Why You Feel Overwhelmed and What to Do About It

Let’s just agree on one thing. The reason you feel overwhelmed is because you think you are overwhelmed.

Ever hear the agents around you quoting the BOLD law – “What you focus on expands.”

Well it’s true.

Do you find yourself thinking thoughts like these?

  • I’m so busy. I don’t know how I’m going to get everything done today.
  • Aw crap. Why do these agents keep bringing me more work. Can’t they see how busy I am?
  • I’m never going to get to everything today. I’m so overwhelmed.
  • Can’t a girl get a break? I just need time to finish this stuff!
  • Le sigh. I don’t have time for this.

What happens when you think these thoughts? It’s simple really. You feel bad. Or you feel unhappy, or angry, or anxiety, or overwhelmed.

And when you feel these negative feelings, what happens then? That’s obvious. You start taking negative actions like avoiding work, procrastinating, ruminating about how awful it all is.

Now, your results suffer. You actually don’t get to everything you wanted to. Your relationships with your rainmaker and teammates start to, or continue to sour. No one wants to be around you. You’re known as “difficult to work with.” If it goes far enough, the clients notice and instead of working with you like they are supposed to, they go back to their agent for what they need and your agent starts to think about letting you go.

This could all end very badly for you.

So let’s reverse-engineer all of this.

What’s the result you want? To be a kick-ass executive assistant who gets things done with a good attitude so that clients and teammates enjoy working with you.

What actions would you have to take to get that result? You would be accepting new work with a smile and thanking the person who asked you to do it. You would be time blocking your day so that your most important action items were getting accomplished. You would be taking breaks to refresh your spirit and your mind.

What feelings would you have to feel to take those actions? You would have to feel inspired, motivated, and determined.

What thoughts would you have to think to generate those feelings?

  • I am a capable, kick-ass executive assistant.
  • I do it now.
  • What else do you have for me? Bring it!
  • I’ll put that task in my schedule so I make sure it gets done.
  • I run my day; it doesn’t run me.
  • I only have to focus on one thing at a time.

I was at Career Visioning and day two of the training ended at noon. My friend Vickie asked me what I had planned for the rest of the day. I honestly couldn’t answer her without looking at my calendar first because of how I have trained myself to think.

You see, I figured out for myself that I can’t think about everything I have to do in a day. When I do, I get anxiety and I feel overwhelmed. So I can’t think about my entire day.

I have to focus on what I’m doing right now. And when that’s finished, I look at my calendar to see what’s next.

Think of it like high school. In my high school, there were seven 50-minute periods with four minutes in between periods plus a lunch break. When I was sitting in math class, I wasn’t worried about what we going to be doing in English class later that day. Because in that moment, it just didn’t matter.

And that’s how I view my life now. I do what I’m doing now, and when it’s time to do something else, I simply switch to doing the new thing.

I can’t do several things at the same time, and I can’t think about several things at the same time.

As an executive assistant, you should be good at creating and following systems. Following a time blocked schedule is a system.

But what about the people who come along and try to wreck your system? How do you deal with that? The work keeps coming in, and I can’t handle it.

Okay Smartypants. Figure it out.

You can deal with interruptions a couple of different ways.

  1. You can build interruption time into your time block. Say you are working through your listing checklist for putting a listing in MLS. Normally this activity takes you about 45 minutes. So book an hour into your schedule instead. Now, when your rainmaker hands you a new listing agreement he got signed last night, you can take a moment to write down any verbal instructions he’s telling you, block time in your schedule to process that new listing, and then get back to your listing checklist. BOOM – interruption accounted for!
  2. You can deflect interruptions by creating a separate block for them. Let’s say you schedule “office hours” for your team. Every day from 11:30 to noon and again from 2:30 to 3:00 you are available to your team for their questions, new work assignments, or just general BS-ing. So as you’re working through your listing checklist and your rainmaker comes to you with a new listing, you can tell him, “I’m on a deadline. Can you bring it to me at 11:30 to discuss it, or would you rather [email, Slack, GroupMe, text] the instructions to me?” BOOM – interruption deflected!

Once you start thinking like a capable, smart, kick-ass executive assistant, you will actually become a kick-ass executive assistant who gets things done with a good attitude so that clients and teammate enjoy working with you.

What do you think? Are you capable of thinking the thoughts that lead to the results you desire?

What questions do you have about this process? Leave them in the comments or email me (egilbert@kw.com) and I’d be happy to reply!


  1. Melissa Pilon

    Thanks Elizabeth – this is just what I needed to read this morning!!! Thank you.

  2. Pingback: What To Do When You’re Worried About Not Having Enough Time | The Assistant Files by Elizabeth Gilbert

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