Here are articles on overload

Does hard work bring success?

A reader wrote:

So my parents and friends insist I work harder to be more successful. But I can’t concentrate for another hour. I just zone out. Do you have any advice?

Two things jump out at me: first, you may be letting others set your goals. You say your friends and family are telling you how to be successful. Whose definition of success are they using? If they’re talking about their definition of success, be thoughtful. Decide what success means for you, and pursue that in the way you find best. Often, what we want for a happy, fulfilling life is not what others want us to have. At some point, we need to shift from following their dreams to following our own (for many people, this shift takes decades if it ever happens at all).

Even if you agree on the definition of success, however, they may not know the best way for you to get there. Not everyone can simply push themselves harder. For many of us, overwork doesn’t work. The book “The Power of Full Engagement” presents research showing that people aren’t more productive simply by working harder. We need time to rest, recharge, and build our capacity. We work best by alternating hard work and recharge time. If you’re at your work limit, go rest. Then you’ll be able to work harder again later.

One last thing, however. If you can’t concentrate at all, you may have a short attention span or even attention deficit disorder. For short attention spans, I’ve heard that meditation and concentration exercises can help you develop the ability to focus for longer periods. When it comes to ADD, I’m not qualified to discuss it with any authority, but you can contact the Attention Deficit Disorder Association for more information.

Do ‘open loops’ push multi-tasking into overwhelm?

I have several important projects on my “to do” list. Instead, I’m typing on my BLOG. I’m making phone calls for my business school reunion. Everything except what I “should” be doing. Just the thought of the projects leaves me dizzy. But why?

When I have a hundred tiny, no-thought things to do, I can just stick ’em on a list and blast my way through them. When a project requires thought, Life Slows Down.
I was never a very fast problem solver. Pondering, reflecting, and going deep work best. My brain latches onto something and follows it and follows it … and follows it. The problem is that my brain’s not terribly good at following too many things at once. With four high-thought projects in the midst, the brain stalls, and none of them get any progress. But gee, does my BLOG get updated 🙂

Maybe there’s an important distinction here. Maybe overload is sometimes “detail overload,” where there are just too many things to keep track of. But maybe there’s also a form of “depth overload,” where there may not be high quantity, but the amount of thought needed for the few items is so great that progress is tough to make.

That suggests a simple solution: defer one or more of the high-thought projects until others are done. First, gotta figure out what the Deep Thought limit is. I fear in my case, it just may be One…

(Also see my more thoughtful articles at https://www.steverrobbins.com/overcomingoverload/index.htm)