Keeping Your Head From Exploding Like a Watermelon

Are you under a lot of stress?

Does your head ever feel like the watermelon with the rubber bands in the video by the Slow Mo Guys?  Are you constantly wondering if the next commitment will be the one to make your head explode like the last rubber band placed on the watermelon?

We all feel like our lives get out of control sometimes with the number of the commitments and demands on our time.  We are bombarded by to-do lists, emails, texts, calls, work responsibilities, household projects, and many other things. Our attention gets pulled in so many directions that it’s difficult to focus or get anything done.  This stress can also impact other areas of your life. 

Causes of Stress

Advances in technology allow us to work from anywhere and to be constantly connected to the world. The good part is that we can have a degree of location independence.  We can leave our work area or office to do other things without missing anything “important.”

Unfortunately, the same thing that makes life easier, also makes it easier to over schedule and to become overwhelmed.  We start out answering a quick work email while watching a soccer game. Eventually, we’re answering several emails and working on projects outside of work hours. We work late at night or while on vacation.  This cycle often leads to stress that causes sleep deprivation that affects our performance, impairs our focus, impacts our health, and causes feelings of chaos.

Reducing Stress

Several books address the issue of overcrowded schedules.  Although they take slightly different approaches and use different terminology, they all seem to present the same solutions . . . Protect your time and say “No” to adding another task, taking on another project, or committing to one more thing.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less states that saying yes to something is saying no to something else.  The author discusses separating the vital few from the trivial many.  He says that we should purposefully look at what we can take out of our lives instead of how can fit it all in.  We can’t fit it all in or get it all done.  This technique urges us to identify those few things to keep or get done, then forgetting everything else that would be nice to do.  He gives the analogy of cleaning out a closet by going through your clothes and strictly getting rid of anything that you have not worn or are unlikely to wear in a given time.

The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More with Less is well-known as it relates to customers, but when applied to your life, it describes an effective way to determine what to spend time on.  The book gives tips for finding the 20% of the things that give 80% of your success.  Similar to Essentialism, The 80/20 Principle advises you to block out or at least spend less time on the 80% items.

Derek Sivers, entrepreneur, and writer describes a way to choose your commitments in a blog post titled No more yes. It’s either HELL YEAH! or no.  He says that if an opportunity arises and his response is anything less than “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!” – then his answer is no.

The Solution

It doesn’t matter which method or philosophy you use. The most important way to stop feeling overwhelmed is to set limitations, to eliminate some things, and to focus on the truly important things that NEED to get done.


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