The #1 Sneaky Lie That Attracts Overwhelm (and what to do about it…)

About a month ago, I held a very special “Artists Only Spa Day” with the maven of Creative-Clarity-Wins-Over-Chaos, Jennifer Hofmann of Inspired Home Office.

I think we were both a bit stunned when over 50 artists signed up. Yikes! Chaos on the loose in studio after studio…

And now that Fall has fallen into all of our laps, I thought this a perfect time to use the crisp autumn energy to open up a path of clarity through all the overwhelm – real or mythical – with a guest post from Jennifer herself.

The #1 Sneaky Lie That Attracts Overwhelm (and what to do about it…)Abundance is here.

Do you have more stuff than you want — more paper, more books, more email, more commitments, more bills? If you’re trying to manifest abundance, stop! It’s already here! Most people I know have more to do in one week than a person could truly appreciate in a month or more.

This isn’t what we imagine abundance should look like. Personally, I imagined lying on a lounge chair on a warm beach, sipping something with a tiny umbrella in it. Ahhh.

But the abundance I have (and maybe you do too) is not the least bit relaxing. I never imagined that “abundance” would masquerade through my life as a cluttered stress-ball, but there it is.

Give me simplicity.

For many, the road from to simplicity is rocky. We like having things. We like being wanted. “I’m busy” makes us feel important. It can be hard to let go of the short-term payoffs, but this much intensity can create overwhelm in the long run.

Ask anyone whose desk is so full of paper and treasures that they can’t complete their taxes on time and are scrambling for an extension. Ask anyone who, literally, can’t find time to pee. It isn’t the kind of abundance they wanted, either, and it can suck the joy out of life.

The #1 sneaky lie that attracts overwhelm: “I can fit it in.”

If you hear yourself say these words, freeze. This is your ego speaking.

The ego is a very specific kind of master: a task master. The ego doesn’t want simplicity, it craves complexity and drama. It wants you to be overextended.

If you want more simplicity in your life, you can beat the ego at its own game so you can act upon your deeper desires.

To do this, first it’s important to know how letting the ego rule your life and your calendar affects you.

Consequence 1: Antagonizing loved ones and strangers

The more we attempt to fit in, the greater the chances the fight-or-flight response getting triggered.

Stress from over-commitment brings out the worst in people. Instead of being present, we’re testy. Instead of accepting, irritable. Instead of forgiving, we guilt-trip. Sometimes we hold those feelings in, which hurts our own hearts as well.

Consequence 2: Missed opportunities for connection

One night last week, Inspired Spouse came into my office to talk while I was finishing up “one last thing” that I “needed” to do. Truthfully, I heard only every 4th word and listened just enough to appease. Later, I realized that I’d missed a precious opportunity to meaningfullyconnect with my Most Important Person.

When we hurry, we miss opportunities to connect.

Consequence 3: Engaging in risky behaviors

While we’re over-committed and feeling rushed, we hurry to catch up. Traffic laws become negotiable. We tailgate. We cut people off in traffic. We speed. Suddenly our urgency is at the expense of others’ needs, including our own safety.

Consequence 4: Satisfaction denied

Cramming more to-dos into your day deprives you of the satisfaction of completing a job or task thoroughly. Many people don’t stop long enough to enjoy the feeling of completion, before rushing headlong into whatever is next. Life becomes an endless, depressing mound of stuff to do before we die.

Consequence 5: Craving more. Andmoreandmore.

It’s been proven that the faster a person eats, the greater the likelihood of overeating. The same could be said for internet usage, TV watching, gambling, reading, et cetera. When we rush to cram it all in, we immediately start to crave more because we never really have it in the first place. We’re not present enough.

Geneen Roth wisely said, “You can’t have enough of what you don’t really want.” She was speaking of food specifically — that no amount of Oreos can equal a relaxing soak in the tub. This applies to lots of other things, too. No amount of money can feel like love. Even 100 completed “to-dos” doesn’t feel like a talk with a good friend.

So what?

None of these observations is intended to convey that doing stuff is bad. On the contrary. Doing stuff is good, so long as it’s not done at the expense of your spirit and others who share the planet with you. I know that’s a tall order. I’m working on it myself.

Alternatives to “fitting it all in”:

Instead of cramming more into your day or onto your desk, here are a few suggestions to prevent “fitting more in.”

Know Your Limits

Reflect on how many hours of work will sustain you without creating burnout. Do you know how many social engagements can you handle each month and still enjoy yourself? Think about how many activities you really want to drive your kids to every week. When you have some limits established, it can be easier to maintain a healthy schedule and work load.

Build in Buffer Time

Instead of scheduling your plans and tasks back-to-back, plan for things to take longer. My weekly appointment is a 20-minute drive, but traffic is always sketchy. When I started giving myself 30 minutes for the drive, I stopped driving like a speed demon and arrived calmer. Where might you need some buffer time?

Practice Pausing

Whether someone is asking for your time, or you’ve got something to add to your plate, catch yourself in the moment (when you can) and ask:

Do I have to fit this in?

Do I want to?

Do I need (life or death) to do this?

You may choose the same way as before, but bringing consciousness to your choices makes you feel more empowered and less a victim of your “to-dos”.

Practice Saying “No” Kindly

Most people think that if they’re asked, they should say yes. If you know that your week is at capacity, saying yes can push us over the edge. Saying “no” doesn’t have to be negative. When someone asks you to get together, focus on the intention behind the ask. Don’t assume that you are the only one who can handle it. Negotiate. (hint: I’m planning a fun event on this topic soon!)

Stop to Celebrate and Acknowledge Your Efforts

Instead of rushing to the next thing, it can be profoundly satisfying to stop long enough to appreciate your efforts and recognize your accomplishments. Sometimes I ask others to do the same for me when I have a hard time believing it myself.

In the end…

… the contented life isn’t about having more, it’s having less and appreciating how abundant that really is.

May your week be less packed and your life more full.




One way to have less and appreciate more is to clear your space. So, if you feel like chaos is winning and you’d like to turn things around, check out my new Creativity Plus Organization Power Pack.

I’m giving an introductory offer of 50% off – but only for the first 30 orders. After that, it pops up to full price. Treat yourself and your creative flow to more for less…

4 Responses to “The #1 Sneaky Lie That Attracts Overwhelm (and what to do about it…)”

  1. This is a killer article Jennifer/Ariane. It should make Brian Clark drool a bit because it could apply to his copywriting audience as much as it does to artists.

    “… the contented life isn’t about having more, it’s having less and appreciating how abundant that really is.” What a gold mine of truth!

  2. Molly Gordon says:

    Yes! It occurs to me that the new mantra should be, “I can let this go.”

  3. Kristin says:

    Amazing article! We need to get better at defining what sucess looks like and really appreciating when we get there. Otherwise we rob ourselves the joy of enjoying what we do accomplish instead of focusing on what we haven’t done yet. I love the Geneen Roth reference. I think she’s a wonderful author and her teachings apply to all of life, not just food.

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