Maybe it’s just my imagination, but it seems like I’m hearing this more and more; with my clients, with family members and with people I know at my church.

“I’m Overwhelmed.”

Or, “I’m swamped, I’m slammed, I’m exhausted, I’m on the road to burnout. “

What’s going on? Is it the way it’s always been or is the merry-go-round going faster and faster and is it becoming harder and harder to slow it down or get off for a while?

In talking with pastors and leaders I coach, they’re telling me that it’s becoming more and more difficult to recruit people to their teams, as everybody is “Soooooo Busy.”

But, once again, the situation begs a response; but why? Why?

I’m sure I don’t have all the answers, but here are a few things I’ve  been thinking about and maybe you can add some of your own. Admittedly, there is some overlap here and one of these can bleed into others as they are interrelated.

1.  Lots of people have developed bad habits that keep them perennially disorganized. Perhaps the biggest one is procrastination. Years ago I saw a “Frank and Ernest” cartoon where one is saying to the other, “I’m so good at procrastination that I don’t need to be good at anything else.” We can laugh, but this is a serious problem for lots of people; even relatively successful people who just find it difficult making decisions; and the consequences of the non-decisions keep things in constant and unrelenting chaos.

2.  Many have not developed a user-friendly  and low-cost system that enables them to stay on top of things. A system that helps them get back to people in a timely fashion, remain updated on emails (recently talked with a leader who said he gets around 600 legit emails a day) respond to all requests within 24-48 hours and manage tasks so things are completed on time as promised and expected.

3.  The inability or unwillingness to say “No” to people and opportunities keep  many people under water and conflicted a good deal of the time. We feel guilty when we tell a co-worker or family member “No.” We need to learn how to honor our limits and set appropriate boundaries and just say “No” without feeling we have to explain ourselves or justify our “No.”

4.  We are people pleasers at the core and will do anything to not upset or disappoint anyone. Pastor and author Eric Geiger says, “If your goal in life is to keep everybody happy, don’t become a leader, sell ice cream.” Any takers?

5.  This one may be harder to grasp, but I am more and more beginning to believe that some personality types are prone to be reactive (spontaneous, serendipitous) rather than proactive and strategic as to what they decide to say yes and no to. They tend to want to go with the flow and the flow is taking them to unhealthy places.

6.  People haven’t learned (developed the habit) how to focus on what’s most important at any given moment by saying no to less important things. They are spending lots of time on things of lesser importance thereby creating frustration and a feeling of being overwhelmed by not getting the most important things done.  

At the end of the day, when they should be spending time with family or being restored, they are racing to do things that should have been done during the workday. I’m learning (and sharing this with others) to ask what the W.I.N. is. What’s Important Now? Right now, at this given moment, what’s the most important thing I could,, and should, be working on? Not what’s the easiest or the most fun, or the most pressing, but the most important? I ask myself this question numerous times during any given day.

7. How about not delegating decision-making authority to others; trying to do it all and do it all by themselves. I’ve said it for years that most leaders are traveling too fast and trying to do too much. Delegate or suffocate is the choice.

8.  And maybe the bottom, bottom line in it all is not sitting like Mary but scurrying  like Martha as we are listening to everyone else’s voice but not listening to His.

So, there you have it. Let me hear from you. Do you agree, disagree? Would you add anything? What have you learned that’s helping you not be overwhelmed most of the time?