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Hey everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. I’m talking today about a topic that is near and dear to my heart and many other folks as best I can tell from the discussions out in the community. And that is feeling overwhelmed. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not [00:01:00] alone. I hear this a lot in my mastermind groups and in the Facebook community. It seems like many of us are struggling to balance everything that we choose to do.
Now, I can’t say that I’ve mastered the art of being “just whelmed.” It seems like it’s always over or under, but there are some nice resources out there for tackling the things that you want to do. And today I am covering a few different approaches to keep you on track, ranging from very simple to a little more structured and complex.
Now, if you’re a practice owner and you would like support in your practice, there is a Testing Psychologist Mastermind Group for you, no matter what level you’re at. I do a beginner group, an intermediate group, and an advanced group to try and capture folks at all stages of practice development.
This is a group coaching format where you’re in a group with 5 other psychologists. I facilitate the group. We keep you [00:02:00] accountable. We help you set goals. We keep you on track. We provide support. They’re really cool. If that sounds interesting, I have new cohorts for all levels starting in January 2024. You can get more info and schedule a pre-group call to check out the fit at thetestingpsychologist.com/consulting.
Let’s talk about feeling less overwhelmed.
All right, let’s get right into it. I’m going to move through some strategies that may be helpful; moving from Less complex to more complex.
The first thing I’m going [00:03:00] to talk about is simply backing way up, not even looking at a to-do list or any responsibilities, and just go back to your schedule. I’ve talked a lot about scheduling here on the podcast and trying to keep your schedule dialed in, but I think structuring your schedule appropriately goes a long way toward combating overwhelm.
Part of feeling overwhelmed is bouncing from thing to thing in a scattered frenzy, which makes sense, right? You’re in a little bit of fight or flight, I think when we’re feeling overwhelmed and we’re not thinking super rationally during those moments. And so, we tend to bounce around. We have a little less ability to regulate our attention and stay focused. But if you can step back and lock into the basics of schedule management, I think it can [00:04:00] go a long way.
So what are those tactics? That means single-tasking, blocking your time, turning off your notifications, and trying to give yourself the opportunity to do some deep work.
Shallow work is both a consequence and a contributing factor to being overwhelmed. What does that mean? That means that you bounce around from task to task, likely not finishing something before you go to something else or get distracted by an incoming message or an email or whatever it may be. And so you end up dipping your toe into a bunch of tasks without really finishing anything.
If you can cut through that even for two hours, it can make a huge difference. I am always amazed, and I’ve been doing this for years, but I am amazed at how much more [00:05:00] calm, grounded, and productive I am if I am simply working on something for two hours at a time versus having 13 to 15 to 25 tabs open and trying to do a bunch of different things and attend to multiple inputs at the same time. So that’s strategy number one, just back way up. Try to give yourself a two-hour time period where you can really zero in and work on whatever you want to work on.
Now, strategy number two. Simply make a to-do list. Sometimes just dumping your brain out onto a piece of paper or a digital list can go a really long way.
Now this is not magic, but I know that I can sometimes get into the place of just ruminating on things without [00:06:00] keeping track of them, and then I just feel more overwhelmed and scattered because I have all these thoughts flying through my mind, but I don’t write them down and then I forget them, and then I just feel worse and it goes a long way to just do a brain dump. Of course, other things are going to come up over time, over the day or the week, but at least you can capture a point in time and try to get the best approximation of your mind’s contents on paper. So your method can be literally paper or digital.
I’ve really gone back and forth over the years, but right now I do a combination of both. So I’ve ended up using something called a desk board buddy, which is a little whiteboard that sits on my desk. I’d say it’s about one and a half times the size of my [00:07:00] keyboard, both in length and width. It sits on my desk.
It’s a little whiteboard. So I use a dry erase markers. I use that as my running list. So I just write ideas as they occur to me. I used it yesterday to make a big to-do list and just dump my brain out because I have a bunch of loose threads right now and it has really helped. That is my primary means of writing things down.
And then I also have a list on my phone. Anybody who’s been listening to the podcast for any amount of time knows that I do a lot of running. At this point, I’m probably spending at least five hours a week running. I had the experience where I had these amazing thoughts. Running is great. Exercise is great for thinking and brain activity and problem solving and all those things, but I would forget [00:08:00] once I got home and got into the day.
So at this point, I use Air Pods and Apple- I have an iPhone. So I can just say like, Hey, Siri, add do this thing to my task list and Siri adds it to the task list. There we go. Siri is helping us out. That was funny. So as you can tell, it’s not literally called a task list, but it is a list of my phone that I keep running a tally of ideas and things that I need to remember, and then I check it when I get to the office.
So making a to-do list can go a long way. A simple strategy, and it can, at least when it’s on paper, you can manipulate and organize and figure out what you want to do with all of those tasks.
Let’s take a break to [00:09:00] hear from our featured partner.
The BRIEF2 is the gold standard rating scale for measuring executive function. A new score report and updated interpretive report available on PARiConnect help you get the answers you need about executive functioning and ADHD quickly. Also available is a series of 10 downloadable, easy-to-understand BRIEF2 intervention handouts designed to provide parents, students, and teachers with strategies to support and improve behaviors at home and in school. Learn more at parinc.com\brief2.
All right, let’s get back to the podcast.
Strategy number three. This is the last one I’ll talk about, but it plays well with the to-do list because it’s a little more structured. There are many approaches to this. I think they all share the same DNA though. The idea is that it helps you prioritize what’s important. The [00:10:00] method that I like is called the Eisenhower Matrix. It was developed by Stephen Covey who wrote 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and based on Dwight Eisenhower’s approach.
It basically breaks your tasks into four quadrants. It’s a 2-by-2 table with two headings vertically, and two headings horizontally. Those headings are urgent and not urgent, and important or unimportant. If you can picture this matrix, we ended up with four quadrants; the top left is urgent and important, the next one over is not urgent and important, the one in the bottom left is urgent but not important, and then the bottom right is not urgent and not important. If you have that in your mind, [00:11:00] the idea is to break your tasks into these quadrants.
You can do this just as a meta-process for how you’re spending your time in general, or you can do it as a micro-process where you literally list out the things that you need to do and then group them into these quadrants.
So the takeaway here is that many of us live in that urgent and unimportant quadrant. So that’s that bottom left quadrant, urgent and unimportant, which is just doing what’s right in front of your faces without any regard for how much those tasks are going to impact your work or your life.
So these tasks might not move the needle very much or even require your expertise. This is often stuff like email. An email inbox is a classic example of urgent, but [00:12:00] unimportant because everything looks urgent. It was right there, but there’s no prioritization built into an email inbox most of the time. It could be things. It’s like busy work. It’s sending questionnaires. It’s just the little stuff, the minutia that does have to get done, but not by you necessarily.
And so this is also called the delegate quadrant in the sense that yes, it’s urgent and it has to get done, but it’s also unimportant in the sense that you don’t necessarily have to be the one doing it. So we spend a lot of time there typically, and this is the trap that we get stuck there and we burn our time and energy doing these urgent but unimportant things.
We also tend to spend a lot of time in the urgent and important quadrant. Which is good. [00:13:00] These are the true crises, the emergencies, the very time-sensitive things that only you can do. So if you’re feeling totally overwhelmed and you have to pick one quadrant, this is it. You do have to spend some time on these things and you actually have to be the one doing these things. The trick is to try not to get sucked back into that urgent and unimportant quadrant where you are just burning time and energy on things that may not be truly important to your work.
Ultimately though, we want to move to the not-urgent, but important quadrant. So this is the truly meaningful work that we often put off or never get to because we are spending our time on the more urgent tasks, whether they’re important or not.
And then the last quadrant, which is not urgent and not [00:14:00] important. These are very low value tasks that are really just distractions. So this is like browsing the internet, pointless meetings, wandering around, wasting time. So these are things that you can trash and just don’t do them during the day if you’re trying to get other more important work done.
So if you do nothing else, I like to just cut through all this and take the approach of handling any like true crisis first. So if you have tasks that have a true deadline, not just one that you made up or one that you have decided is an emergency, tackle those. If there are true deadlines, if you can get those done, that will buy you some time and hopefully give you a little breathing room.
And then once you get some breathing room, then you can move to the low-hanging fruit. So you start to [00:15:00] move from that top left quadrant into the top right quadrant. So from urgent and important over to non-urgent, but important. So moving over to that low-hanging fruit in the top right quadrant, and this is what are the easiest things to do that will make the most difference in your life or your work?
So for some people, this might be spending two hours to create a good report template that you can then use for future evals and save a bunch of time down the road. For some, it might be researching a new piece of software that will save you a lot of time. It might be implementing an EHR, which I talked about in a previous episode recently.
You get the idea. It’s spending a little bit of time to tackle a task that will then pay dividends down the road by virtue of saving you time or getting you [00:16:00] more clients or building a system or something along those lines.
I don’t have any magic answers for not being overwhelmed. It’s a continual journey for me. I know that I tend to go in cycles of having things largely under control and then slowly in a boil, the frog-esque manner getting overwhelmed again. And then I hit the wall and Oh, I have to clear things out, make some time to work on more important things, and then do a reset.
So a continual journey, like I said, no magic bullets, but hopefully these tips will get you on the right path and maybe make a small difference, and if nothing else, just validate that it is normal to feel overwhelmed. And when you get in that space, your brain is not working as well as it could. You’re not alone [00:17:00] and I hope you remember that you always have a choice of how you structure your practice and what you take on.
All right, y’all, thank you so much for tuning into this episode. Always grateful to have you here. I hope that you take away some information that you can implement in your practice and in your life. Any resources that we mentioned during the episode will be listed in the show notes. So make sure to check those out.
If you like what you hear on the podcast, I would be so grateful if you left a review on iTunes or Spotify or wherever you listen to your podcasts.
And if you’re a practice owner or aspiring practice owner, I’d invite you to check out The Testing Psychologist Mastermind Groups. I have mastermind groups at every stage of practice development; beginner, intermediate, and advanced. We have homework, we have accountability, we have support, we have resources. These groups are amazing. We do a lot of work and a lot of [00:18:00] connecting. If that sounds interesting to you, you can check out the details at thetestingpsychologist.com/consulting. You can sign up for a pre-group phone call and we will chat and figure out if a group could be a good fit for you. Thanks so much.
The information contained in this podcast and on The Testing Psychologist website are intended for informational and educational purposes only. Nothing in this podcast or on the website is intended to be a substitute for professional, psychological, psychiatric, or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Please note that no doctor-patient relationship is formed here, and similarly, no supervisory or [00:19:00] consultative relationship is formed between the host or guests of this podcast and listeners of this podcast. If you need the qualified advice of any mental health practitioner or medical provider, please seek one in your area. Similarly, if you need supervision on clinical matters, please find a supervisor with expertise that fits your needs.