Overwhelm, Underwhelm and Not Giving a F*?@
When there’s too much to do.
Not that I feel like writing today, but you can see that I’ve somehow managed to begin. I’ve written previously about tricking oneself into action and it seems that Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*?@, may agree. It’s a book I’ve read a few times, what prompted me to flick through his reams of wisdom today I’m not sure; possibly kismet?
‘Don’t just sit there. Do something. The answers will follow…Action isn’t just the effect of motivation , it’s also the cause of it.’
Over time I‘ve realised this, not through reading books about being more productive or books on the paralysis of overthinking, but verified via tried and tested thought experiments. Thinking and acting can occur simultaneously, results are usually variable but surpass the benefits of inertia.
Overwhelm is mentioned frequently at work; for frontline staff the reality of demand management can be a stressful experience. A head full (and handful) of tasks can all feel equally important. Sometimes I’m much busier in my head than in reality, the art is to notice what’s real and what’s blown up. I’m reasonably good at getting things done and solving problems only because it’s where I choose to focus my attention. There are plenty of tasks I’m mediocre at, or quite frankly disinterested in. I’d like to write fiction and yet my ability to write creatively is directly linked to the time I spend inventing stories — arguably it’s another experiment for another day.
‘Happiness comes from solving problems. The key word here is ‘solving.’ If you’re avoiding your problems or feel like you don’t have any problems then you’re going to make yourself miserable. If you feel like you have problems you can’t solve, you will likewise make yourself miserable. The secret and source is in the solving of problems, not in not having the problems in the first place.’
Clearly the concept of freewill applies here, we get to choose which problems we want to solve when, even if we don’t believe this, we choose nevertheless. And how effective we are is determined by how much time and energy we apply to any aspect of work or life. Much of Manson’s book explores the paradox of being human. The more we are preoccupied with the overwhelming nature of what is ahead of us, the less inclined we are to set about planning, problem solving, working our way out of our current scenario. There’s an NLP technique that can help. Visualise yourself dealing with whatever problem you’re grappling with, the protagonist of your own movie or novel, what would you have them do if you were writing the scene? Play it through using different plot endings. When you have the answer that feels right – go do that.
‘Whether you realise it or not you are always choosing what to give a f*?@ about.’
Choosing badly can become a self-limiting strategy, therefore the ‘do something principle’ can include a number of other associated skills according to Manson;
- Saying no
- Setting boundaries
- Building trust
- Making choices
- Managing expectations
- Accepting failure as learning
My own strategy might involve all of the above, but it most definitely involves making a to-do list. I get to choose the non-negotiable components of the list for that day, month, year or years. With consideration these might change, it’s a conscious process and will certainly involve a period of reflection and consultation with those affected. The key is in the title, TO-DO. Even a To-Be list involves doing something differently – I might choose to be kinder. There are people who may disagree with the following quote, believers in the path of least resistance. And yet, therein lies the paradox of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck:
‘To become truly great at something you have to dedicate shit-tons of time and energy to it…Who you are is defined by what you are willing to struggle for.’
Manson, Mark (2016) The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. Harper Collins.
*All quotes by Mark Manson.