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The Molehill Maintenance Manual: Putting Mount Overwhelm in the Rearview Mirror

The Molehill Maintenance Manual: Putting Mount Overwhelm in the Rearview Mirror
Keep Mount Overwhelm in the Rearview Mirror with the Molehill Maintenance Manual

The Molehill Maintenance Manual

I wish The Molehill Maintenance Manual was an actual thing that I could have bought to fix my life. I do read a lot of stuff on procrastination. There is so much advice out there. Some of it helps and some of it actually makes things worse. What do you do when that molehill turned into a mountain and you want to put that mountain in your rearview mirror?

gif: scene from Monsters Inc. Sully fans arguing saying, “You’re making it worse.”

The Molehills

I think we all have them. At least I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t have some kind of molehill—or multiple molehills. I do have friends who a molehill whisperers or molehill jugglers. They have all these things going on and they stay on top of them and manage them perfectly.These magical molehill whisperers might have molehills that slip the leash and turn into Mount Overwhelm but they just don’t talk about it.

But if you’ve got a molehill problem, you probably told yourself that XYZ issue is no big deal. You’ll get to it later. You can put it off. Or maybe you just don’t have the energy for it at the moment. It’s not a priority now.

Meanwhile, that molehill that started off as a tiny, no big deal thing, is sitting in a corner secretly sucking energy from your mental desktop. It thrives in the environment of “yeah, I gotta get to that thing sometime.” It also likes, “now where did I put that document/mail/file/sock?” And suddenly that no big deal thing is now crisis mode and needs attention NOW!

Maybe it is not just a molehill but it’s a giant hairy scary molehill. This particular molehill loves the dreaded email/letter or phone call or even just talking to people. Th GHS molehill flourishes in visions of worst case scenario and doomsday thinking. Maybe this task was hard to start with but putting it off adds elements of count-down pressure. Ick. For me, editing Riley and the Love Jinx was a molehill that became a mountain and tamed back into a molehill.

Any of these sound familiar? Personally, I’ve experienced all of them.

Advice: the tastiest medicine to give (not so much to get)

Dripping herbal essence of a vial over a spoon. Image from Deposit Photos

The most common advice I hear about keeping things at molehill level and from becoming overwhelming is to take care of them immediately. 🤔 Okay… Yesssss…

Honestly, I’m going to put this piece of advice in the Making It Worse Category. Is it good advice? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean that it always works. If it was just a matter of taking a deep breath and getting over the giant hairy scary, and doing the thing, I would do the thing.

I heard that a relative’s method of dealing with issues is to keep ignoring it until it reaches a crossroad: Fork A – the issue disappears so no action required; Fork B – the issue now requires urgent action. Crisis mode activate! I’m also going to place this into the Making it Worse Category. I hope that there was some miscommunication in how this was explained to me. But I admit that I’m fascinated with this approach.

I think a useful revision would be to raise the bar for things that require solving. And if it doesn’t meet the bar then literally, throw out any physical elements and remove the issue from your mental desktop. Now it’s longer taking energy.

Sharing time: grain of salt required

old silver salt cellar with pink Himalayan salt. Image from Deposit Photos

Disclaimer: I’m not a certified expert on procrastination. I’m going to share some things that I’ve tried. They don’t always work and they don’t always work the same way each time. So when it comes to molehill maintenance, the bigger the toolbox, the better. I don’t have sources for this because I’ve read so many articles that it all kind of blended together. You may have encountered these before.

    Yup. I’m starting with the hardest one. Maybe even the least helpful one. I usually only can sleep three hours at a time. So I really crave sleep. But everything is easier when I get enough sleep. Decisions are much more manageable. Everything is less dire. Yet I know that getting enough sleep can be hard for people. This is why you need a multi-tool kit.
    I hate routine. Well… I don’t hate routine. In fact, I crave routine. But I find it stifling and I’m easily distracted. I often feel like if I could only find the “right” routine, my life would be magically better. It might be true. I might be kidding myself. BUT when I can get to a mental state where I do things automatically, I spend less time is worse case scenario thinking and that is a good place for me to be. James Clear’s book Atomic Habits and the concept of chaining activities has been helpful. But not gonna lie, it took me a long time to get through the book. I got a lot of anxiety from it so I took my time going through it. A friend also recommended reading emotionally tough work in a snuggly environment with a delicious cup of your favorite drink. THAT advice works.
    This is a two stage process. The first is probably going to be emotionally tough. Make a list of the things you want to get done and then make a list of the things that you are actually doing. Decide what things you need to stop doing and what you actually really want to incorporate. I’m not talking about the “nice to have” stuff. I’m talking about things that if you started doing it would make your life measurably better. If you are a metrics person, list of the ways these things will make your life better. Part 2. Post this list and the reasons in multiple, easy to see places in your environment. Car? Mirror? Fridge? Front door? Day planner? Computer desk top? I say do ’em all. For me the posting is the most helpful. I need constant reminders. Make them fun, cute or funny. Don’t threaten yourself. Be kind to yourself on your journey to put Mount Overwhelm in the rearview mirror.
    I want to say meh. I feel like this is super annoying because it takes up time when I could be doing stuff (the irony, amirite?), but when the chips were down, this was super helpful. It’s not something I can do everyday. But YMMV.
    Get a buddy and do co-working in person or via your favorite online meeting platform. You don’t even have to have the camera on. I tend to because it keeps me on task. Set your goal at the start of the session and work on that ONE thing as much as possible
    Do all the hard stuff at once. I feel like this is the nuclear option because you need to have a lot of spoons available. But when I’ve done it and gotten through my list I feel like a champion.
    Instead of worse case scenarios imagine best case scenarios and all the good things that can come from getting it done. Even if it’s bad news, or something distasteful, most things benefit from dealing with it instead of ignoring it. I think this is really helpful to me but it took a lot of practice. I would have loved to wake up and immediately been able to do this. The ironic thing is, most people describe me as an optimist. But behind that there are multiple molehills that are or are on the brink of achieving mountain status. I’m an optimist with a very strong worst case scenario mindset. While I still think that being prepared for worst case scenarios is important, I could feel a lot of mental and emotional energy being wasted on what if.
    A list? Seriously? Yup. Start with a list brainstorming what you think is getting in the way. Maybe the house is too messy. Maybe there’s stress from a disagreement. Lose the perfect notebook? Unsure of what the next step is? List them all out. Then write a solution. If the solution is not something you can take action on, is there a workaround? Use this list to make an action plan. Personally, I need to write things down to visualize steps. But creating the image and steps of you succeeding at a problem can help you overcome the problem. Don’t just imagine the happy feeling of being done, write or visualize the actual steps you need to take. Once when I was stressing about edits, I had to start with: 1. turn on computer 2. Open the document. Yes. I had to be that basic. But it worked.
  • SCALE BACK (AKA Aspriations vs Reality)
    Are you trying to accomplish too much? Are you making mountains from molehills by expecting yourself to accomplish more things than is actually possible? Is your to-do list perhaps too aspirational?

Fare thee well future molehill whisperer

Did any of these suggestions help? Believe it or not, writing this blog post was a great review for me. I was feeling a bit of anxiety and eyeing those molehills. One of my mentors had they great phrase, “you teach or share what you most need to learn.” If this post helped you, please drop a message in the comments. If you have any other techniques you’d like to share, I’d love to expand my toolbox. I wish you luck in putting Mount Overwhelm in your rearview mirror and in your new career as a molehill whisperer.

Female tourist with backpack hiking on a trail in the mountains. Image from Deposit Photos

By Cleo Croft

Cleo Croft writes contemporary romance stories with optimism and an appreciation of the ridiculous nature of life’s awkward moments. Her experiences travelling and living abroad brought home the importance of connecting with people and developing bonds. She writes stories about people looking for love and creating community and families of all types.