I was working with a client this week on her desk space. As we were going through papers, every once in a while she would set a paper to the side and move on to the next piece. I would stop her and go back to the paper that she set down. The funny thing was, she didn't even realize she was setting some papers to the side. It was an automatic response when she got overwhelmed. It was too much for her and she removed it from her attention. The problem was, her desk was covered with stacks of papers from operating this way.
So, we'd come back to the set-aside paper and I'd ask her what needed to be done with it. Often the paper got tossed. Many papers were things she wasn't interested in. I think when we get overwhelmed with too many things, our decision making capability is greatly diminished. If we were feeling stronger, it would be easy to go "yes" and take whatever action we needed, or "no" and toss it. But when we're tired, it's harder to think clearly, and it's hard to notice this because we're tired. Often times what happens is adrenalin kicks in, so we are feeling energy and it doesn't seem like we're tired, but adrenalized energy is chaotic and not productive.
Just recognizing that we're tired and overwhelmed helps. Usually what happens is we think something is wrong with us, or that we're not trying hard enough. The kind thing to do is go, "I'm fried. I need to take a break." Even a fifteen minute walk outside or a nap can make a big difference. I suggested this to my client. She said she goes non-stop all day and never takes time to herself. She feels too behind to take a break. But she was starting to get that way of living was clutter for her because it wasn't serving her. It caused more problems.
As we worked some more, she started catching herself wanting to put papers to the side rather than take care of them. She said the impulse was strong. I suggested we take a short break every time she felt the impulse to put things to the side. We only ended up breaking twice. When we came back to work each time, she was stronger and her discriminating abilities were sharper.