I’m a voracious reader with a knack for immediate action. Which means whether I’m reading self-help, inspiration or a biography, I can’t help but translate it into what it means for my life. I walk away from every article or book wondering “What does this mean for me? What should I do now? How can I act?”
As you can probably imagine, the more that I read and consume, the more actions are placed on my to-do list. I talk about this in my program Break Free From Busy, but it’s worth sharing here, too.
Even if something we consume doesn’t have a specific action in it, we can still place hypothetical to-dos on our plate that lead to overwhelm.
In today’s information age, we get new ideas, methods, and techniques landing in our inboxes and feeds multiple times a day. Then we go out and experience the world and get new ideas about how we want to live and exist. This happens more around big events and celebrations. We go to a wedding and realize we want more love in our lives. We go to a funeral and want to have more life experiences. We go to a birthday party and think about what we want to change before we turn one year older. Then there’s the New Year. Enough said!
Everything we read, see and encounter has this underlying suggestion of try this, do this, change that. The real and hypothetical to-dos lead to you existing in a daily life that is constantly telling you to do more and be better. How exhausting!
So as you move through your life, it’s imperative that you have a process for deciding what you’re going to try. If you don’t, your book list, bookmarks and book pile will grow to an overwhelming level. Your to-do list will make you feel behind in life, and even worse, like you’re broken or not enough. Each milestone will remind you of what you haven’t accomplished. And in the back of your mind will be a never-ending list of ways that you could be better.
If I was more put-together, I would be the type of person who went to those fancy events.
If I read the news more, I’d be super informed and more eloquent when speaking my mind.
If I clean out my closet, I’ll be less weighed down by clutter.
While it’s noble to try to improve yourself, if you’re not careful that quest quickly turns toxic. Why not cut it off at the source?
Without checking yourself, you’re subconsciously deciding to do/be/become everything that you encounter. This is how to-do lists become overwhelming and spiral out of control.
But if you can choose to DO something, that means you can also choose NOT to do something. With that perspective, your results turn from not getting it done to choosing that it’s not right for you.
Enter the most powerful exercise ever for reducing your overwhelm and handling information overload… FOR REAL THIS TIME.
I call it…
Choose, assign or delete.
Because that’s exactly what you do.
With everything you encounter in your day, you choose if you’re going to do it or not. You choose if you’re going to believe it if it applies to you and your life, or if you’re going to give it any attention at all. If you are, assign it to a date and time in your calendar that you’re going to do it, learn more about it, gather the materials or do further research.
When you assign it to the calendar, you get a realistic view of what’s possible and what you want to be possible. Also, if it’s not on your calendar, it won’t happen. It will just die on a mental list to trigger guilt later.
If you’re not going to do it, delete it. From your inbox, your downloads folder and your brain. When you delete it, you send a clear message that it’s not for you. Then, every time it comes up in your life, you can declare confidently (even if it’s just to yourself) that you have decided NOT to do that. No guilt necessary.This means no bookmarking for later. Don’t collect versions of your hypothetical future self.Collecting versions of your hypothetical future self leads to overwhelm. Don't bookmark, decide. Click To Tweet
Get ruthless and realistic with each choice right there on the spot. If you’re unsure, add a day to your calendar to look into the decision further, but you still have to push it through the Choose, Assign, Delete process.
Think of when you’re sick, going on vacation or launching something big in your life. All of a sudden, your priorities are clearer. You have absolutely no desire to read semi-boring newsletters in your inbox or try out a new productivity tool. Using this method will give you that level of discernment all the time.
You’ll also gain a lot of confidence from practicing that discernment over and over again. It’s very empowering to say “Nope, that’s not for me” or “I want to do that and I’m going to commit to it.”
The number of articles, photos or ideas coming at you aren’t going to slow down anytime soon. You’ve got to take control of their control over you. Get a grip on the overwhelm by using this exercise.
This is your life. You don’t have to live it feeling less than just because your Instagram feed or inbox sends you that message. You’re doing just fine and you can choose to believe and act like it by deleting anything that tells you otherwise.
Feeling overwhelmed? Busy? Behind?
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