Do you sometimes feel as if you have invisible gnats buzzing around inside and outside of your head? Are you so overwhelmed by possibilities that you start to work on one task, then set it down and switch your attention to another, and then another?

Welcome to the World of Overwhelm. It happens to all of us and it is happening more and more in our increasingly complex world. It affects everyone, but introverts, with our brains that are so sensitive to external stimulation, crowded with information, and accustomed to processing ideas and new input deeply, are most affected.

According to Nir Eyal, Instructor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, “…in the age of increased automation, the most sought-after jobs are those that require creative problem-solving, novel solutions and the kind of human ingenuity that comes from focusing deeply on the task at hand.”

Eyal also remarks, “…in the near future, there will be two kinds of people in the world: those who let their attention and lives be controlled and coerced by others and those who proudly call themselves “indistractable.”

Here are some simple solutions that I, as an introvert, have come up with, besides simply shutting down for a day or so:

Organize in advance

Make a list before you go to bed of all the things you need to do, in order, the next day. Tell yourself, “There, now my day is all organized.” Then put it aside before you go to bed. Don’t even think of taking the list into your bedroom, which should be a serene space where you can relax.

This can help eliminate that helpless feeling you get first thing in the morning, when the day already seems as if it is too much to handle.

Stick to your organization

Never, ever, EVER (did I say that enough), start up a computer without knowing in advance exactly what you are going to do next, and after that….

Make a list (on paper, in real handwriting) and post it where you can see it while you are on the computer. When you get distracted by incoming emails, instant messages, and internet searches, return to your list for grounding.

Switching tasks

Switching tasks can be confusing. Don’t feel so driven by your tasks that you try to plow through them one after another. Always take a few minutes to breathe and center before switching, clearing your mind of the previous activity just as you would tidy your desk or workspace before starting a new task.

Avoid multi-tasking:

We all do it: talk on the phone while opening mail, or jot down notes on one topic while listening to another. No, it doesn’t make you doubly efficient; just the opposite, in fact. It can leave you exhausted, and you haven’t even accomplished much of anything.

When all else fails, take a day off and do something pleasurable. You will more than make up for that lost time by being re-energized.

This latter point is one that I have the hardest time getting my coaching clients to understand. However, I have learned that much of our fatigue comes from the anxiety we feel about the relentless, seemingly uphill parade of future tasks with which we are faced: in other words, about things that have not yet happened. A little respite really puts it in perspective as you learn, to your astonishment, that it really wasn’t that much after all.

And finally, remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “I have so much to do today, I must meditate for two hours instead of one.”


Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based coach, speaker, and consultant to introvert leaders. Visit her website at www.QuietBrillianceConsulting.com