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Feeling Overwhelmed? It May Be Time To Limit Your Options

By June 16, 2015 One Comment

By Ben Sands – If you are feeling overwhelmed, check out my favorite productivity tool.

In a survey of nearly 24,000 corporate executives and employees, 55% indicated that they “have more work to do, then time to complete it.”

This research from the CEB Corporate Leadership Council, also indicates that over the past 3 years, 80% of employees feel that their workload has increased, 78% believe that their team’s workload has increased and 56% say that they are working more hours per week.

Of course, that’s the corporate executive population…but you’ll likely hear the same song from any stay-at-home parent, entrepreneur or student:

I’ve got too much to do, and too little time to do it.

Sadly, we only have ourselves to blame.

“Throw your soldiers into positions whence there is no escape, and they will prefer death to flight. If they will face death, there is nothing they may not achieve.”

– Sun Tzu, The Art of War

It’s not our boss, our job, our spouse, our kids…it’s us.

Specifically, our inability to clarify what is most important to us at this point in our life – and to let the other stuff go.

Alas, this is easier said than done.


Time management expert Peter Bregman calls it the “Buffet Problem.”

Says Bregman, “life is much like an all-you-can-eat buffet…we want everything but, try as we might, our stomach is just too small…”

Bregman, author of 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done, suggests that this reality often escapes the educated elite because, collectively, we have all fallen victim to the  #1 Myth of Time Management:

Once you have the right system, the right folders, the right process…you will be able be to get done everything you want to get done.

The truth?

It doesn’t work that way.

No system, however efficient, will enable you to do everything that you could possibly want to.

The reason: There’s just too much to do.

The only way to move forward successfully (and sanely) is decide which doors to walk through – and which to close.


I have a client who has everything going for her. She is, as her friend described, “usually the smartest person in the room.”

And with those smarts, comes many, many compelling personal and professional options. And, paradoxically, what should be a blessing, has become more of a curse.

And, as much as she wants to capitalize on her good fortune, she has become paralyzed by her many choices. As she shared with me recently via email: “I just don’t want to look back, 5 years from now, and wonder what might have been…”

As a result, she’s been stuck in a form of career-purgatory for the past 12 months, overwhelmed as she tries to choose among:

  1. Her current company (that loves her)
  2. A startup (that intrigues her), and
  3. Graduate school (that allows her to “generate more career options”)

She has been waiting (in vain) for one of these options to “miraculously” emerge as the clear favorite.

Alas, no such clarity has come.

In his eye-opening book, Predictably Irrational, behavioral economist Dan Ariely describes her challenge beautifully:

“In running back and forth between [options] that might be important, we forget to spend enough time on what really is important. It’s a fool’s game…one that we are remarkably adept at playing.”


What we like to describe as a time management challenge (“I have so much to do, and not enough time to do it!”) is, in actuality, a prioritization challenge.

In other words, we struggle to decide what is truly most important in our lives.

We struggle to choose in what we will invest…and what will we let go.

As difficult as it may be to close doors, we must.

The worst-case (and all-too-common) scenario for people like us, is to awake one day to realize that those options that had, for so long, given us comfort and security, no longer exist.

Have you ever consciously closed a door only to find that a new, better option emerged?

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