Overwhelmed? How to Accomplish More by Doing Less.

Posted on November 13, 2018 by

I had the pleasure of hearing happiness expert, Christine Carter, PhD. speak at a mindfulness conference where I was speaking earlier this year. She spoke about three limiting beliefs that contribute to feeling overwhelmed.

A limiting belief is a belief that sounds true to you. It sounds perfectly reasonable and valid and you probably can come up with lots of evidence supporting it! But it’s a belief that is getting in the way of what you want.

Often limiting beliefs are not that conscious. Usually, the limiting belief drives us to behave in ways that are not in our best interest such as working all the time for fear of failure, or believing that money is evil or that you are only important if you are constantly busy. If you are feeling overwhelmed, over-worked, or over-busy, then it’s time to look at the beliefs that are driving you to end up in that place.

Here are three limiting beliefs many people have that lead to feeling overwhelmed. Changing them can help you reduce their power over your life and help you accomplish more by doing less.

Limiting Belief #1. Busyness = Importance

Sometimes we believe that if we are always busy, then we must be important. Does that sound like you? No? Remember this belief may be unconscious and therefore you might not realize it is operating in the background and driving you to stay so busy that you feel overwhelmed.

The reality is that being busy does not imply importance. Instead it might mean that you are taking on too much, you don’t manage time well, and you don’t think it’s important to take care of yourself and recharge.

The fact is that chronic busyness often leads to cognitive overload, overwhelm, exhaustion and even resentment. You might start to consider that you have this limiting belief if you often bite off more than you can chew, say “yes” to projects and tasks when you are already struggling with what’s already on your plate, you worry what others will think of you if you say “no” to a project, or worry about being a failure. Another clue that this limiting belief is driving you is if you feel resentful, angry, exhausted, and/or overwhelmed by being so busy all the time.

It’s okay to say “no.” Let me say that again. It’s okay to say “no”. It’s not only okay but in fact it’s essential in order to be successful, productive and healthy to learn how to say “no” and keep your work load at a reasonable level that allows you time to do your best and to take care of yourself.

The sweet spot here is to learn to say “no” and quit multi-tasking and set your intention to give your complete attention to one task at a time. Focus only on that task until it is done. This can be challenging for those of us who pride ourselves on our ability to multi-task. But studies show multi-tasking reduces productivity and increases stress level. Pick one task and if you find yourself distracted by another task say “not now” and bring you attention back to the task you chose to focus on. It may take some practice but when you single task, notice how you feel and how productive you are compared to when you multi-task.

Limiting Belief #2. Doing nothing is a waste of time

Many people feel that if they aren’t doing something they are wasting their time. They feel they should always be busy. This limiting belief prevents you from taking time to rest and rejuvenate, and drives you to stay in overwhelm mode.

The truth here is that our brains benefit when we “waste time.” Brains need some down time to rest and rejuvenate. The down time is actually the seat of creative insight. Many of the best ideas percolate to the surface when we take some time to chill out, rest, clear our thoughts, and maybe even meditate. Down time can actually make us more efficient and productive.

Doing nothing is a necessary part of life. Stephen Covey author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People refers to it as “sharpening the saw.” You can’t cut wood efficiently if the saw is dull no more than you can be effective and productive when you never have down time because you believe that doing nothing is a waste of time.

The sweet spot here is to practice what Christine Carter calls “strategic slacking.” This can be as simple as taking a few moments to stare off into space, clearing your mind, and resting when you are tired. Doing so will increase your creativity, energy, focus and happiness. It sure sounds like this is worth a try.

Limiting Belief #3. More is better

Modern society has embraced the limiting belief that more is better: bigger houses, more money, fancier cars, more friends, more clients, more food… What often happens when our focus is on getting more is we forget to notice what we already have and we are constantly driven to do more, earn more, buy more, work more, accomplish more, etc.

The truth is that less is more. We already have enough. The sweet spot is that when we acknowledge and focus on the abundance in our lives instead of lack or scarcity we don’t need to stay so busy trying to create more. By noticing what we already have and being thankful for it we open the door to abundance in our life-instead of overwhelm.

If you feel overwhelmed too often, look at your beliefs about busyness. Why do you keep yourself so busy? What do you believe about the importance of being busy? Is it okay to do nothing sometimes? What would happen if you said “no” to a new project or asked for help with work or chores or parenting? Do you feel like you have enough or are you always striving for more. Do you often feel angry or resentful about being so busy?

Once you understand the answers to these questions you can start to change any limiting belief you may have that drives you to stay so busy you feel overwhelmed. Repeat these affirmations to help you slowly change the belief.

I am important whether I am busy or not.
It is necessary to give myself some down time.
It is smart to say “no” to new tasks when I am already busy.
I can tell my boss when my plate is too full.
I can delegate.
I can ask for help before I get overloaded.
I am safe.
I am good enough.
I have enough.
I am thankful for all I have.

Here are more resources to reduce overwhelm and stress:

2 Mindfulness Skills for Stressful Times
Transforming Stress Teletraining
10 Signs Your Boss is Stressing You Out
Stress Less in Your Life and Work

Leave a comment about how your limiting beliefs are keeping your from getting what you want or about how you were able to do less and get more done after changing a limiting belief.

I would love to hear your personal experiences with this topic.

One comment

  1. Great reminder article about how we can be more productive and still provide ourselves with the down time that our brains and bodies need to function at optimum levels.. and also to be HAPPY!.

    Comment by Elena Pascarella on at

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