maybe not, and you’d like to start building a little bubble of sanity around yourself. You have a conscious choice here. Take it.
Maybe you’re not delegating: this comes up frequently — “I have to do all this because my team is not ready/too junior…”. Probably you’re wrong, and holding on to things out of fear of failure, the difficulty of clearly describing the tasks — something. Delegation is great: you get more time, your team gets more responsibility and growth. Find something you are afraid to delegate and do it, today. People are resilient, and grow when you least expect it. Try it.
Maybe it’s you: our business (loosely, the tech world), attracts people who get a kick out of highly detailed, massively complex challenge. I certainly do, and so did the people I hired. We tend to love the adrenaline of navigating a river of problems, endlessly dodging boulders and shooting rapids. And that can make us successful, and rewarded, and the stakes can be high (money, status, career).
So being able to live and work effectively in overwhelm is a super-power, but like many super-powers, it has a downside, and the downside is that it doesn’t work forever. Physically and emotionally, most of us are not set up to go that hard year in and year out.
So take a look at yourself. What do you enjoy about the overwhelm? How does it serve you (ego? a rush? status?). What can you let go of, just a little bit? Two hours a week of thinking time? Sunday afternoons? It may take a while to dig into this, but start — give it a shot.