It’s easy to feel like you are maxed out. In my work with CEOs it is not unusual for them to come to me and ask for guidance when they feel like their mental bandwidth is full. There are two things they can do to address the situation immediately. Before I tell you what they are, I want to share my own experience in recent days.

I had minor foot surgery about 10 days ago. I took a few days off work to recover from the operation, but now I am walking around much more slowly using either crutches or a cane. It was easy to feel frustrated, hampered, like my foot-in-a-cast was a burden rather than an investment in future freedom. I recognize that my inner state is the source of all my creativity and so immediately sat down to address this impatience and discontent.  I wanted to discover the gold that was resident but hidden in these new circumstances. Interruptions always present unique opportunities to examine assumptions, reframe circumstance and discover breakthroughs.  Just today, for example, I realized that I am able to do everything that is on my plate (take care of my self, my family and my clients) and move as slow as I am now on crutches.  That means that I had the extra bandwidth and just didn’t realize it. But, now I do, and I appreciate what that means for increased performance in my life.

So, here are the two ways to address overload my clients most often appreciate:

  1. Examine your metaphors. How do you think of all the work that you have to do? Is it like spinning plates, or stacking tasks? If so, it’s a short step from there to hearing the sound of plates hitting the floor, or tasks falling through the cracks. One of my favorite metaphors is a clutch. A clutch allows you to shift gears, using the same amount of force to go farther and faster.  Then I ask myself, how do I shift gears in this situation? What can I do so that I get more done faster with the same (or less) effort?  So, examine your metaphors – they have more impact than most people understand.
  2. There are unavoidable times when the workload peaks. We all have those. During these times, self-care becomes more important than ever. It’s easy to drop your gym attendance, stop walking the dog, skip dinner with your spouse. But, counter-intuitively, these may be the very activities that will renew your spirit and revitalize your capabilities. When there’s a lot to do, that’s the time to pay special attention to the activities you need to replenish your inner fuel.

My answer to the question above,  How much bandwidth do you really have? is always, Much more than I imagined.

“No amount of data, bandwidth, or processing power can substitute for inspired thought.”

-Clifford Stoll