July 25, 2021

Argh! by Lynne Cazaly: how to outsmart your overwhelm and make sense of everything in your brain

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About the book

These experiences of overwhelm can be a common part of a normal day or week in our life. Yes, the world can be an overwhelming place. We might have an emotional experience of being overwhelmed. We can experience the ‘too much on’ of workload — too much to do and not enough time in which to do it. Or we might feel like we’re submerged under an endless pile of information, reports, books and reading.

At other times we can just be plain ‘drowning in’ it from a wicked combination of all three: emotions, workload and information.

In today’s world, it’s these three that can be the cause of repeated and unending overwhelm. And it’s not good for us. Burnout and health issues are waiting. We need to find ways to acknowledge our emotions, manage our workload … and filter all of that information.

Our overwhelm CAN be outsmarted. Once you get the powerful techniques explained by Lynne Cazaly, you’ll find new ways to make sense of overwhelm, new ways to work, and new ways to cope with information. You’ll be all over overwhelm… it won’t be all over you.



About the author

Lynne Cazaly helps individuals, teams and businesses transition to better ways of thinking and working.

Lynne is an international keynote speaker, multi-award winning author and a master facilitator.

She is an experienced radio broadcaster, presenter and producer having presented more than 10000 hours on-air. Her background is as a communication specialist, having lectured in under-graduate and post-graduate programs in several of Australia’s Universities and consulting to different industries and sectors on change and transformation.

Lynne can help you think better, make sense of information and handle the realities of workplace overwhelm and information overload with her clever hacks and ingenious processes, tools and methods. 

Lynne is an experienced board director and chair and an #avgeek, loving everything aviation, helicopters and air traffic control.



Big idea #1 — The three types of overwhelm.

Overwhelmed has become the new busy, a bit of a catch all for when we’re feeling up against it.

But we need to get better and dig a little bit deeper to understand the type of overwhelm we’re experiencing, and therefore better be able to create strategies to fix it or overcome it.

Lynne suggests that there are three types of overwhelm;

  1. Overwhelmed, which is the emotional overwhelm. 

Once you’ve identified you can help redefine it by digging in a little bit deeper and find out which emotions are overwhelming and are they positive or negative? We can be overwhelmed in a positive way, with excitement or joy.

2. Overloaded

Identifying this means we can redirect our attention to understand how we’re doing it and how else we can do it.

3. Overworked

By identifying this, we can redesign the work to take back control of what we, what we’re doing and what we’re working on.


Big idea #2 — Write it down

Without oversimplifying or trivialising the overwhelm you might be feeling, a lot of this can be alleviated by writing down everything that’s going on and using this list or this brain dump to make sense of what’s going on.

Sense-making is another core theme of this book. By asking the question ‘what’s going on and what do I need to do about it?’ we can move forward. 

Because otherwise it’s easy to sink into overwhelm and let it fester without actually doing anything about it. (And let’s face it, often we avoid doing anything about it, because we then would have to do something about it!)

Lynne offers some models and frameworks to help sort everything in your brain and actually work out what’s going on.

(Note: this reminded me a little bit of a light version of Getting Things Done by David Allen. You canreadorlistento my three ideas from that book.)

Once everything in your brain is all sorted and out on paper (paper is better,so grab a pen or pencil and a piece of paper and write everything down) you can then work out, what’s important, what’s junk and what’s someone else’s problem.

Lynne shares a great little tip from a lady she used to work with called Patsy (a name which obviously immediately makes me think of Absolutely Fabulous). Patsy always had four folders on her desk and that contained everything she needed to do. The folders were labeled sooner, later sometimeandnever.

A few times a day, Patsy would go through those folders, working her way through the sooner stuff, keeping an eye on what was in the later folder to see if anything needed to move from later into sooner.When she had some extra time, she’d go to sometime and some stuff eventually made it into the never folder (and then straight in the recycling bin from there).

You can also obviously use things like the Covey/Eisenhower matrix as well to help organise your brain dump of things into more manageable chunks of how they need to be dealt with, and when they need to be dealt with as well.


Big idea #3 — Where did it go wrong?

One of my favourite models in the book is this 2x2 matrix that helps you work out why you got to the stage of overwhelm in the first place, in order to help you avoid it next time. 

In the top left-hand corner, it has ‘I created it’. Maybe you just kept on taking more and more work and created your own bed of overwhelm.

In the bottom left-hand corner, it says ‘I allowed it’. Maybe you didn’t say no to something and you allowed the overwhelm to happen.

In the bottom right corner, you’ve got ‘I ignored it’. Maybe you’ve been procrastinating on this particular thing for a while, and by ignoring it, it’s now become a bit of a problem and you’re overwhelmed by it.

Finally, in the top right corner is ‘I outsmarted it’. This is ideally where we want it to be, where we have outsmarted our overwhelmed by putting the strategies in place by saying no, prioritising, asking questions, asking for help, and generally managing it in advance.

Going through this process and working out what went wrong in the first place isn’t to beat ourselves up, but it helps to identify what happened and means we can reverse engineer this for future situations.

This level of self-awareness will show us how likely we are to fall into overwhelm, know how it feels, how it shows up, so that we can identify in advance next time.

Lynne suggests it’s good to build this kind of reflection into the end of our daily routine, not just in those moments where we’re already overwhelmed when it’s probably a bit too late.

At the end of the day you can go back and just think about what you’re ignoring, what future overwhelm you might be creating, assess how you’re feeling like and where creeping overwhelm might be lurking, in order to take remedial actions.

If you liked this episode, you might also like Ish, also by Lynne Cazaly



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