Overcoming Overwhelm: 5 Practical Secrets to Peaceful Productivity - Christine Kane


Overwhelm is one of the most common challenges for entrepreneurs.

No surprise, of course.

Business owners and entrepreneurs tend to have one thing in common:

They’re creative types with lots of great ideas and a deep desire to be of service in the world.   (If you’re reading this, you’re probably that kind of person, too.)  This means they are often challenged by the practical day-to-day stuff of life.  To-do’s, organization, finances, getting things done.  NONE of this comes easy to them! Overwhelm becomes a way of life.

Only problem is this:

Overwhelm leaves you emotionally drained, constantly feeling like you’ll never quite catch up.

As an entrepreneur, you might have to accept that you’ll be overwhelmed on a regular basis, but you can also take a few practical steps to overcome overwhelm. Here are five secrets I’ve learned along the way that have helped me get back on purpose in my daily life.

Overcoming Overwhelm Tip #1

Get out of the weeds

I was a shitty waitress.

Not a single night went by in any of the vast numbers of restaurants where I waited tables when I wasn’t totally in the weeds. If you’ve waitressed, then you know what it feels like.  So much is happening so fast that you can’t even pause to regroup. (Don’t get me started on the nightmares I used to have after shifts like this!)

Many of us live our whole lives like this!  We begin our day and just start reacting.

If this is you, then it’s time to get out of the weeds and into the habit of something I call Self-Summits.  (In my Uplevel Your Life® Mastery Program and in Uplevel Academy™, my clients get a tool called the Sunday Summit™.  Thousands of people now swear by this one practice!)

A Self-Summit (or Sunday Summit!)  is a weekly 30-minute practice – Sundays are perfect! – during which you connect with your intentions, remind yourself of your goals, and get clear on your priorities.  You look at the week ahead and:

•  List your top three priorities (not your 57 to-do’s!) for the week.
•  Get the breakthrough lessons for the week before.
•  Schedule your work-out time, your writing time, your downtime, etc.

This one practice does wonders for keeping you on track.

Why? Because it doesn’t leave room for choice in the moment.

When creative types get to ask themselves, “Well, what do I feel like doing now?” you can pretty much bet that nothing good will come of it!

Hey, even if your week doesn’t work out exactly as planned, this is better than not having any plan at all!

Overcoming Overwhelm Tip #2

Project vs. Task

Is this your to-do list?

“Re-paint office.  Create website.  Write book.  Eat healthy.”

If so, then it’s time to discern between a project and a task.

A project is something big…like a website.  It looms like a monolith on your to-do list, with its own foreboding theme song that plays every time you glance at it.

A task, on the other hand, is something you can actually complete.  Like, “Write bio.” Or “Call Photographer.”
Learn to break down your projects into tasks during your Self-Summits, and you’ll reduce your overwhelm by 77%!

Overcoming Overwhelm Tip #3

Experience Completion

I make my clients set their  goals so small that they sometimes roll their eyes at me.

I do this because most of the entrepreneurs I work with have never allow themselves the bold luxury of simply experiencing completion.

When you experience completion, then you can maintain your motivation. When you are always running to keep up with your 73-item to-do list, then you are prone to overwhelm and burn out.  Make your goals and your to-do list small so that you can revel in getting complete!

Think of completion as an essential vitamin that makes you immune to overwhelm!

Overcoming Overwhelm Tip #4

Set the Timer

This will sound so simple and stupid that you’ll think, “Yea, yea yea. Got it. A timer. Duh.”

But hear me out!

Let’s say you’ve scheduled 2 hours to write Chapter 4 of your book.  Set the timer for 55 minutes, and write. Don’t go one minute over or under. Take a five-minute break. Then set your timer for another 55 minutes.

When the clock is running, you won’t be as tempted to go downstairs to put the clothes in the dryer, or see if the mail has arrived.  It’s an effective mind game that keeps your butt in the chair and your focus on the task.  Even my most skeptical clients have become believers in the timer.

Overcoming Overwhelm Tip #5

Eliminate All-Or-Nothing Thinking

Many creative types see only two options:

Either be in-the-moment idea people, chaotic, and spontaneous…


Be a totally boring robot who never experiences love or joy.

This is called All-or-Nothing Thinking. It is also a Limiting Belief.  It is downright untrue and even destructive, and it will keep you playing catch-up forever!

The trick to overcoming overwhelm is to play with these new habits. Tweak them so they work for YOU.  Many people use all-or-nothing thinking as an excuse for not even trying.  They give up on themselves way too quickly.

Don’t expect to be perfect when you first start digging out of overwhelm. But DO expect yourself to keep practicing these habits.




  • Rodney Brim (@RodneyBrim)

    Fun to find your site and this blog. Good tips and I cited you in a recent blog. (http://rodneybrim.com/task-overwhelm-and-the-1-thing-to-do-to-avoid-it).

    If you get a moment, would appreciate your thoughts, as I see the list you created as well written and at the same time… not enough. Or at least there’s more to talk about if you pull back the covers and look at what happens after you have the basic skills you list, intact.

  • Christine Kane

    Thanks Damandeep!

    As for staying strong… honestly, it’s about creating habits and structures and sticking to them, and not being a crazy perfectionist about it. Strength comes through action… and so does getting over fear! So, yes, you already answered your own coaching. Step by step, my friend. I promise it happens!

  • Damandeep Singh

    Have we met Christine…if NO how do you know my problem so perfectly???

    You are so fucking right even your thought “They’re creative types with lots of great ideas and a deep desire to be of service in the world. (If you’re reading this, you’re probably that kind of person, too.)”

    How…how…how do you know. But just tell me how to be strong on your process of overcoming overwhelm steps? How to stay motivational all the time and tell your mind…You have to do it?

  • Stephanie LH Calahan (@StephCalahan)

    This is a fabulous post. I especially like your point of Eliminate the All or Nothing Perspective. I see the “perfectionist” tendencies with my clients all of the time. If yo are interested, I’d love it if you would share your ideas by commenting to this group post on overwhelm. I know that my readers would like your perspective and you have thoughts here that were not shared by my contributors. http://www.productiveandorganized.net/2010/12/106-thoughts-on-overcoming-overwhelm-in-a-freaked-out-world.html
    To your success!

  • Shirley McGann (Shishi)

    I Love this post….I’m new to the #UYB group and the Sunday Summit will be HUGE for me! Thanks for all the great tips.

  • connie carpenter macko

    “They’re creative types with lots of great ideas and a deep desire to be of service in the world. (If you’re reading this, you’re probably that kind of person, too.)”

    Thanks for reminding me – sometimes in the midst of the overwhelm I forget this… and those things are sort of the point right?


  • Nadia

    I do this all the time just this morning I was saying to myself as I woke up “What am I gonna do today” and then all the things I had to do flashed into my mind, I am the creative time and feel overwhelmed alot by the littlest task. I think all of these imps would work especially tip 1, 3 and the timer. I always use the timer for schoolwork and what not it helps me to be focused on what i need to do thanks for these tips =)

  • Annette

    Hi Christine! Occasionally you have a post that hits home so hard, I feel the need to print and post in my office. This lovely post is going front and center. Resonates all to well at the moment:-)
    Thank you!

  • laura

    great tips! my to do list (until i rewrite it to tasks vs. projects) does have paint nursery, call doctor, wash kitchen floor, write children’s book… it’s extremely overwhelming. thanks for the insight on how to rewrite it and get some of the tasks done this week!!

  • Tammy Morales

    Applause and standing Ovation!

    #4 is my personal favorite. LOVE my timer

  • angela bouchard

    my version of #4: set a timer is to tell myself i will work on a chore or task for the length of a music cd. i get to choose which cd i feel like listening to, which gives me some feeling of choice. because the length of a cd is only an hour or so, it’s not too painful a period of time. plus, i find music to be energizing and i love singing along. helps to pass the time! once the cd is over, i can either choose to be done, or i can put on another cd and keep working. this technique helps me to break big, overwhelming tasks (like cleaning and organizing the basement) into small enough chunks of time it feels “do-able.”

    i also used to keep a list, not of “to do’s” but of “what i did’s.” at the end of the day, i’d write down tasks i had completed. this made it easier for me not to berate myself for stuff that hadn’t gotten done. instead, i could say “well, look at all the other stuff i did” or “of course i didn’t get that done. i had more compelling things to do today.” keeping the list kept me from being overwhelmed while also providing me with a little push to do less pleasant tasks so i could write them down at the end of the day as “done.”

  • Sukie Curtis

    Christine, Thanks again for a really helpful, practical post! I’ve already started using the Sunday Summit (and with mini-ones every day if I’m smart) and the timer after listening to your last phonecall seminar.

    Here’s a question for you (and others too) related to my efforts to be more committed to using a calendar/schedule for tasks, etc: what tangible format have you (and others) found the most helpful? I find I can make a pretty good schedule (my biggest challenge is not to overload my daily schedule–the goals start to grow as I go through the week) but my calendar then tends to stay by my computer, and I can so easily forget. I like a large page, so that there’s plenty of space for hourly and half-hourly tasks (and I do seem to make a mess of my pages as I work out what I’m going to do when!). But I don’t want to carry that around with me everywhere.

    What are some good, simple options for having that plan of the day with me and visible?



  • Jean

    Great post and a good reminder of things that we probably all know will help with overwhelm but the trick is remembering when you need it!

  • Tammy Vitale

    “When creative types get to ask themselves, “Well, what do I feel like doing now?” you can pretty much bet that nothing good will come of it!”

    made me laugh out loud!

  • Linette

    Hi, Christine!
    Your posts are always so on-target for me, which is why I read your blog faithfully 🙂 This one will be a special favorite of mine for a long time. You could have been writing about my life!

    Thanks for all the great and practical tips here. I will be putting them into practice immediately 🙂


  • Karen Casey-Smith

    Thanks so much for this article. This is just what was on my mind when I woke up this morning. I loved the “project versus task” too! I can tell this will help already. One thing I wonder if you have some advice about, is the timer. Turn one on and I feel tense and pressured, slightly paralyzed. I know that’s certainly not the point in using one. I would love to get over that. Any ideas? Thanks so much for all your great articles!

  • Jodi at Joy Discovered

    These are all really useful tips. I am big believer in the timer–use it all the time. You are right, it works! I think my favorite of yours is tip #5. That all or nothing kind of thinking is sneaky!! Being aware of that thought pattern is half the battle! Thanks, Christine!

  • Beth

    So true, I love the idea of making lists so small you can actually do them and feel the completeness.

    Another thing that helps is getting quiet at least a few minutes in the morning to get centered below leaping into the day ahead.

  • Joanne Giesbrecht

    All of your article is very helpful for me… but one part that stood out was the Self-Summit. Just to take a 1/2 hour once a week to schedule and plan for success makes total sense. I am going to do it! I can always add to it as new things arise throughout the week, but this way i will at least have a road map to know where I am going. Thanks, Christine!!!! You are THE BEST!

  • Deb Owen

    This is fantastic.

    I especially love the “project versus task” point. So often when I work with people (creative or otherwise), the ‘to-do’ is ‘write a book’ or ‘start a business’. But books are written one sentence at a time, right? Showing up to write everyday and writing for an hour a day, over time, adds up. And makes it much less daunting. (Plus, we’re much less likely to procrastinate when it’s something that seems do-able, like writing for an hour — rather than “must write greatest American novel ever written by Wednesday”, right?)

    And of course, the limiting beliefs. Many creatives see the limiting belief you mentioned, as well as many others. This leads them to treat their creativity as something they do “after they’ve taken care of real life” or to believe that they have to give up something that is just as valuable to them as their creativity. (I was recently working with someone whose either/or thinking was ‘be creative – or – have a relationship’. Ouch.)

    Love the ‘self-summit’ suggestion and realize that this is something I’ve gotten away from. Thanks for the reminder.

    Again, fantastic post (for anyone struggling with being overwhelmed).
    All the best!

  • Tracy

    Thanks, Christine. Your post is really useful (as usual). I especially love the “getting out of the weeds” step. I find it incredibly easy to get caught up in my task list with no consciousness about whether those tasks even support my larger goals. Thanks for the insight.