If you have come across this article, opened it and are reading it, it’s probably because you resonate with the title; you are feeling overwhelmed as a writer.
What does it actually mean to be overwhelmed?
Simply to feel like you have too much to do and too little time.
You may find that you are starting multiple projects and not finishing any.
Your ‘To-do’ list continues to grow bigger and not a lot gets checked off the list. This continues to happen until your progress slows down to a grinding halt and you are not moving forward at all.
You are now inert, motionless. You are not moving at all. And more tasks continue to pile onto you plate.
Well this is exactly how I have been feeling for quite a few months until I finally figured out how to stop feeling so overwhelmed.
I am far from being an expert in controlling these feelings but I have finally figured out what overwhelm is, how it happened and more importantly how I can prevent myself from feeling overwhelmed less often.
What is Overwhelm?
- Being overwhelmed is simply feeling like you have too much to do.
- Feeling like you are not in control.
- Feeling confused.
- Not knowing where to start.
How to Deal with Writer Overwhelm?
(1). Have a plan of attack: decide you are going to tackle one thing at a time. Multitasking is so over rated. We need to start mono – tasking; doing one thing at a time and doing it well.
(2). Get organised: You have a ton of things to do but the more projects or tasks you start the messier it gets.
It’s like attempting to clear out your room and you pull everything out onto the floor and look at the resulting mess and think ‘where do I go from here?’ (…and often in my case I crumple onto the floor in a quivering wreck at the mess I have made and can’t believe I actually bought that horrid fur scarf).
(3). Eat an elephant approach: recognising that we often put large items or tasks on our to-do list, but need to break these large tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces of sub-tasks.
When you achieve small success such as ticking off a few small items on your list, this contributes to positive feelings of success. Success breeds more success. You do some work, then get rewarded with that feeling of accomplishment.
Each small success takes you closer to feelings of achievement and away from feelings of overwhelm.
Brian Tracy, a productivity guru says that when you check off your to-do list it actually releases endorphins, creating a mini-version of the experience known as ‘’runner’s high’’.
For example, how about aiming to write a minimum of 250 words a day OR a blog post rather than saying ‘ I have to write today’. Reaching either one of these goals will help you to realistically achieve your tasks and activities.
Earlier this week I started a word chain whereby I am committing to write a minimum of 500 words per day. Most days I am actually exceeding my word count which is a huge bonus! But more importantly, knowing I am doing a little a day helps me to create a writing habit and I do feel good at the end of each day when I achieve my goal and add that mighty important tick to my calendar (and my to-do list!).
Take Action Now:
- Brain dump all your activities or tasks onto a pice of paper (or open a new doc on your laptop). I am old school and like to list out all my tasks onto paper.
- List out all the tasks that need to be done and group them into categories i.e work stuff, personal stuff.
- Then take just one of these items and break it down into 2-3 smaller sub tasks.
I am currently liquidating my wardrobe (i.e selling some clothes I no longer need). I had originally written this task as:
”Sell my clothes online”
After months of me not actually doing this, I knew it was because I was feeling overwhelmed with feeling like there was too much to do. So I broke this task down into smaller sub-tasks as below:
1. Goal- Sell my unwanted clothes online
1(a). Sort and identify which items are for sale online
1(b). Research best websites to sell items on
1(c). Photograph all items for sale in each category
1(d). List items (by category) with description details on chosen online portal to sell clothes on
1(e). Repeat with other categories i.e. shoes, handbags, tops etc
I then completed one sub-task per day so that by the end of the week I was ready to list all my items for sale. I had been procrastinating on this task for over 2 months but by breaking it down into smaller sub-tasks I had achieved my goal in 7 days.
So as a writer you can also break down your goals into smaller sub-goals as below:
Goal: I want to write a book by the end of the year.
Sub-goal: I will write 246 words per day for the entire year so that at the end of the year I will have 90,000.
Goal: I want to write 2 books this year.
Sub-goal: I will write 500 words per day for the entire year so that I will have 180,000 words.
(Granted we have not taken into account time for editing or cover design etc but the point is to get you moving forward in your goals and overcoming overwhelm).
Goal: I want to sell 1000 books in 6 months.
Sub-goal: Target to sell 166 books per month for the next 6 months.
Goal: I want to start a podcast next month.
Sub-goal: research potential interviewees, purchase relevant audio equipment, prepare interview questions, contact interviewees and schedule interview time slot.
…But if you are still writing that first book (like me) then stick to writing the book and not thinking about podcasting or starting a YouTube channel just yet! Remember, we are talking about overcoming overwhelm and not how to add to it! (That is mainly a reminder to myself).
Do you feel overwhelmed as a writer? How do you overcome overwhelm? Please share you tips and suggestions in the comments below.