Do you ever feel like you are just so overwhelmed with emails, newsletters and google alerts that you don’t know what to respond to first? Or that if you don’t keep up with everything related to your business you will miss something vitally important? Between invitations to join free tele-seminars, podcasts and webinars, you can easily spend the entire day without even connecting on the social networks or checking the blog posts in your RSS feed reader.
In the fall of last year, I was feeling absolutely overwhelmed with electronic information. My head was spinning with all the input and I had no time or energy left for “output” such as product creation or my own writing. I wasn’t sleeping well because I couldn’t stop the flow of ideas and felt that I never had time to execute all of them.
What I previously saw as a gift, my ability to continuously generate new ideas, felt more like a curse. Nonstop internal chatter was beginning to interfere with my ability to give my private clients the focused attention they deserved. Because my commitment to clients is my priority, I wasn’t following through on several projects I’d started. While I solved that by sharing some of those business ideas with colleagues and clients who could implement them, I was feeling anxiety about not developing new programs for 2011.
My son was coming for a week at Thanksgiving and I didn’t want to be frazzled and grouchy so I made a BIG, DRASTIC DECISION. I gave myself permission to UNPLUG. Not just for a few days but for as long as it took to refresh and refocus. I did scroll through emails once daily just to make sure there was nothing urgent from family or friends, but left hundreds of emails unopened, didn’t check in on Facebook or Twitter or read blogs. And my world didn’t fall apart. Rather, things started coming together again.
Yes, this is contradictory to the advise you receive from business coaches and mentors. I too recommend reaching out to your readers and followers regularly through blog posts, newsletters and social networking. You do need to stay current on what’s happening in your industry, but at what point are you trying to process so much information that you put off making decisions for fear of making the wrong decision?
There’s lots of information online about how to manage your time, apps for handling that information and an overwhelming number of articles about how to get out of overwhelm. Even with good time management, there is just so much information out there that if you try to read everything for fear of missing something, you may just end up doing nothing. Maybe it’s time you give yourself permission to unplug and get centered. You’ll likely come back refreshed, recharged and ready to focus.
As always, your comments are welcome below. I’d love to hear how you handle information overload.
Bookstores and the internet are chock full of resources to help you find your passion and rediscover yourself. Most of us over a certain age have shelves lined with “rediscovering yourself in the second half of life” and bookmarked sites for “finding your true direction”. They’re all valuable tools and combined with live workshops and one-on -one coaching, people do often discover what makes them tick and develop a mission. But if you really want to get back in touch with forgotten dreams, the best source is an old friend, someone who knew you before you unlearned what you already knew, before you traded in that innate wisdom for the knowledge of conformity.
I’m not talking about a sibling or life long friend you’ve kept in touch with over the years. Their image of you is who you’ve become. The most valuable source for getting back in touch with your core values is someone you shared secrets and dreams with before you you became the responsible, practical adult who put your own dreams on the back burner. If you’re fortunate enough to renew that relationship, you’ll likely uncover some precious pieces of the YOU that have been eluding you.
In the past year, thanks to the internet, several friends from my youth have contacted me. Since I use social networking sites mainly for business relationships, I don’t expect to see faces from long ago and definitely don’t go searching them out, so it’s a delightful surprise to hear from these long lost friends.
Because I had supportive parents and wasn’t pressured into being something I’m not, I believed I’d stayed pretty true to my core values and hadn’t really lost touch with my dreams. But decades of marriage and motherhood do change our focus and I also put everyone’s happiness and well being ahead of my own. I think it’s genetic programing. Even self actualized, liberated women can lose a piece of themselves while holding together a family. And connecting with people who knew you before career, mortgage and taxes skewed your life view, can trigger memories of buried dreams.
In recent months, I’ve had the fortune of hearing from a childhood friend, a high school buddy and a college room mate, all people I was close to but lost touch with in adulthood. These are people who knew me when listening to my heart and holding fast to my convictions was still a given.
Two weeks ago I returned from “Follow Through Camp” with Barbara Winter, Alice Barry, Sandy Dempsey and my tribe of inspired change agents, fired up to recharge the part of my business I’m most passionate about. As if to confirm that it’s time to focus on that dream, I found in my mailbox a Facebook message from someone I hadn’t spoken with in over 30 years, a friend who knew me when I still thought of myself as an artist, a teacher and saw life as an enormous canvas on which I would color a better world . The most valuable insights have been though late night emails about what mattered then.
I’m not referring to romance here but to two people who are reminding each other of who they each were when making a living, making a life and making a difference was a given not an option.
If you’re fortunate to have had a friend who knew you then, when your goals were to live from the inside out, find that friend. If they don’t offer it up, ask questions. What do they remember you talking about? Do they remember something you got so excited about that you could think of nothing else? Ask then to describe the essence of the YOU they remember.
Short of finding your childhood diaries, this is the sharpest lens on who you were and the most direct road back to finding your true north.