I’ll admit it. Since returning from long-service leave, I’ve had half a heart in the northern hemisphere and the other half right back here at home. It’s taking a little effort to re-boot my mojo for work, even though I love it!

So when I realised yesterday (it started last week, if I’m honest) that I really had put off some things well beyond long enough, I became a bit edgy. Just quietly, there’s a fair bit to do between now and the end of January … Complete three manuscript appraisals. Write two speeches. Create a suite of media releases and blast them around. Design and populate a new e-zine. Edit three different blogs. Write staff profiles. And coach a first-time author through the steps of writing her first memoir.

And that’s just for clients! Here at ASTT HQ, in our spare time we’re making a new website. (Stand by for a January launch!)

Last night, I got a big fat dose of overwhelm, which made me so sick of myself that I had to do something about it. What did I do?

I wrote (by hand) a list of all the work I have committed to completing by the end of January (see above). Then I drew a calendar (by hand) that details the days of each week until the end of January and started filling it in, working back from due dates. (Yes, I know there are plenty of digital applications and programs I could have used, and I do … Trello, iCal, Scrivener, just to name a few.) Something about lying on the carpet on my tummy using colour and paper and my brain made the overwhelm go away. By the end of the session, I had a list of things that I had to do tomorrow (aka today) because getting them done now would really help January. (I like to help January when I can … )

This problem-solving work reminded me of the time I was completely stuck writing my novel. It was my first go at writing a book. I didn’t know how to tackle it. So I took time out of writing scene after scene to start plotting the novel …

I typed up the plot points, printed them on coloured paper according to theme, cut them out, got our a huge piece of plywood and (using Blu-tak) stuck them on the board (see image above!) to check that each plot was always bubbling along. Again, digital techniques might have been wiser, even a whiteboard would’ve been more efficient. But the ‘manual labour’ was good for me, and the novel.

The plotting process took a week but it sorted me out. I got sore knees from kneeling before my board, which made for a pleasant change from a sore hip from sitting all day. After a year of fun writing scenes, trusting that they would come together some day, I stepped into my next week of writing knowing where I was headed. I was informed, empowered and confident. Overwhelm was so yesterday.

How do you tackle overwhelm?

May your words pour onto the page,

Ann Bolch

  • Kate Lawrence
    10 months ago - Reply

    Great post Ann, lovely writing, very practical and yes that sense of relief when I work backwards, sift and sort until I have a clearer picture of what need to be done, and remembering I can only do one thing at a time. Often what is contributing the most to my stress is the tape playing in my head about how hard it all is, or will be, and how there’s so much to do… on and on. If I can stop that, I’m doing really well and can actually enjoy the journey, not just the destination.

  • AnnBolch
    10 months ago - Reply

    Thank you, Kate.
    And I guess the next step is to not take on quite so much to avoid that other tape:’ You’ve done it again – taken on too much – and now you can’t handle it and your health/garden/fitness/relationships/life! will suffer and then … and …’ (Argh, so many tapes!)

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