Overwhelm is one of the biggest, most pervasive stumbling blocks we run into in our creative lives. We all suffer from it at least now and then, and if you have multiple creative passions (like me!), you can get hit with it just about every day.
It’s especially easy to fall into overwhelm when we’re trying to figure out what to do next, either on a current project or in starting a new one, but it can hit at any stage of the process.
The good news is, you don’t have to stay in overwhelm when it comes. In Kaizen-Muse™ Creativity Coaching, we often call ourselves overwhelm busters because this is one of the issues we work on the most with clients. We know you don’t have to live with it, and now you know, too.
So how do you get out of overwhelm?
My favorite technique for getting through overwhelm and back into creative fun is taking small steps. I mean tiny! The littlest ever, and if you think it’s small try to make it smaller. It sounds kind of silly. It can be, and that’s good because having fun helps subdue the overwhelm beast. You can make a game out of finding the littlest step ever. Just break your tasks down, and you’ll start moving forward again.
What does it look like to break something down into the smallest steps? It looks like deciding to do a project and making grand plans that are so big they leave you frozen. So you make the steps smaller but still feel overwhelmed. So you make the steps smaller, and so on until you find a step you can actually take without the overwhelm.
Here’s an example. Let’s say this is you: “I want to write a novel! I need to write 1,000 words a day!” (Cue overwhelm.) You realize you need to break things down. That could look like this:
- I’m going to write one scene (that still feels like a lot–stirrings of overwhelm)
- I’m going to write one page (still some overwhelm)
- I’m going to write one paragraph (feeling better but still not sure about everything to put in there so you still find yourself avoiding it)
- I’m going to write one sentence. (Great! Most days this step might be small enough, but some days you might still feel some overwhelm)
- I’m going to take out my notebook and pen/open the story document/create a story document (this one is doable)
Do the smallest thing you can find to do for your project. You can do an entire project this way, one teensy, tinsy small step at a time, honest (and you can do one step more than once a day, too, if you feel like it). Often you’ll find yourself doing more once you get your toe in the door. But if you don’t, if you do just the smallest step, that’s progress. Pat yourself on the back and keep doing it!