Not too long ago I recognized another cause of overwhelm that is operating beneath the surface for many of the people I work with. It is not only the source of overwhelm but of guilt, disorganization, and even shame.
This cause is so common that I’ve given it a name: Always Available Syndrome.
When you (consciously or otherwise) structure your life so that you can always be available for those around you, it is much more difficult to feel organized and in control.
Here are a few other signs of to look for:
- You have a ton of big projects that you can never seem to get to.
- If someone comes into your office or interrupts your work it is very difficult for you to ask them to leave. Rather than risk offending, you end up resenting.
- You tend to be most productive late at night or on the weekends – when no one else is around to bother you.
- The idea of shutting down your e-mail, turning off instant messenger, or closing the door of your office makes you feel very uncomfortable.
In my anecdotal experience the more harried and crazy you feel the more available you are to people All. The. Time.
When you allow yourself to continually be available to others you lose out on the time to move your own projects and priorities forward. You miss out on the chance to fully take care of yourself and to support others on your own terms.
No one is going to give you this focused, interruption-free time. You have to protect it for yourself. This involves setting new boundaries and communicating to those necessary when you are available (and not).
If this idea is giving you heart palpitations, I encourage you to start small. Try protecting 15 minutes each week to be intentionally unavailable. Even small shifts can make a huge difference. You are building a new muscle that can have a major impact on all areas of your life.
This time can be used for:
- Moving forward a long-term project that has been neglected
- Processing e-mail intentionally
- Refueling your energy so you can be more present with your family
- Knocking off the 2 or 3 items on your to-do list
If you are ready to protect even more of your time look at your schedule and block it now. Experiment to learn what feels good to you.
Here is what’s interesting: the more you are able to give yourself this time to move your priorities forward the more present and supportive you are able to be for others – without becoming overwhelmed.
Try it out and see for yourself.
How do you protect your time? What tips can you share with other readers? Feel free to comment below.