It’s normal to be overwhelmed, but how many of us know that there are ways to manage it? Well Life Balance Speaker and author Jones Loflin offers some helpful tips on how to juggle your “mental elephants”, and tackle that feeling of being exhausted.
There is a poignant moment near the beginning of my Juggling Elephants training program when I make the following statement: “While we do have lots of physical elephants in our work and life, I think our real sense of overload comes from our mental elephants.” You see heads nodding quickly in agreement.
Granted, many of our task lists are filled with enough activities for three lifetimes, and our physical overload is a real problem. I just find that all the thoughts stampeding around in my head demanding my attention can paralyze me from taking action on the physical tasks in front of me.
To help me understand why I am trying to juggle these mental elephants, I’ve started asking myself a series of questions to reduce the mental stress and allow me to manage each elephant more effectively. They include:
1. Why is it weighing so heavily on my mind?
David Allen, in his brilliant book, Getting Things Done, writes, “The mind holds on to things because they aren’t as they should be.” Sometimes the elephant is present because a gap exists between where I am with something and where I think I should be with it. Its presence may be due to me avoiding taking action on something. Other times it may simply be because I’m holding it in my head instead of writing it down so my mind will let it go.
2. Where could I get information to give me direction on it?
With so much knowledge and research available in a matter of seconds, there’s no reason for me not to seek answers on how to move forward. Sometimes that small bit of information is enough to bring the mental mayhem down to a more manageable level.
3. Who could offer advice about managing it?
I have lists set up in my Twitter account by subject area. If I am struggling with a social media related elephant, I know exactly who I will approach to get a tip or idea. If my mental elephant is parenting related, I know who I would call. There’s no need for me to waste my mental energy on an elephant someone else has already juggled. I need the resources for other things.
4. When will it leave?
As I am creating this newsletter, I am looking at a two month circus of almost non-stop acts in my work ring. I know, however, that at the end of these two months I have a 10 day break. I can handle the “heavy lifting” now if I know there is a time of mental rest and renewal coming later. You can learn more in my blog, When A Lack Of Balance Is Okay.
5. What action would take it away (or reduce its size)?
Taking a moment to mind map with an app like Mindnode gives me clarity on how I can best manage this elephant. I might see where I could delegate parts of it to someone else, or take a quick action now to reduce the pressure created by not making progress toward the outcome (see Number 1). Asking these questions, especially in a moment of sacred idleness, help me not feel so overwhelmed. It also frees up both my mental and physical resources to more fully focus on the present moment.
Which question should you be asking about your mental elephants?