I was asked the following question recently...
and thought that I’d share my response with you all as a reminder to be realistic with the time, energy and focus available to you through this ever-changing journey of life.
For a client you encounter who is overwhelmed with a lot of things to do and feeling as though they don’t have enough physical, but especially mental energy to accomplish them all, what would you recommend they do and how would you work with them over the longer term?
I’d say in this scenario we’re looking at mindset, a permission piece, and then prioritising within their limitations.
There’s a lot going on when someone’s overwhelmed, there are the shoulds, feeling behind, and not knowing where to start or where to channel their energy and focus. Layer in the lack of physical and mental energy on top and everything becomes even more heightened. This is where the permission piece comes in— giving the client permission to view their personal health and well-being as a priority and as ‘something’ to focus on for the time. Society is very set on accomplishing things and that lends itself to thinking of things in days and weeks, but it’s not the only way. How about months? Years? I would have a discussion here about feeling like they need to rush and the pressure to do things quickly.
I’d then open the discussion up about their energy levels. What does their reality look like at the moment? What is a realistic to-do list for the day? And establishing that this is an experiment (which comes back to mindset again, so they don’t beat themselves up) as we don’t know for sure what’s the right level till they’ve tried it. One client I worked with, we had to break down her day into 5-minute bursts with 30-minute rests between – so anything is possible!
That first discussion would then inform the following exercise. Working together, review what’s on their mind and their to-do list (and check if they have somewhere to keep all their tasks). Having a conversation around due dates and whether things are urgent or important would work well here too. Also, it’s amazing what speaking this out loud does. It’ll help the client determine where their focus is of most benefit and will assist them in being realistic about what actually needs doing right NOW.
Taking the things that do have to get done immediately, or over the next week or two, I’d then help them work on chunking those things down to their smallest steps. I’ve found that it’s helpful for people to have a list of options based on time estimates – 15-minute task, 30-minute task, 45 minutes, 60 minutes… that means that they can pick out something to suit their focus based on what energy level and concentration they have available at that moment.
The next step would be to help them put together a plan for the rest of the day (or maybe give them permission to rest as they’ve done a lot of thinking during the session) and the next few days. I love the Top Three strategy, so thinking about what are three things to get done that day (and anything achieved after that is a bonus). And look, maybe one of those things is ‘rest’ or ‘look after self’.
In the follow-up session, I’d check in and see how this all went. How is their head space? How did the experiment go with the ‘realistic to-do list’? Do we need to scale things back further? Has anything come up that derailed the plans? Do we need a different strategy for choosing what to do each day?
At the end of the day, it’s about playing with the maths available to each of us. It’s true, there are 168 hours a week but maybe an individual only has access to 15 focus hours due to their physical and mental energy. And that’s okay – working with the reality of the situation is what is going to feel better and achieve more in the long run.
What do you think?
Have you experienced times when you lack the mental and physical energy to get things done? How did you cope? Feel free to drop me a line or book a call with me to discuss.