Good challenges and … the harder kind

Sarah Twichell (of the blog Edge to Center) asked me today What makes the difference between a challenge you rise to and a challenge you’re overwhelmed by?  Good question, and I had to think about it for a bit.  Here are a few things I thought of:

On the overwhelm side:

  • tasks that I think are going to get a lot of negative judgement from others
  •  tasks that I can’t break down into pieces that I know how to do
  •  tasks where you can’t get feedback on whether it’s going OK until the end
  • times when I’m not managing adequate self-care,
  • excessive multi-tasking.

On the successful side:

  • when someone is depending on me
  • when lines of authority are clear
  • when the purpose of the task is clear
  • when I have enough time to make a plan
  • when I can reach out for support

Challenges don’t fall neatly into one category or another.  I can easily be daunted by one aspect of a major project even as I make progress on related areas.   Sometimes I just have to plunge ahead, overwhelmed or not.

Thinking about this helps me be more sympathetic to other people’s overwhelm — and helps me think of some ways to improve how I’m delegating so I’m not adding to the problem.