Entrepreneur Mindset

The Overwhelm Pay-Off: Why Most People Are Addicted to Overwhelm Without Even Knowing It

Overwhelm is the new normal. It’s the new black.

A few years ago, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt said

“We create as much information in two days now as we did from the dawn of man through 2003.”

We’re reading, watching, consuming and processing more information in a single day than people in the past had to cope with in a lifetime.

To handle the stress most entrepreneurs adopt 1 of 2 coping mechanisms. They either become:

  1. Risers OR
  2. Crumblers

Risers tackle overwhelm by pushing themselves to finish more and more tasks in less and less time.

This method is doomed to fail because of something called Parkinson’s Law.

Discovered back in 1958 by British management scholar and historian Cyril Northcote Parkinson, the Law states…

“Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.”

Sooner or later, Risers realize the more they do, the more they have to do and they end up right back where they started…

100% overwhelmed.

Crumblers land on the opposite end of the response spectrum.

When they’re overwhelmed they start to feel “paralyzed” and get zero done.

Off the Hook

Whether you identify as a Riser or a Crumbler you’re in danger of entering a toxic state I call “Overwhelm Addiction”.

It’s the dirty little secret no one wants to talk about.

Overwhelm can quickly turn into a desired habit… an addictive problem you secretly don’t want to solve.

We know there’s no way we can get to a state of true joy or satisfaction when we have too much going on.

But addiction to overwhelm isn’t about finding joy or satisfaction…

It’s about the payoff.

The truth is that feeling stressed and stretched to the max brings lots of benefits, even if we don’t consciously admit that to ourselves.

For one thing, overwhelm can get us out of making tough decisions.

Not sure if you should scale your business? You’re too overwhelmed with client work to decide!

Wondering if you should create a new offer for your audience? You’re too overwhelmed with daily tasks to start working on a new program or product!

See how that works?

Overwhelm can also feel like a legit reason to do things you know you shouldn’t.

It’s the perfect excuse to drop the ball.

Promised yourself you’d quit sugar but you’re snacking on a doughnut in the middle of the afternoon? You can let yourself off the hook because you’re stressed and overwhelmed.

Want to start a daily yoga practice but you’ve been putting it off for months? It’s out of your hands because you have so much you need to get done.

And the biggest payoff of all…

Overwhelm can make you feel important and in demand.

It’s almost like a badge or a banner that you wear with pride as you tell everyone how much you have on your plate and how busy you are.

The truth is that overwhelm steals your time and drains your energy. There may be lots of activity but there’s a big difference between activity and results.

Being busy doesn’t mean you’re creating real momentum in your business.

Just to be clear…

Addiction to overwhelm isn’t your fault.

It can sneak up on anyone but it’s important to spot it and take steps to overcome it as soon as possible.

Tell-Tale Signs and Combat Strategies

Here are some telltale signs that you may have Overwhelm Addiction:

  • You feel guilty when you’re not working on your business
  • You’re anxious and antsy when your calendar or schedule isn’t full
  • It feels like you’re the ONLY one who can put out fires in your business
  • You suffer from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)
  • You experience “separation anxiety” from your smartphone/computer — you NEED to check your emails and messages all-the-time

Don’t worry, if you see yourself in any — or all — of these symptoms. Simple actions carried out consistently will get you through the danger zone.

Here are 3 of my go-to combat strategies for Overwhelm Addiction.

#1: The Notifications Cleanse

Carry out a serious notifications cleanse.

Turn off notifications on your cell phone and your laptop and allow yourself to login and check only at specific times during the day.

This means no random messages from Slack, Asana or some other project management software coming at you, at all hours.

No pings, dings or rings from Facebook, Instagram or any other social media platform.

Same goes for your email. Especially your email.

You can make a special exception and allow notifications for texts or calls to come through from your immediate family or very close friends…

But go into lockdown mode with everyone and everything else.

#2: The Stop Doing List

My next antidote for Overwhelm Addiction is the all-powerful Stop Doing List.

Overwhelm takes over when we allow ourselves to fill our days with unimportant tasks that don’t need to get done at all.

A Stop Doing List cuts overwhelm because it lets you ignore the insignificant and focus on the crucial.

This instantly creates more time in your schedule and maximizes productivity. (Watch this 60-Second video to learn how to craft a great Stop Doing list.)

#3: The TTP

My third solution for overwhelm also happens to be one of my favorites…

I call it TTP — Top Three Priorities

Here’s how it works…

Set aside 5 or 10 minutes each morning or ideally the night before. Then run through what you need to do during the day and pick just 3 things you have to get done.

A good rule of thumb is to choose activities connected to your most important goals.

Picking out your TTPs each day will get you to stay focused on the biggest needle-movers in your business and you’ll avoid drowning in a sea of tasks that keep you feeling busy but don’t do much else.

Addiction to overwhelm can be a constant threat and it can take over your life but only if you let it.

That’s why I want you to spot the addiction so you can stop spinning your wheels and start creating real momentum and success.

Now, it’s your turn…

What’s one thing you can STOP doing today to help combat overwhelm in your business and your life?

Love it? Hate it? Let me know...

  1. Deepak Bhattarai

    Loved this article so much.

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      So glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

      Reply ·
  2. Ahmed Ali

    Great article, thank you Marisa.

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      So glad you enjoyed it Ahmed!

      Reply ·
  3. Kristine Maltrud

    LOVE the Stop Doing List – I’m going to focus more on this one that the nagging, never-ending To Do List. Thanks Marisa!

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      Awesome Kristine! Happy to hear that 🙂

      Reply ·
  4. Catherine

    Thanks for this, Marisa. Surprisingly eye opening.
    I recentlybunsubscribed from almost all email lists I was on. It was surprising how many there were. Less time spent clearing out emails.

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      That’s a great step in the right direction Catherine!

      Reply ·
  5. Samantha Abrahams

    Hi Marisa! This is so great to receive today! Thank you! I am mind mapping my EP modules and one of the go-to tools that I always suggest to my clients and also that I will be teaching to “overwhelmed” superhero moms in one of those modules is what I have called the “top 3 to-dos.”
    I have found that a to-do list longer than that can feel overwhelming. If you accomplish your top 3 priorities of the day and can acknowledge a job well done, you can pause with appreciation. When we do what we say we are going to do, it builds trust and self-esteem. And when our to-do lists have boundaries it creates space for peace and joy! Thanks for sharing your insights…this is helpful inforamtion for my EP.

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      Exactly Samantha! Thanks for sharing! And so glad you’re enjoying EPM!

      Reply ·
  6. Tripp Hanson

    Absolutely right. I see myself in several of these archetypes…at times the riser, and then the crumbler. I could almost say that it’s a cycle between the 2. And not just currently. I can see how these same tendencies affected my previous businesses. Time to create some boundaries!

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      Absolutely Tripp! Great insight!

      Reply ·
  7. Judy Dang

    Well said Marisa. Using the “I’m too busy” cover also gives us an excuse to neglect our relationships. Work often is used to avoid problems, whether with others or ourselves. How to confront any addiction? Awareness. Thanks for bringing attention to this issue.

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      So true Judy. Thanks for sharing 🙂

      Reply ·
  8. Amol

    The concept of stop doing list is eye opening,as we only know to do the list of the task which we have to do but we are not focus our attention on not to do list.Thanks for eye opening concept .

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      Absolutely Amol, glad you enjoyed it 🙂

      Reply ·
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About the Author Marisa Murgatroyd

Marisa is the founder of Live Your Message, where she turns entrepreneurs into Online Superheroes, and the creator of Start With You where she helps people just like you to discover the business they're meant to build, not just the business they can build. At 4’11 and a quarter, she’s called the shortest woman in marketing — and that doesn’t stop her from having huge ideas. She’s the “go to” brand builder for industry luminaries and heavyweights such as Justin Livingston, Callan Rush, Danny Iny, Alexis Neely and Susan Peirce Thompson. Marisa helps entrepreneurs create a business that is authentic and aligned with who they are, to empower them to turn up the dial on their “inner superhero”, so they can be the superhero to their tribe, as well as in their own lives.

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