What To Do When You Have Too Much To Do


In this week’s work log post I spoke about my new publishing corporation (it’s a long way from being a publishing empire).  I mentioned in the post that life rolls can sometimes be very positive, but they still wreck your writing schedule.

In this case, too, the event (incorporating) has also dumped a shit-ton of work on me.  Twenty years of sole proprietorship has to be retooled for a corporation with three shareholders, three partners, and three people who all think slightly different…and all three of us are writers, into the bargain.

Stuff I have been handling quite happily on my own now has to be done a different way, or scrapped altogether, or put onto a platform/app/cloud storage so that the other two have access and can remain productive as well.

Here’s a perfect example:  I have for years used Microsoft Outlook’s Tasks function inside Outlook to manage the minutiae of my days.  Only, it doesn’t play well with others.  So I swapped back to my second-favourite task app, ToDoist.com (no affiliation), upgraded to a business account and looped in the other two.

That wasn’t enough, it turns out.  Tasks for which I have for years understood the extended details that were written in my own peculiar shorthand were not nearly enough for everyone else to understand, as we’ve agreed that mind-reading is not a requirement.   Now I have to write things down using the proper syntax and the proper names for everything so that others understand what I mean.  I’m having to relearn how to work with others in a way I haven’t had to bother with for years.

My one thousand point Production Checklist, which guides me from “I need to write another SF novel” to “released and ranking, thank you” is another example of old habits no longer serving:  There is stuff in that checklist that is out of date, no longer relevant and that I have ignored for a dozen books now, and mentally telling myself to update the checklist…one day.

Now I have to make sure the checklist is actually updated, current and correct, or everyone else who touches that book on its way to release week gets confused, frustrated or worse; does work that is wasted.

Then there’s changing all my accounts with all my vendors over to corporate accounts, and changing my banking details so I can, you know, get paid.

You get the idea.  There’s a lot to do and it’s feeling a tad overwhelming right now.

I have too much to do and it all needs to be done yesterday.

There are times when you reach this point.  We all do.  You can put things off and juggle like crazy, but sooner or later, you need to deal with shit you’ve been putting off.

Or you get hit with a life roll that delivers a ton of work along with it that you hadn’t planned for and don’t have time for.

There’s dozens of reasons why an overwhelming amount of work is screaming at you.

What do you do when you’re drowning?

How to Deal with Overwhelm for Indie Writers

Leo Babauta at Zen Habits wrote a simple primer that helps with generic types of overwhelm, and it’s probably a good set of first steps to take.  It will help you clear your head and scrape back a fraction of control

What else should you do as an indie author:

Carve out time to shovel away the mountain.

Off load anything that can be delayed for a while.  Depending on how high the mountain of stuff reaches, you might have to consider using your dedicated writing time to deal with it (as I am doing this week).

Ask yourself if the mountain can be chipped away a bit at a time, or if you need to get it done now.  If fires won’t break out if you don’t get the mountain flattened in a few days, then dedicate some time each day to work on getting it all done over a longer period of time.

Sometimes, though, you have to drop everything you can and get ‘er done.

Maintain perspective.

When you’re stressed about backlogs or overwhelm, it’s easy to lose sight of priorities, of everything but the need to get the work done.  You can even forget why you need to get it done.

I’m currently facing the possibility of having to delay the release of the next book by a week.  I won’t know for sure until I’ve flattened my own particular mountain of work.  But you know what?  Readers will understand.  The loyal ones will.  It’s just a week.

Try to pull back from the details and take a deep breath.  Try journalling, meditating, or my preferred version of perspective focusing:  Writing down why I need to get this mountain of stuff done.  In my case: Federal tax laws, provincial corporate laws, and two other people require I retool my business and place it inside the corporate shell.  And my revenue streams have to keep running while I’m doing it.  It’s kinda important stuff.

Accept any consequences

Even if the mountain you’re facing is not the result of your own slipping habits or indulgences, there could possibly be consequences arising as a result of it.  In my case:  A delayed book release (which ripples down to all other books after that).

I might just have to suck that one up (but I’ll be working to avoid it).

If you end up with fines or penalties for delayed actions, (overdue bills, for example, or Amazon bans you from pre-orders for a year) don’t twist yourself up into knots about it.  You can’t avoid it.  Accept it, adjust to it, then move on.

The positive side of nasty consequences is that they could have been so much worse if you hadn’t rolled up your sleeves and got to work when you did.  You’re dealing with crappy outcomes now because you are dealing with things, instead of endless putting them off.  Good for you.  Remind yourself of this when you pay the fines and figure out ways around Amazon’s wrath.

Be nice to yourself…and others

It sucks having to deal with mountains of work.  It’s stressful (although there’s a sense of peace when you do face up to it and work on getting it done).  It’s frustrating when you come face-to-face with any negative outcomes.

Now is the time to be nice to yourself.  One priority that should be absolute, especially in times of overwhelm, is your sleep.  Don’t short yourself on sleep.  Sleep, and the lack of it, has severe impact on your cognitive abilities, your energy and your motivation. [See here and here for much more.]

Also, eat well, and take even ten minutes a day to move energetically.

And try not to beat up on loved ones and friends and associates while you’re carving away at the mountain.  Trust me, you’ll just feel worse about yourself if you do.  When your irritation or anger builds because others are tripping you up, take one more deep breath and let it go.  Better still, ask for help and explain why you need it.  You will be surprised by their responses.


Scroll to Top