As the impact of COVID has reminded us, the world can be an unpredictable and overwhelming place. Our experiences of overwhelm can impact us at home and at work and often form a regular part of our daily lives. But it doesn't have to be this way. These feelings of overwhelm can be outsmarted.
In the new book, Argh!: A practical guide to outsmarting overwhelm, author Lynne Cazaly provides readers with powerful techniques to make sense of our overwhelm, and discover new ways to work and cope with all this information. Lynne says it comes down to acknowledging our emotions and better managing our workload. Drawing upon decades of experience she outlines useful tools to help filter information to avoid burnout that general feeling of 'too much on'.
Argh! is a must-read if you are:
• Feeling emotional being overwhelmed all the time
• Drowning in never-ending to-do lists
• Struggling to cope with endless information
• …or a combination of all of the above!
Accessibly written with tools that empower you to make real change, Argh! is your ticket out of overwhelm and back into balance.
About the author
Lynne Cazaly helps individuals, teams and organisations transition to new ways of working. She is an international keynote speaker, a master facilitator and the author of 8 books. Lynne works with executives, senior leaders and project teams on their major change and transformation projects. She will help you think better, make sense of information and handle the realities of information overload with a range of ingenious processes, tools and methods. Lynne is a partner with and on the Faculty of Thought Leaders Business School and is an experienced board director and chair.
Question: What originally inspired the idea of Argh!?
Lynne Cazaly: I've experienced overwhelm a lot in my life: emotional, workload and information overwhelm. In the books I've been publishing over the past 8 years or so, the content seems to be getting closer and closer to my own vulnerabilities and experiences. Once I kind of work out a response or plan to tackle the vulnerability, I wonder if it might help others. As I unpacked my experience, understanding and solutions for overwhelm, I figured it was a great angle for my next book. With the world reeling from COVID, who hadn't experienced overwhelm? It was a need that people were increasingly having and they didn't know what to do. I felt I had a combination of skills and techniques that could address each of the challenges of emotional, workload and information overwhelm.
Question: What did you learn, about yourself, whilst writing Argh!?
Lynne Cazaly: Overwhelm is often bundled all up together in the one exclamation of, 'I'm so overwhelmed!' and it's not easy to resolve or reduce when it's like that. As I explored overwhelm more – from my personal thoughts and experiences and backed up with published research – I realised I'd been coping and responding fairly well to overwhelm. Rather than just pushing it down or ignoring or battling it, I realised I'd learned and developed a suite of skills and tools that combined, could help me be smarter than my overwhelm. Now when I experience overwhelm, I remember to practice the skills I've always had, which have now combined into the book's key ideas.
Question: Was it difficult reliving certain aspects/times of your life, whilst writing Argh!?
Lynne Cazaly: Digging up old experiences may not be great fun but it is enlightening, insightful. Looking back on things in our life gives us incredible opportunities for learning, reflection and perspective – it's called sensemaking, connecting the dots - and we're able to make much greater sense of it all than when we were in the thick of it. I've gained a great appreciation for how I have managed things in the tough times and how today I am less harsh on myself, putting myself under less pressure and expectation.
Question: What's the main message you hope readers take from Argh!?
Lynne Cazaly: That overwhelm is a normal human response but when it's connected with increased stress, anxiety, worry or overwork in the longer term, it's not sustainable and can lead to burnout. We need to do something for ourselves about our own overwhelm; no one is coming to 'save us'. If you make sense of your overwhelm, you'll have much greater insight in to what to do about it. Sensemaking is one of the key skills to apply to help you work out what to do about it.
Question: Can you share some tips with us featured in the book?
Lynne Cazaly: Overwhelm is often bundled all up together in the one exclamation of, 'I'm so overwhelmed!' This probably doesn't do much to help us except to reinforce how we're overwhelmed, so a key tip in the book is to redefine or relabel our overwhelm. Pick apart what you're 1. Feeling (emotional overwhelm), 2. Working on (work overwhelm), or 3. Reading (information overwhelm). It's difficult to work well when we're emotionally overloaded, and equally, it's hard to be focused and take in the details in an important report or relaxing book when we're overloaded with work. Tackle each one and fairly soon your overwhelm will be less impactful on you. But trying to tackle it all at once, that's a tough gig and likely leaves us more overwhelmed.
Question: What research did you do, prior to writing Argh!?
Lynne Cazaly: I read over 150 articles, journals, research and books on topics like overload, overwhelm, burnout, stress, information overload, emotional awareness, visual management, productivity, work management, personal effectiveness and psychology. In the early stages of writing the book, I tested my thinking out on people who were in the target audience. I asked them questions like: does the idea resonate, which parts were more helpful, which parts were unnecessary, what else did they need to know? I also interviewed people to create the stories in the book to ensure they represented real life situations of overwhelm and overload.
Question: What advice do you have for aspiring writers or artists?
Lynne Cazaly: It takes work, but the more you write the better you get. We were not all bestowed with brilliant talents to be perfect writers or artists. And we all have our preferences and strengths. Instead of bashing yourself over what you're not good at, fly your flag high for the stuff you are good at. If you want to do more writing, write more and write about things that interest you. You'll soon know if you've hit on a topic that resonates with you because the information will be easier to write, as long as you're not trying to make it perfect on the first attempt.
Question: What or who inspired your love of reading/writing?
Lynne Cazaly: My mum, Shirley has inspired my love of reading. Her reading has influenced her spoken language and expression and her wonderful vocabulary and turn of phrase. I've learned a lot from listening to her. While my mum has read more fiction throughout her life, I've been more interested in non-fiction. My father's role as a technical and mechanical teacher inspired my writing and communicating in common sense and clear words. He had to teach teachers how to teach complex and difficult topics like diesel engineering and his ability to break things down step by step, liken them metaphorically to other things or explain clearly how things worked have been a great inspiration to me. to I really am a product of both of them.
Question: What's next, for you?
Lynne Cazaly: I'm supporting women through a group and movement called Future Thinking Women, to help women explore and leverage their ideas, opinions and thoughts. The pattern of history is so male dominated and so many women's stories, thoughts and voices have been erased and deleted from history. I want to guide women through a process of expressing and capturing their ideas so we change that and when we look back on this period of history there are many, many voices, clearly expressed and presented to help raise the voice of women around the world.
Interview by Gwen van Montfort