Ed Tech Overwhelm

Technology can be complex, and the students, teachers, and staff that use it can be even more so. We can spend our days putting our fires, supporting our colleagues, answering phone calls, and pulling special reports for our Superintendent, to list just a few of our responsibilities. Sometimes we get swept away by the swift current of appointments, deadlines, commitments, and “to do” lists. When this happens we feel overwhelmed and anxious. We feel like we can’t keep up and no matter how hard we work, we fall further behind. We don’t feel in control of our work, or our lives.

It’s not uncommon for us to feel like there is nothing we can do about our overwhelm. We feel like victims. I remember the Principal who spoke up at a meeting to declare,

Say what you will, no matter what I have on my personal “to do” list, once the first person shows up in the doorway to my office, I have a steady stream of people and things to take care of, until long after the last student has left for the day.”

The first thing to realize is that it is you who have created the overwhelm. It isn’t the demands of others, nor the business itself that creates your hectic schedule. It is you. It is you who says ‘yes’ to the requests, makes the commitments, the appointments, and yes… the stress. It is you who has decided to never close your door and who lets every person who casts a shadow in your office interrupt you. When you accept that you are accountable it makes it easier to change the pattern of overwhelm because all you have to do is change your own behavior.

Should be easy, right? All we have to do is say ‘No’ more often, make commitments with due dates that are reasonable, delegate more, schedule appointments only when needed, or block time on our calendars for things that are strategic.

However, like most things, there is a big difference between knowing what to do and doing it.

I like to use losing 10lbs as an example. We know how to do it. We need to skip a few of the in between meal snacks, eat better at meals, and exercise regularly. The problem is we tend to grab the cookie on the counter as we pass by, go for seconds at dinner, and drive by the gym on our way home.

What makes us say “Yes” to things when we know we should say “No”? It can vary from person to person. We may want to have an identity with others that is caring, kind, and generous; and fear that saying “No” would run counter to that image. The truth is, if we ARE caring, kind, and generous.; if we truly believe that we are, then saying “No”, when we need to say “No” won’t change our relationships with others.

Saying “No” can be uncomfortable. we have been taught to put others ahead of ourselves and it seems like a selfish thing to turn someone away so that we have time for the things we feel are important. Keeping a balance in our lives is not selfish, it is critical to our effectiveness and success. When we am balanced, our purpose, values, and beliefs align with our actions. There is room in our lives for family, friends, books, reflection, exercise, personal learning…all the things that, along with work, fuel our hearts and souls. If we do not pay attention to ourselves, we bring less and less to others.

Another way to look at this is to think about value. If we do not value ourselves, our time, and our talents, then others will not value us either. We will be taken for granted, just as we take ourselves for granted.

Knowing that we are accountable for our overwhelm and shedding the role of victim, being deliberate about the commitments we make, having the courage to say “No” when necessary, staying true to our purpose and not allowing ourselves to be distracted from it, valuing ourselves and our time, and understanding the importance of balance to our overall effectiveness as leaders…is the foundation and ground from which we create a new way of being in the world.



8 thoughts on “Ed Tech Overwhelm

  1. I think that part of the problem is that many have come to believe that if they don’t live and feel that sense of “overwhelm” they aren’t doing their part. They aren’t a team player if they don’t go the extra mile and others will no longer look to them for direction and support.

    That feeling of “overwhelm” has come to be a badge of honor that some wear and our fearful to let go of becasue what could it be replaced with? In our work we need to feel valued and have a badge of honor validating us and the work that we do. Letting go will be difficult if we can’t replace it with an alternative that brings better balance while continuing to validate the individual and the contributions of that indivdual.

    Please let me know when someone finds the answer as I am surrounded by people that continually live in this state of overwhelm.

  2. Dear Peter:

    If we are lucky in our careers, we experience both the pain of being overwhelmed and the joys of being totally consumed by the good works we are involved in. The latter is definitely where I am now and where I want to stay.

    How do we “harness” all of the new technologies we are responsible to know, share, and support?? A fair question with respect to the topic of being overwhelmed.

    I think I have figured it out. Teamwork and support are the keys. So much to say.

    Lou Cuglietto

  3. My friend (Tom) reminds me to say no in ways that people can hear … he has given me a few set phrases to use when I know I need to say no but am finding it difficult …
    * I’m unable to help you at the moment
    * I can’t right now … maybe you could ask (put persons name here)
    * Thank you for asking but I need to say ‘no’ right now
    * Thank you for asking but I have a prior committment (yes, this can be a need to get home and spend time with my children etc!)

    These phrases have helped me to say no when I need to which allows me to say yes when I can.

  4. Hey Pete,
    Is that a wee quilt just for me? I notice it is the same one each time I comment … what a lovely personal touch!!!
    Or maybe I’m crazy and it is just how it has panned out!!!

  5. Mike,
    Well, it seems you have come upon a central component of change…if the person doesn’t want to change, if they are satisfied with their lack of balance and overwhelm…then there isn’t anything you or I can do, to change them.

    I completely understand the ‘badge of honor’ culture. How many times have I heard someone complain in proud way of how many 100’s of e-mails they get each day. Even our personal greetings have changed…”Hi, how are you?” Answer: “Busy!”

    All this stuff gives us the feeling of motion without real movement!


  6. Lou,
    You bring up an interesting point, there is a difference between being totally immersed in our work…that is really a lot of fun; and being out of balance and overwhelmed.

    As far as teamwork and support go, I don’t think anyone would argue with that. On the other hand, some people have a hard time asking for help and/or delegating to others.

    If I am insecure, or if I can’t allow myself to trust and empower others…I will continually find myself doing things myself, and getting overwhelmed.


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