Managing overwhelm when moving abroad

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Overwhelmed and inefficient

Moving anywhere is stressful. Moving overseas is, just wow! And it’s not like you can just pop back to your home town to cancel a service if you forget. There is an outstanding amount to do it is really easy to get overwhelmed.

I’m actually writing this as I prepare to move back to the UK at the end of this month. By the time this is published, the packers will have just swept through my house and everything will have gone and I will be getting on the plane tonight! Even though I know what I’m doing, I am sailing very close to total overwhelm right now – for a start, I haven’t lived in the UK for nearly 12 years. And I have way too much still to do…

So yes, you will be stressed. You will be overwhelmed. That’s normal.

But getting too overwhelmed can lead to many detrimental issues: for me, it means I actually stop doing stuff. Which, when the packers are due in less than two weeks is not good!

The result of a badly managed workload is almost always under performance. It happens all the time in the workplace – employees face disciplinary action because they’re not demonstrating sufficient capability; the sad reality is often that their workload is badly managed and there’s so much in their in-tray that they’re overwhelmed. I can’t sack myself! But I definitely have way too much in my ‘inbox’ at the moment.

Take control

When you’re planning a move to another country and you find yourself with to-do lists about your to-do lists, you have too much on your plate and it’s time to take control of your situation.

You could choose to carry on as you are of course – chasing your tail and approaching every task with a sense of urgency and panic. Soon you’ll be skipping meals, forgetting appointments and vital paperwork and not being on time to pick your kids up from school!

Or, you could choose to recognise the signs of overwhelm before it’s too late. Try to stop before you get caught running to the shop in your slippers to do an emergency milk and cereal run for the kids’ supper.

The multi-tasking myth

We all aspire to be multi-tasking superheroes. We even put ‘ability to multi-task’ on our CVs when we’re looking for a new job; what a great skill to have, right?

Take writing this for example; I can do this whilst listening to the radio, patting the dog with my foot, drinking a cup of tea, planning tomorrow night’s dinner, answering family questions, making notes about another article to publish, suddenly remembering something I have to do about the pet’s relocation and skipping off to Facebook from time to time – because I am amazing!

Except that I can’t. What really happens is I’ll type the lyrics to a song I’m listening to and forget to finish a sentence, accidentally kick the dog, make tons of typing errors, discover my tea is cold – again, snap at the family, and lose the notes I’ve just made.

Multi-tasking is a myth. Our brains are wired to concentrate on one thing at a time, so to do anything properly, we need to give it our full attention. We must give up the superhero dream and accept our limitations. These are the basics of the human condition – find water, find shelter, find food – take one step at a time.


Just stop. Breathe. Make a cup of tea, drink it while it’s still hot (enjoy the novelty!) and then make ONE to do list.

Next, order each item according to urgency and be really strict with yourself.

One thing at a time.

No thinking about (or even looking at) any other tasks until the current one is completed. Give yourself a dedicated time frame each day to get things done. During this time, don’t check your emails, don’t answer your phone (unless it’s your children – it could be an emergency!) and don’t answer the door. Outside of the allocated time don’t even pick up that list!

The starting point should be anything that effects your relationships with your family and friends. Make item one on your list ‘making time for loved ones’ and make sure you stick to it. Nothing else that you must do is as important as maintaining family bonds.

Drop as much as you can – separate your list into essential and ‘nice to have’. Next, consign the nice to have part to the waste paper basket. Seriously, it’s really not important right now. It’s not a priority. Tackling more than the essentials at such a busy period in your life is not helping you, it’s only adding to the overwhelm.

You can use my handy downloadable resources displayed below to help you prioritise and plan the rest…

Drop something. Delegate something. Ask for help. Be human. And look forward, not back.

And wish me luck with my repatriation from hot, sunny South Africa to the cold UK…

Beat your To-Do list overwhelm!

When you’re planning your move overseas it’s easy to become overwhelmed with everything you have to do. And you have a real deadline for finishing… Your departure day. And before that, Packing Day!

Don’t panic. I have something to help you – my ‘Super Scary To Do List’ Buster.


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