Hey there! Today we’re tackling 7 things that cause stress + overwhelm, which affects your ability to write like you want to. Try them out and then tell me all about your results. Can’t wait to hear how they help you slay writing overwhelm!
1. Burn your inbox.
We’re going to get you to Inbox Zero, but we’re not going to do it the soul-sucking way. We’re going to do it the Alchemist way (which means you’ll end up 110% less stressed, not more stressed).
Here’s a tip: Sometimes you just have to burn it all and start fresh. And that’s okay.
Block out about an hour for this task, depending on how many inboxes you have an how many emails are sitting in them waiting to be sorted. You may have a work inbox, a personal inbox, and an “internet” inbox where all your subscriptions go. You’ll likely find it easier to start with the personal inbox because it typically requires fewer actions to empty.
First, take a quick inventory of your inbox and your labels or folders.
- Is there anything older than a month? If there is, are you ever going to act on those emails or have you been keeping them around for informational purposes? File them.
- Have you been putting emails off because you don’t want to do the tasks inside them? You obviously don’t want to do these tasks, so ask: Will the world end if you don’t do them? If no, delete or archive (if they include information you may need one day).
- Are there advertisements? Delete the ones you aren’t interested in. Briefly, check the others and delete as necessary. If there’s something you want to buy, buy it now and delete the email. If you need to wait to buy it, use Gmail’s snooze feature.
- Are there emails that require a personal response? Respond now. I know, it sucks to write emails sometimes. Just do it. You’ll feel much better once it’s done.
- Do you have emails sitting in your inbox that are really just reminders? Create a Calendar event/reminder from them and file them.
Your inbox should be pretty clean after this, but there may be some stragglers. Finish up the remainders, but WAIT!
Before you move onto your next inbox, take inventory of your labels/folders. Are they tidy, easy to find/remember, and complete? Take a few minutes to go through your labels and make sure you have a good system set up. It will make keeping your inbox at zero exponentially easier.
You don’t need a label for everything — especially if you use Gmail, which has superb search capabilities. I suggest creating labels/folders only for items that you receive and need to save lots of related emails for, like payment confirmations for your utilities (“Utilities” or “Household Expenses”), records (I like to save my Fitbit weekly updates, so I can see how I’m improving), etc.
Bonus Tip: Seriously consider whether you actually need more than one ‘personal’ inbox. If you have a spam/subscriptions email address, can you simply unsubscribe from the mailing lists you aren’t interested in? If you have a separate email address for internet accounts or privacy, can you monitor your privacy in another way? I recommend having just one personal email and one writer email if at all possible.
If you don’t want spam in your ‘main’ personal email account, then simply stop subscribing to crap you don’t want. 😉
Tools I Love: Gmail
2. Make a decision you’ve been putting off.
It’s human nature to put off things we don’t want to do. Decisions are often among that category.
When we put things off, those things hang over our heads like Dementors, slowly yet steadily sucking the soul from us. It drains our motivation, our energy, our enthusiasm, and our creativity.
Help your brain out by taking one more thing off its plate: make a decision you’ve been putting off. Maybe you keep putting off responding to an invitation, or you haven’t decided whether or not you’re going to start yoga or pilates, or get purple highlights, or whether blue or green will be your power color.
Stop putting off the decision. Whatever you choose is unlikely to be life-or-death. Make a decision and move forward with your life. You’ll feel so much better once you do.
Tools I Love: Pinterest is great for choosing your best things for writing workspaces, dinner, capsule wardrobes, or novel inspo. Goodreads is great for finding your next book. I’ve found listing out all my options and looking at them together helps with other decisionz.
3. Let go of a friend that has never been a good friend to you.
This one can be very hard. I recently had to do it myself, and I know first hand just how hard it can be.
But while the moment of letting go stings, and it smarts for a bit afterward, this is a wound that will heal a lot quicker than you think. Because there is very little to mourn in the loss of a friendship that was never really there to begin with.
And it’s sad—but true—that bad relationships hinder your writing inspiration, so if you have to slay a bad friendship so you can slay writing overwhelm, then do it.
And then write your dragon slayer!
4. Say no to an obligation that you don’t really want to do.
I’ve recently swung slightly more “I” than “E” (52% to 48%, so it’s still close!) on the Myers-Briggs personality scale, and I’ve noticed it in the way I’m just not into going to any and every social event that comes up anymore. In fact, if it’s not with good friends or family, I’m probably very much not interested. But it’s not easy to tell people “no” when you’d rather stay home.
Do it anyway.
Don’t want to go to the movies with your college roommate? Don’t go. Don’t want to babysit your nephew for the third times this week? Say no. Don’t want to be the one responsible for Pigs in a Blanket at your work potluck? Bring the chips instead.
It’s okay to say no. You are not responsible for everything.
Bonus Tip: Saying no is hard. Here are some great articles on how to do it gracefully and confidently:
- Three Ways to Nicely Say “No” Without Feeling Guilty via the Manners Mentor
- 10 Guilt-Free Strategies for Saying No via Real Simple
- How to Say No to Anyone (Even a Good Friend) via The Muse
5. Sniff essential oils.
It’s well-documented that smelling certain scents can affect our mood. Given that it’s also well-documented that our mood (more specifically, being happy or being stressed) can affect our physiological health, then it stands to reason that your favorite scents can have a positive affect on your mood and help you slay writing overwhelm. Plus it smells nice!
There’s no one scent that’s best for improving mood and reducing stress. It depends entirely on your association with that scent. While lavender is lovely and calming to many people, anyone who has a negative association to the scent will not calm down or feel better by sniffing it.
Think back to your happiest moments — are there any scents that you associate with them? Do certain scents ‘take you back’ to a lovely, nostalgic moment? Pick up a rollerball or sniffer of one of those scents. If nothing comes to mind, you could always go with one of the stand-bys:
Find your favorite scent (or scents!) and keep it in your purse, at your desk, and wherever you often are when you need a little “Ahhhhh” moment.
Stop fumbling the dreaded “What’s your book about?” question!
& make outlining SUPER EASY in just 1 hour!
6. Look at calming pictures of beautiful places you want to visit.
Like scents, visual stimuli can alter our mood. Looking at peaceful images can make you feel more at peace—likewise, happy images, adventurous images, moody images, etc., all do the same. Imagery can change our behavior and our mood.
My Pinterest boards, Mental Vacation and Relaxing Moments, are a great place to start. Where would you go if you could go anywhere right now? There’s a good chance that place is found on one of the boards. I like to scroll through both of them when I’m having One Of Those Days.
Some of the most beautiful places in the world show up in the Mental Vacation Pinterest board!
N.B.: watching “disturbing news will start to cloud your subconscious and eventually have a negative effect on your mood.” We can’t escape the real world or all the crap things going on in it right now, but we can do our best to cancel the effect it has on our minds.
Try to take a few minutes, maybe during your coffee break, to look at some nice photos of places you’d like to visit. It’s not a bad idea to have one of your favorite scenes printed and framed to hang at your workstation. Whenever you start to feel tense, you can pause and take in the scene, along with a few deep breaths.
Bonus Tip: Apparently, looking at your own Facebook profile photo and albums boosts your mood, too!
7. Take 1 tiny step towards your Big Dream.
You know how stoked you get whenever you reach one of your goals? Checking off just one small segment of a goal project gives the same feeling!
Breaking your goal down into small, single-action steps improves your odds of actually working on your project. When you can see what you have to do next, it’s easier to act.
Today, write down your Big Dream goal, then break it down into smaller chunks. After you’ve got your chunklets, start breaking down the beginning. You may only be able to tease out the first 3-5 tasks before you’re not sure what comes next. That’s totally okay. As you go, you’ll have more clarity, and you’ll be able to keep teasing out more and more steps.
Eventually, you’ll be done. Which is awesome! I’m excited just thinking about it!
And all you have to do is just the first, tiny task.