Curious Zoe
What should I do?!

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!




Just 10 Minutes

What can you do in just ten minutes? What if I told you that you could write a book, paint a painting, clean your house, get in shape?  It's true.  Ten minutes at a time, repeated over and over again, can get just about anything done.  And doing things in tiny increments takes off the pressure--it becomes stress free and even fun to see what you can do in ten minutes at a time.

I first started using a timer and ten minutes when I read Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones.  She recommends doing timed writings and trying out different time increments to see what works best for you.  (I found 10 - 20 minutes to be my zone.)  Then I started participating in NaNoWriMo where, to my delight, I found word sprints to join in on.  My favorites, the ones that got me to 50,000 words in 30 days six times, were the 10 and 15 minute sprints.

And then I found Kaizen-Muse™ and discovered that you can use these little pieces of time to do all sorts of things! During my trainings, Small Steps became my favorite Kaizen-Muse™ tool, and it's still my favorite.  I am consistently amazed at how much can be accomplished in tiny chunks of time.  Give me a timer and turn me loose, and I feel like I can do anything!   I really do love my timer and my Small Steps!

And that's what brought about this post and this new idea.  What if we all take those big, important, maybe feels too heavy tasks and ideas and break them down into ten minute chunks? What if we encourage each other to try doing just ten minutes of something we've been wanting to do?

Let's take this to Twitter and Facebook.  Use the hashtag #Just10Minutes.  State your goal.  Share what you've done.  Get a boost.  Give someone else a boost.  Let's take those dreams and get them started, together, in Just 10 Minutes.