Okay, did you guys ever run The Pacer when you were in elementary school or middle school? So, The Pacer is that running test where you’re going from one end of the concrete to the other end of the concrete. There are usually cones at both ends, and it beeps on either end. You have to get to the other end, you have to run to the other end before it beeps, and it starts out slow and then it gets faster and faster and faster.
Now, if you’ve ever done The Pacer, especially if you were a non-athletic, terrified, highly-anxious fifth grader like me, you know that The Pacer is super freaking stressful, and it’s stressful because there’s all of this stimulation. You’re running from one thing to another thing, from one thing to another thing, beep, beep, beep, beep. Like, it’s a really intensely stressful situation, and for me, the experience of The Pacer is very similar to the experience of direct messages on Instagram or emails coming into my inbox.
So, I want you to imagine The Pacer, and I want you to imagine that one side of The Pacer is your inbox, and the other side of The Pacer is the task that you are trying to focus on. Every time you get a message, a notification, an email that you need to answer, your brain has to run to that side (the opposite side) of the ground, and then it has to run back, and that in itself is stressful. So, what I want to talk to you about today is ways to make that a little bit less overwhelming.
This episode is actually inspired by someone asking me on Instagram, she wrote in a comment, “I’m getting overwhelmed with emails, texts, and then avoiding them altogether, which then peaks my anxiety and overwhelm more. I feel like I need a system to stay on top of it consistently,” and I will say that I totally resonate with that because I get so easily overwhelmed by messages coming in, having lots of emails in my inbox, etcetera, etcetera. And there are two things that I want to talk about today that have really, really helped me.
The number one thing I want to talk about today is actually turning my notifications (badges, banners, the whole damn thing) off, so I do not get, during the workday, emails. I literally close down my email. I close off my Slack when I’m trying to focus. What that does is it really reduces the overwhelm of seeing those things coming in. I will even put my phone on focus mode during the day so that if I get text messages from anyone other than Jon, it mutes them. And the reason I keep Jon is obviously because if he’s at work or he needs to get ahold of me or something like that. Obviously, there are people who, if they need to get ahold of me, I can let them do that.
But my point here is that a lot of people have told me, “Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know if you turn your notifications off, it’s less overwhelming,” but my question for you is have you actually done it? So yes, you know it. Yes, you know that operating with less than 10,000 taps is probably gonna help you feel less overwhelmed. You know that having a specific protocol for checking your inbox is actually gonna help, but have you actually gone and implemented those things? Because, for a long time, I’ll be honest, I was part of that crew.
I had heard the tip over and over again, “Turn off your notifications on your computer!” I was like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Every single time I heard that tip, I brushed it off because I was like, “Oh, I’ve heard that before. Oh, I’ve heard that before.” It wasn’t until I was in a program where part of our accountability was actually to screenshot the fact that those notifications were off, that I started, that I actually made the change, and then I saw a huge difference in my own focus and overwhelm.
The second thing that I do that is really, really helpful is I batch those types of tasks. So, for Instagram DMs, for example, once every two to three days I will go through my Instagram DMs, and I will reply to people. I know from working with clients on this that there are a lot of you who are gonna have brains who are gonna protest this and be like, “Oh, but people are gonna think I’m ignoring them,” or, “People are gonna think things of me,” or, “What if this doesn’t work?” You are gonna have people-pleasing drama about having to be on all the time.
But what I want to remind you is your overwhelm is not coming from the text message itself. Your overwhelm is coming from your own perfectionistic, people-pleasing idea that you have to cater to everyone else’s needs immediately when they present that need to you, and if you don’t solve that ideology, that is gonna have cascading impacts on every area of your life.
So for me, because I used to have people-pleasing tendencies too, there was a moment where I had to say, “Yes, it is gonna make some people angry that I don’t respond to emails immediately, that I don’t respond to DMs immediately.” I can set up systems for that. I can over-communicate the fact that I don’t answer Instagram DMs immediately, but ultimately, at the end of the day, what these people want from me is me and the best version of me, and the best way I can give them that is by batching my emails at the beginning of the day, batching my Facebook/Instagram messages once every couple of days, batching my interactions with our group community once every two days or so, and really giving myself space in between all of the responding to other people.
So, this is your encouragement and your permission slip that if you are overwhelmed, turn your notifications off and batch your interaction with your communication sources. That’s what I’ve got for you today. I will see you in the next episode!