#10: How to Conquer Overwhelm
with Nicola Vetter & Peter Axtell
February 14, 2023 | 16 Minutes
On "Inside-Out Career Design" this week, hosts Nicola Vetter & Peter Axtell speak about
Deep down, we really believe that someday we'll arrive at a state of ultimate productivity, develop the proper habits, implement the perfect app, put the suitable systems in place, and arrive at a point where we'll get everything done. We won't have to give up anything. We're being conned by ourselves and by (probably) well-meaning gurus who have solved this impossible dilemma. With credit to the fantastic Oliver Burkeman, author of the book “Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals”, we explore this predicament we all face as we work on Inside-Out Career Design.
There is a way out by recognizing the illusion through deep thinking. Some simple strategies and tools can help us reach a point where we can go a long way to high productivity in the things that matter to us most and feel fulfilled in our life and work – even though we might not conquer overwhelm 24 hours a day. But it opens the door to more flow states, the ultimate human experience.
Some questions we discuss for you to reflect on
- What has it cost you not saying NO to people, tasks, projects and even yourself at times?
- How long does it take to refocus once interrupted?
- What is the risk of multitasking?
- What is the ONE thing you’ll focus on today?
- Which strategy will you follow to reduce overwhelm?
- Why is the comparison trap so dangerous?
- Which flow trigger is helping you with overwhelm?
- Why are flow states the ultimate experience?
- How will you move from FOMA to JOMA?
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Books, resources, and people mentioned in this episode
About the Inside-Out Career Design Podcast
This podcast is obsessed with answering a single question: Is it possible to create an authentic, meaningful, and fulfilling life you love while building a successful and rewarding career?
Join Nicola Vetter and Peter Axtell, co-founders of the WhatsNext.com Career Insights platform and creators of the groundbreaking MotivationFinder assessment, as they follow their obsession with answering this question by sharing their insights, discoveries, and life lessons and talking with career experts, leaders, spiritual guides, psychologists, data scientists, coaches -- anyone and everyone who might hold a strategy or answer to the age-old questions of “what’s next for me?” and “what should I do with my life?”
They seek to transform suffering into joy for millions of people stuck and confused in their lives and careers.
Get ready to be inspired, motivated, and above all, to connect deeply with who you are and what you are meant to do with the time you’ve been given.
Nicola Vetter 00:00
Yes, it's like bailing water in a leaking boat. So we truly believe that we can get all the water out, even though the boat is leaking, but you are never going to succeed in that. And you're never going to get everything done. Yet, we all act as if we could.
Peter Axtell 00:25
Welcome to Inside-Out Career Design. In this show, we're obsessed with answering a single question. Is it possible to create an authentic, meaningful, and fulfilling life you love while building a successful and rewarding career? My name is Peter Axtell, and I'm here with Nicola Vetter. We're co-founders of the WhatsNext.com CareerInsights platform, and creators of the groundbreaking MotivationFinder assessment. Join us as we seek to transform suffering into joy for millions of people stuck and confused in their lives and careers. We'll share our insights, discoveries, and life lessons and talk with career experts, leaders, spiritual guides, psychologists, data scientists, coaches, anyone who might hold a strategy or answer to the age-old questions of: "What's next for me?" and "What should I do with my life?" Get ready to be inspired, motivated, and above all, to connect deeply with who you are, and what you're meant to do with the time you've been given.
Peter Axtell 01:28
Are you trying to figure out what to do with your life, to figure out what to do with the precious time you've been given on this earth? Or to figure out what only you as a remarkable and unique individual can bring into this world? If you are, please join us for one of our live and completely free online workshops, where we cover different topics to help you figure out what to do with your life and career without wasting precious time, taking wild guesses, or risking it all. To save your spot in our next live and free workshop go to WhatsNext.com/workshops. We can't wait to see you there. Again, that's WhatsNext.com/workshops.
Nicola Vetter 02:21
Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Inside-Out Career Design Podcast. I'm Nicola, and I'm here with Peter. And we are so grateful that you're spending this time with us...even though we have some heavy news to share.
Peter Axtell 02:41
Finitude, which is the state of having limits. We just finished a workshop with the amazing Oliver Burkeman, who wrote the book "Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals." He describes finitude as having boundaries of having limits to what we can do and what we want.
Nicola Vetter 03:05
And it's a con because we will never conquer time. Now there are good con artists like Bernie Madoff, who make you believe that you can get money for nothing
Peter Axtell 03:20
and chicks for free.
Nicola Vetter 03:22
One of the best con artists is most likely Lucy from the Peanuts cartoon. She convinces Charlie Brown every time that he can safely kick the football and she is not going to pull it away. One day, she says, "Charlie Brown, you can believe me. I'm not going to pull the football away this time."
Peter Axtell 03:48
And he says, "oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, I'm not. I'm not falling for that. No, no, no, no."
Nicola Vetter 03:54
"But I have a contract and I signed it."
Peter Axtell 03:58
And Charlie Brown is thinking, "well, maybe this time. Maybe this time, I'm not gonna get conned. Okay, I'll go for it."
Nicola Vetter 04:06
And he always lands on his back.
Peter Axtell 04:09
The war is already lost. So, we can relax. What I mean by that is that we are in a war with time. That's the con. We have this idea that I should and I will get more done sometime in the future if I just get the right app, the right technique that I really get everything I want to get done, and I won't have to give up anything. This idea is a complete fantasy. That is the war that we have to admit we have lost, and we can relax now.
Nicola Vetter 04:49
Yes, it's like bailing water in a leaking boat. So, we truly believe that we can get all the water out even though the boat is leaking, but you are never going to succeed in that. And you're never going to get everything done. Yet, we all act as if we could. But the reality is that we are burning bridges every day. Now, what does that mean? It means that we have to start saying NO to people, to tasks, to projects, and to ourselves. But the thing is, we just don't want to give up. It's like with sugar. We don't want to give up eating sugar. Because there is kind of a sense of loss.
Peter Axtell 05:50
When we refuse to give up the war. What does that cost you? Well, we typically start multitasking. And multitasking has been proven not to work - the switching back and forth. In fact, the University of California, there was a study that found that it takes over 23 minutes to refocus once you've been distracted, and went on to say, it saps brain power, and you lose as many as 10 IQ points. That is the cost of multitasking, and not admitting that you've already lost the war door.
Nicola Vetter 06:33
Whoa, I am never multitasking again. It also draws me out of the present moment, and work becomes so unsatisfying. It's proven that the quality of work improves by NOT multitasking.
Peter Axtell 06:54
There are some ways to get a grip on this. You can start with acceptance, that the war is lost already. Logic proves this is so, it's a fact.
Nicola Vetter 07:10
So, let's talk strategy. To avoid multitasking, focus on the ONE thing. Pick ONE thing in the category of work and set a goal to work on that ONE thing, for example, for three hours, but make sure that you get up and take small breaks every hour. And then once you finished, then pick ONE thing in the category of family, or health, or play. Make sure you don't put anything on your daily list that you can't commit to working on.
Peter Axtell 07:53
Oliver Burkeman gave me a great idea about this. He said you can get a portable whiteboard and write the ONE thing on the whiteboard and put it right next to your desk. And then when you're finished with the ONE thing, erase that task.
Nicola Vetter 08:10
And I used to put every task in an electronic calendar. And it was overwhelming. I had to move tasks from day to day to day. And it was very unsatisfying. Then I thought dumping everything into a Word doc might be a great idea. So, I don't have to look at those things in the calendar anymore. Well, the word doc was never being looked at. I now reduced my tasks on the electronic calendar to meetings, doctor's appointments, and calls only. And they're in different colors, especially the shared tasks that I have with Peter that he can look at in his calendar. And I make it a point I also have the birthdays of friends, colleagues, and clients in my calendar, because I just love to honor others special day. Now I formed a new habit. After we have been on the workshop with Oliver Burkeman, I had this idea that I actually love to work with color. So, I bought a whole bunch of colored post its and we have this huge whiteboard in our studio, which we haven't used for ages. So, I thought I'm gonna do a brain dump first in my office, and I wrote down all the tasks that I had in my mind, that I normally would dump into the Word doc, and wrote them on different colored post its, different colors for reoccurring personal events, reoccurring business tasks, or one-time tasks, and then often also with a due date. Then in our studio, I go to the whiteboard, and I have three columns. One is the brain dump of all the tasks that I wrote down in my office. Two is a priority column, where I pick 10 tasks from all the brain dump and that feels far less overwhelming. Then I prioritize and pick one task at a time and walk back to my office. So, there's an added benefit that I'm moving, because sitting is the new smoking. And then column three is my done list. It's proven to be much more effective than a to-do list because you have this feedback loop. That's encouraging. And it's motivating to me. Why? Because data is the best measurement to see what's done. But then sometimes there's another con that slips in, because maybe there is an app that I could use. And one more thing, it might look like, others online, they have it all figured out. And you egoic voice, this, this crazy voice in your head is always telling you, "you're not good enough, you're coming up short, you'll never get everything done." And then you slip into the comparison trap. And you think, well, these others, they must have a superpower. What's their secret? And you feel less than. And that's another con. But the truth is, everybody is struggling to figure out how to do this. So be kind to yourself.
Peter Axtell 12:07
Yes, it's so true. Analog is often great. What do I mean by that? Often when you pick up a pen, and a piece of paper, and you just write down ONE thing, without opening up your computer and looking at an app, or your calendar. A pen, and a piece of paper is often the best. When working on ONE thing without distraction and interruption a big promise is possible. And that is it can get you into a flow state. Lack of interruption, lack of distraction is a flow trigger. Flow states are known to be the most rewarding states, a human can experience. You experience deep happiness and satisfaction and optimum performance. Flow states never happen when multitasking. And we're going to cover flow states a lot more in future episodes.
Nicola Vetter 13:15
And I want to warn you, multitasking habits take time to break. I have personal experience with this because I actually took pride in being a multitasker. Now as Oliver Burkeman says, "you can move from FOMO, fear of missing out to JOMA, the joy of missing out." And when you start to embrace the idea of the joy of missing out, then you release yourself from the prison of FOMA, fear of missing out. So, you stop the war of trying to conquer time. And what's the result? Well, you will feel freedom inside you will most likely feel that you can breathe. So, try the whiteboard technique. You can also use a window, that works as well. And remember the done list. It's proof of what you've accomplished, and not some mental myth of what you should have accomplished.
Peter Axtell 14:33
Embrace and love that you've given up the war. Reflect on the quality of work and satisfaction you feel when you do ONE thing without interruptions or distractions. Choosing one task means not choosing something else. Learn to be okay with that. The world will not collapse. Reality does what it does.
Nicola Vetter 15:06
Yes. And as the legendary investor Warren Buffett said, "you can't produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant." But that's what we are all just trying to do all the time. That's the second half of a quote. The first part was, "no matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time."
Peter Axtell 15:39
I couldn't agree more. Thanks so much for joining us here today. For show notes go to WhatsNext.com/10, where we share links and other relevant information. Again, that's WhatsNext.com/10.
Nicola Vetter 16:04
And if you like what you've heard, share it with someone you care about. And subscribe, rate, and review our Inside-Out Career Design podcast on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts, so you'll never miss an episode. Thanks so much for joining us here today. We'll see you next week for another episode. Same time, same place.