There are two types of overwhelm: the type that’s triggered by external events and the type you self-impose. Both can be managed with the same technique.

“I’m overwhelmed,” was my client’s first comment. You’ve been in that state of mind, and so have I. And, that’s what’s important to understand—overwhelm is a state of mind, not an actual event.

Let’s look at a parallel situation. Say you’re hosting a holiday dinner, maybe for the first time, maybe not. Very few people, though there are some, would go to the store and push a cart up and down the aisles, believing the meal plan will come together for them as they do this. Most of us would hit overwhelm pretty quickly, especially if we want the meal to be a good one and the preparation to go smoothly.

You could avoid that overwhelm by sitting down with paper and pen, deciding on what’s to be served, what you have already, and what you need to get. At some point you might even write out a plan of when to start preparing each food item, when to set the table or lay out what your guests will use. You might even recruit helpers. You may feel somewhat anxious on the day because you want everything to go well, but you won’t feel overwhelmed—because you have a plan with steps to take—a strategy. And, yes, something unexpected may happen that makes your plan wobble, but it’s easier to address a wobble if what needs to be done is clear to you.

Any dream or goal, whether for business or personal fulfillment, deserves a strategy session. You’re told to take action and to take it fast. That works well for inspired ideas—ones that happen in a flash and create a particular feeling inside you when you get the idea and while you act on it. The rest of your ideas need some time spent on them so you know which actions to take, both the initial time you consider this plus some revisits and revisions, until you achieve your desired outcome.

Sometimes, people procrastinate because they don’t practice using a strategy. The longer this continues the more fear stops them in their tracks, possibly for years, until they no longer believe in their ability to go after what they desire. I share such a story on the End Procrastination page on my website.

Back to my client . . . when I asked her what her overwhelmed feeling was about, she shared something new she’s moving forward in her business and several other personal projects she feels strongly about. We discussed her need to spend productive time with each project, the need for research, when her most productive work time of the day is, and the need for her to create a list of what she is to work on each day—created the night before. We included flexibility to act on inspired ideas if they show up and want to bump her original plan over short-term.

She also had the thought, as many do, that maybe she should work on all of her ideas at once (which was part of the cause of her overwhelm); so, we discussed prioritizing. Years back I worked for someone who brought me three “priority” projects at once. I asked, “Which would you like completed first?” His answer was, “All of them.” I handled that situation; but you can see that you might do this to yourself, might think you have to work on everything at once, which is impossible, isn’t productive, and puts you into a state of self-imposed overwhelm.

I created a mind map. At the center is my core (business) purpose, what I choose to provide/create. I drew lines out from the core and added more circles at the end of each line that include ways I want to fulfill my core purpose. Each circle requires a strategy. Each circle can have its own mind map, if needed. Everything listed on that map is directly related to the core purpose. Some of the items are ones I do weekly. The others are prioritized and re-prioritized when I add new ideas or feel a particular inspiration about them.

Some of you may have an aversion to mapping out a strategy. For some of you, the absence of a strategy may work—it’s rare, but it does happen for a few people, like shopping for a major dinner without a list and it works out. If you don’t fit into that rare category, you need a strategy, a plan, a map—call it whatever you want to that makes you feel on board with the process, but give yourself and your project(s) the time deserved so you know what you’re doing, why, when, and so on. Otherwise, you’ll stay crazy-busy being active, but not productive; or maybe you’ll be somewhat productive but also crazed by the activity involved and the undone items you feel looming. You’ll exhaust and overwhelm yourself, when you don’t have to. You’ll also move toward your desired result steadily, with fewer starts and stops.

Steadily . . . One of the external causes of overwhelm these days is a result of some of the marketing going on where individuals lead you to believe you have to aim at becoming a gazillionaire overnight or by next week. How about letting those ideas go and just focus on creating a foundation of action so you get started and move forward consistently.

Whether part of your purpose is to generate income or not, let how you can make a difference with each item listed—before a dollar (or praise)—guide you as you map out your strategy.

Practice makes progress.
© Joyce Shafer

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Author's Bio: 

Joyce Shafer ( is a Life Coach, author of I Don’t Want to be Your Guru, but I Have Something to Say & other books/e-books, and publisher of a free weekly online newsletter that connects people with information, resources, and others aligned with enhancing and expanding spiritual Truth in their personal and business lives. Receive a free PDF of How to Have What You REALLY Want when you subscribe at