Overwhelmed? Join the Club

A few weeks ago I was thinking of slitting my wrists because I was so far behind on everything – my job, my personal life, updating information on this site, reading books, writing reviews – I could go on but you get the drift. This led me to ask the question – how many of you are in a similar situation? Do you find yourself so overwhelmed that you’re literally paralyzed? Do you write lists and then they start having a life of their own because they multiply and you find that all you’re doing is writing lists? I did a quick check on the ‘net today and according to a few posts, over 80% of those surveyed are overwhelmed by life.

I think that technology is the biggest culprit that contributes to a stressed-out life because, in addition to the pressures of our real lives, our online friends communicate through these networks and expect us to respond in a similar fashion – Facebook, Twitter, Livejournal, Yahoo Groups, MySpace, Library Thing, Goodreads (and similar library sites) etc. I am just as guilty as anyone else because I use Twitter and Livejournal, although I haven’t posted regularly on Lj in weeks. How on earth are we supposed to find the time to have a real life? Every day I get emails asking me to “friend” someone on Facebook and when I don’t respond I get reminders, because surely I must have missed the initial request.  😀 Some people use Twitter to tell us what they had for breakfast, how their daughter is doing in ballet, what they are doing every moment of the day, what time they go to bed, etc. Does someone in Dubai care? How do they find the time to list most of their daily activities on the internet?

I did a post almost a year ago on my old blog about social networking here and asked you (authors and readers alike) how you coped with all of the demands on your time. I can’t imagine how those of you with small children manage! Many of you responded and talked about the pressures you faced coping with social networks. Now, instead of getting better it’s worse. I’m finding that I can’t cope effectively with all of the demands on my time and my personal relationships are suffering. My real life friends complain that I have no time to spend doing activities with them like going out to dinner, watching movies together, going to the gym with them, having sex (I thought I would slip that one in) 🙂 or something simple like chatting on the phone.

Are you missing out on important areas of life because you’re totally overwhelmed and can’t prioritize? Do you spend a lot of time on Twitter instead of actually having a life? If you have found a way to live in the real world without going crazy trying to keep up with technology, perhaps you could share some of your strategies with the rest of us who are suffering from burnout.

I have deliberately not joined groups like Library Thing, Goodreads, Facebook and MySpace because they are a huge timesuck and in addition they duplicate other online social networking groups. I think that social networking groups are like a drug, and while for some of us it’s our drug of choice, what’s the cost in terms of our relationships?

If any of you have practical solutions that you can share with the rest of us (other than suggesting that we all become hermits) you will be doing a service to the millions who are just trying to cope.

Suggestions anyone? I know I need help. I get probably 3 hours sleep every night and sometimes less than that, and I’m sure there are others worse off than me. Help us before we get sucked into the quagmire called “doing everything because we think we should.” 🙂


I live in Canada and I love big dogs, music, movies, reading and sports – especially baseball


  • Thanks guys. This is wonderful advice and I’m going to sit down and write a list of all the things I shouldn’t continue doing and follow the rest of your advice.


  • Yowch. This post makes me want to send you virtual chocolate chip cookies and hugs. Everyone has already given you a bunch of good advice, so I’ll just share a little anecdote.

    About a year ago I was exactly where you are now, on the edge of cracking because I just had so much stuff to keep up with. Then my laptop ate a virus and died, and I had to give it up to a computer repair guy. I got it back a week later, but it had been restored to factory defaults, so I had lost all my favourites, bookmarks, everything that I hadn’t backed up.

    I promised myself I would sit down and put them all back. But when I actually started, I realised that the more bookmarks I added, the more depressed and trapped I felt. I realised that only about a quarter of the sites that I visited regularly actually made me feel happy. The rest were ones that I felt I had to visit, or should visit, or needed to visit. So I took a deep breath and just stopped. I put back only the bookmarks that made me smile and just left the rest off. And I found that instead of spending three hours a day keeping myself ‘up to date’, I was spending maybe half an hour and I didn’t feel deprived at all.

    There are some things that you can’t give up because you love them and believe in them and you want to do them, even if they take time and occasionally stress you out. But I think that most people also have a LOT of other stuff that builds up bit by bit around the edges and fills in all the spare time so gradually that you don’t even notice it’s suffocating you. If you haven’t updated LJ for weeks, why not just give yourself an LJ holiday and stop worrying about it? Does it really matter if you don’t do another post there for the rest of the year? If the very sight of an email from Facebook makes you groan, set your Inbox to send them straight to spam for a while. No one’s going to die, right? And it doesn’t mean you can never go back.

    Sometimes, just like the cartoon says, if you feel overwhelmed, it’s because you are. Take a hard look and if there’s anything that just makes you groan, jettison it. It might sting for a while, but I bet in the end you’ll feel better. You can do it. You are the boss of you.

    • Alexi
      I love your advice and I’m going to take most of it because it’s sensible. Internet “stuff” is just as bad as regular stuff in your home and I have been turfing everything out at home that I haven’;t used in a couple of years. It’s amazing how that made me feel.

      With Lj I will just visit my favourite writers there like Kassa and Erastes and a few others but I won’t post for another month and see if I miss it. 🙂 There’s a lot of things I do because I feel I have to and not because I want to, and you’re quite right, I am the boss of me so I’ll start acting that way. I have already made some changes because I realized that I had no spare time and hopefully over the next few months I will make not just minor but a few major changes.

      I’m going to read everyone’s suggestions, all of which are great.

  • Take a holiday and go away for a week without your laptop, Wave! I take short breaks regularly and just get away from all the “updates” for awhile – it’s good for your health! 🙂

    I am quite lucky that my job is quite seasonal, that means, 70% of the time I have idle time at work and I’ll browse and catch up with friends etc on Goodreads, LJ, various forums etc. I try not to that at home – just read books and spend time with hubby. I think it’s important you set limits and schedule for your activities.

    I find the most overwhelming social interaction is “online chat” and I very very seldom do that. The instant back and forth is very distracting and you’d find that 2 hours gone for nothing – just silly chitchat.

    Not that I am very good prioritising tasks. But good books will still be there and a good friend won’t shut you off because you don’t say hi on facebook!

    The keyword is: cut it down.

  • And there’s more! Last year my old laptop started getting dodgy, so I only put it on when I needed to, rather than “as soon as I walked through the door” the way I’d been doing before that. Or keeping it on all day over the weekend.

    And that really helped. Because even if I wasn’t sitting in front of it the fact is was on somehow distracted me, wherever I was in the house! So even once I got a new one, I stuck with the same thing. It doesn’t go on till I’m ready to actually do something on it, and then it’s switched off. Okay, the switching off part can be hard, I admit! But yeah, get the PC off if you can and it’s a lot easier to get your mind off it.

  • Larissa’s ideas about email were excellent, and Val’s suggestion to forget about the other social networking is smart. Automate as much as you can and move away from the stuff you have to do “manually.”

    Are you a perfectionist? I’ve been down that road and nearly had a breakdown over it. I felt much better once I was able to 1) give over some of my responsibilities to others and 2) lower my expectations just a bit and 3) focus on a few things instead of many.

    See if you can step away long enough to figure out how to handle this – Val’s idea to put extra posts into the system might work, or you could turn a week or two(!) over to guest bloggers. You certainly have enough offers ’cause we luffs you! Anyway, stepping back and taking time for yourself is imperative if you need a new perspective on life.

    I know you said there’s a lot you have to do yourself for the blog. But are there a few more things you could delegate? Could you let someone else handle coordinating the Free Reads? Could one of your image-friendly friends take over the Friday Men? Stuff like that. You might find you have to make some hard decisions.
    Maybe you could get a few more bloggers to do regular posts for you: An advice column (for fun), new book announcements, interesting links, etc.

    As to your real life friends – maybe you need to do what busy parents to: Establish “date nights” or “gym times” or such. Things that are important but won’t happen without being pre-planned. Yeah, it takes some of the spontaneity out of life, but at this stage, it sounds like you don’t have that luxury.

    I don’t have a lot of technical know-how, but I, like others, would be happy to pitch in and help, if there’s a way I can!

    Breathe deep, Wave.

  • I just try to be very strict about what sites I’ll get into and what I’ll do on there. I use Goodreads, but mostly to track my reading and get ideas for other stuff to read from what my friends on there are reading. But I unsubbed from a couple of groups on there as I could see it would take up too much time.

    I use Live Journal regularly and dabble with Twitter, but I don’t do Facebook (I don’t even GET Facebook, what’s actually the point of it? I can’t get a satisfactory answer to that.) I think it’s a good plan to choose ONE of the social network options, whichever suits you best, and seems most effective and focus on that one. It’s once you start trying to focus on too many, repeating yourself eveywhere it gets crazy.

    I think a regular review of all the blogs, forums and networks you’re using is good. Ask yourself, am I getting any value from this? Am I even participating at all? Have I got RSS feeds fro stuff that I don’t even read (but still have to take the time to mark as read and scroll past…) And prune the ones that are taking time and giving no value back.

    And just keeping things in perspective. The internet will not melt down if I don’t tweet about what I had for lunch…

    Maybe you can give yourself time limits. Like you can spend X amount of time in the day on reading blogs, social networks etc. If you can’t get all your reading or updating done in that time then look at which ones you can get rid of to get it down to that time.


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