As I come off of the holiday weekend and prepare to attend my first workshop as a TLP participant, finalize details for engagements, respond to emails, organize calendars, prepare to orient a new hire on Dec. 3, and continue to develop personally and professionally… I find myself clinging to my imaginary flag pole to raise my white flag. In admission of my reaching my capacity limit, I am waving my white flag and re-posting a blog to remind readers and, in full-disclosure, myself how to wave the white flag to avoid overwhelm, burnout, or the abrasive SOS pad attitude.

I love being busy. My days go by fast and, when they do, I have the feeling of a successful day AND getthe gratification of crossing off tasks from my work-to-do. I love being a “Yes” person to tasks, no matter the size, but it has its ups and downs.

You see, there are the times where I get a pat on the back, the “job well-done,” a new opportunity for growth (professionally or personally), more responsibilities, or any of the motivators we have mentioned in the past.  Unfortunately, there are also times when my love of being busy and my addiction to overachieving comes to haunt me when I realize I’ve maxed out my capacity. As I amwhite-flagwriting this blog, I am rapidly approaching full capacity, but before I get there, I plan to wave my white flag.

As with a lot of classic “Yes” people, I naturally struggle with saying  “No.” In Tamera’s blog, The Art of Saying No, she outlines some of the reasons why that two letter word is so difficult to utter out loud. Whether it is the fear of disappointing someone or a worry that I won’t be valuable anymore, saying “No” before I get to full capacity in my professional or personal life is a necessity.

In my experience, avoiding the hard “No” only makes things worse. I double book myself, I lose sleep, I lose time with my friends and family, my work or end-result is not up to par, and, worse of all, I get cranky. My can-do approach changes to a more direct communication style with no niceties, which I have been told comes off as abrasive. And, who wants to work with an SOS pad? Not me!

Luckily, in my life I have had people who have taught me to recognize the signs of overwhelm. Some of the classic signs that you are reaching the feeling of overwhelm are:

  • Feelings of stress
  • Lack of energy or being exhausted
  • Long hours
  • Dreading going to work
  • Losing your temper or being a grouch
  • Poor performance
  • Getting sick or a decline in health

For more signs of overwhelm, check out the article 10 Signs You’re Burning Out – And What to Do About It featured in Forbes.

Now, I am not an expert in recognizing the feeling of overwhelm in anyone. But, I do know that when I begin to think that putting my head down, cranking the music up, and sporting the “I’m going to crush my Work-To-Do” attitude is a good idea, I am about to cross into my world full of abrasive SOS pads. Which is why, I have compiled a short list of strategies to combat the feeling of overwhelm and to help you elegantly raise your white flag.

First, begin by writing down, typing out, recording a voice memo, or use some other method to record what you need done, by when, and to whom you need to deliver the task to. I recommend checking out our Work-To-Do method and using it every week.

Next, take note of how you react when you feel like there is no way you could possibly get everything done and someone sends you another duty. Recognize how your body and mind react when you are stressed. Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Am I losing sleep?
  • Am I rolling my eyes?
  • Is my heart beating fast?
  • Did I ask them how they were doing?
  • Am I being an abrasive SOS pad?

Lastly, and what I think is the most important strategy, communicate to your team or family members. Surrender and ask for help.  Let them know that you may be raising the white flag soon. Chances are your team doesn’t want the white flag to go all the way up your flag pole. Instead, your team will ask how they can help, they may spot something that could be pushed back to a later date, or, in my case, emails decrease just enough for you to finish a big task, like a blog.

In the end, your team and your family does not want to see you flounder. They brought you on for a reason and they believe in your capabilities. Saying “No” or raising the white flag does not mean you can’t handle your duties or that you aren’t a valuable member of the team. Instead it demonstrates your high level of commitment to your work, your clients, your firm, and yourself.

Until next time,