Too much to do

Too much to do? It’s all in the mind

Adam, one of my coaching clients, recently told me he felt as though his working day at a fabulous third sector organisation was a “waking nightmare from start to finish”. He has so much to do that he is in a constant tizz, his mind whirring and his heart beating super fast. He rarely takes a lunch break, jumps from task to task and knows he isn’t doing anything particularly well.


Too much to do

I know that feeling

It’s a really common problem, isn’t it? I expect you’ve felt like that before, maybe you feel it a lot of the time. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to get through what needs to be done, right? It’s just a fact.

I agree. In our sector we don’t quite have enough time. Nor enough people. Nor enough money. And there’s just too much to do.  Some days can certainly be a nightmare.

Should you happen to bump into Adam in the kitchen at work you’ll probably hear him saying, “I’ve simply got too much to do, it’s just impossible” or “I’ll never get through this pile of emails.” As he gets on the train to work, he’s already telling herself he’s in a “complete nightmare”. Later, he shares with his partner all about his “nightmare of a day”. He’s not necessarily even moaning. A lot of the time, he has a smile on his face because basically he’s a cheerful, upbeat person.

But here’s the thing. As long as Adam keeps telling himself, his colleagues, family and friends about his nightmare day, however cheerfully, that is exactly what he is going to keep on getting. A nightmare.

Get your thoughts on your side

positive thoughtYes, I know it’s tough to take. But, our thoughts are extra-ordinarily powerful. They are the one, most important factor affecting the quality of our life and our experience, whatever else is going on. In Taming Time (my time management training designed to tackle the challenges of the charity sector) I show participants exactly how their thoughts, both positive and negative, lead directly and inevitably to the results they are getting. The fact is that when we think that something will never happen or that it’s impossible – we are usually right. Our thoughts create our reality, good or bad.

The fabulous thing about that though, is that it is entirely possible to change the quality of your day by cultivating a different mindset in yourself and in others. So instead of thinking thoughts such as “I’ve simply got too much to do”. Adam needs to choose more helpful ways to talk to himself and his colleagues. He could try,

  • Yes, I’ve a lot to do, but I’m handling it
  • There is plenty of time (the favourite for participants in Taming Time workshops)
  • There is all the time in the world
  • I choose to be in control of my day
  • I’m learning to manage my time better.

And you don’t even have to believe your new thoughts. Great news!

Try it out

Read over these positive statements or, even better, say them out loud. How do you feel? Still frazzled and overwhelmed? Or a little calmer and more capable?

Then make a list of five unhelpful thoughts or statements you find yourself saying in the course of a day.

Write the opposite empowering thought for each one along the lines of those above and say these out loud too.

These types of thoughts help you feel calmer, more in control and more able to work calmly through the projects and tasks you have on your plate.

In fact, positive thoughts make the impossible, possible.

make the impossible possible

Now, don’t get me wrong

I’m not saying for one minute that our sector isn’t hugely pressured. There’s definitely too much to do. And there may well be actions to be taken organisationally such as new posts created, or extra admin support.

But, given that there is too much to do – and there always will be – why not serve ourselves and our organisations as best we can by thinking the kind of thoughts that help us tame our time rather than overwhelm us?

The key is choosing. Do I choose to be overwhelmed or do I choose to take control of my time, my work and my life?

Over to you

So, do your thoughts serve or sabotage you? How about your team? Is there a culture of talking about workload negatively (even the word is a downer, isn’t it?) I’d love to hear your comments in the reply box. And if you have a favourite thought which helps you feel in control of your day, do share.

What next?

If a negative mindset is sabotaging your team’s efforts to manage their time, call me on 0208 772 7808 or email to book a no-obligation chat about how I can help. We could have a Taming Time training booked for September.






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6 responses to “Too much to do? It’s all in the mind”

  1. Tara Zutshi avatar

    Great article, it’s is really easy to fall into negative self talk and before we know it’s our reality. It’s true of the corporate world as well as your sector. Our mindset is incredibly important, treat your mind like a garden, only plant flowers(positive thoughts) and pull out the weed(negative thoughts).

  2. Katie Duckworth avatar
    Katie Duckworth

    Hi Tara. I love your analogy about the weeds and the flowers. I’ll be borrowing that for my Taming Time training!

    Yes, it’s true in all sectors and, of course, in all aspects of our lives. Our thoughts create our reality – full stop.

  3. Aisling avatar

    How right you are about the way we look at time impacts on our relationship with it. I thought this HBR article really helpful

  4. Katie Duckworth avatar
    Katie Duckworth

    Thanks for your comment, Aisling and for highlighting the HBR post – definitely food for thought!

  5. Linda Anderson avatar

    Great post, Katie, and I love the ‘flipping thoughts over’ exercise – will definitely be trying this out when I catch myself in a negative spiral again.

    As far as time goes, when I’m up in my head and in ‘whizzy whizzy’ mode, I feel overwhelmed and that there’s not enough time.

    When I’m conscious enough to notice it, I choose to slow down, take a breath, come back into my body, into the present moment, and I choose to stretch time. Sounds strange I know, and I’m not sure exactly what happens, but my body certainly relaxes and somehow there’s enough time to complete whatever I need to complete.

    I think being present and focussing on one task at a time helps.

  6. Katie Duckworth avatar
    Katie Duckworth

    So glad you liked it, Linda. I love your practice of breathing into the present moment to ‘stretch time’. And it really does work. What I tell participants on my courses is that we’re not managing time, we’re managing ourselves which is exactly what breathing does – great tip.