Feeling overwhelmed? Try zooming out.

I’m not great at verbalizing my thoughts. I get lost in the words, disappearing down tangents, hitting roadblocks in my thinking half-way through a sentence.

Speaking drains me emotionally. I feel it when I’m presenting to a group or having an intense conversation. It’s overwhelming. And when that feeling hits, all I want to do is get out.

Writing, on the other hand, feels cathartic. It provides space. There’s an opportunity to gather my thoughts before plunging in. And once I do, I can step back — I’m not trapped in the moment.

In the last few weeks I’ve tried to pull this concept of “stepping back” into my day-to-day life with the phrase zoom out. Something bad happens? Zoom out. Heated argument? Zoom out. Angry? Annoyed? Upset? Zoom out. Feeling overwhelmed? Zoom out.

It’s like using Google Maps. Zooming out reminds me to think about the big picture. And suddenly the overwhelming things feel much smaller.Zooming out also helps with thinking, constructively, about alternatives.

Imagine you’re driving down a road and traffic looks pretty bad ahead. So look at your map and zoom out, knowing there’s a good chance you have other routes to choose from.

I’m not suggesting that zooming out is the right answer every time. Sometimes we need to stay zoomed in, down in the weeds, focused on solving the problem that’s in front of us.

But when we start feeling overwhelmed? Try zooming out.

What I’m reading this week:

The death of the public square: “Smaller challengers to Facebook will struggle to deal with a complicated, pricey regulatory apparatus. Facebook could come to be seen as the necessary bulwark against the demons of the Internet, the demons that it helped unleash.”

The feed is dead: “The need for an online presence, even if it’s just LinkedIn, is a big historical shift, not just a fad. But instead of a handful of big, public platforms, I wonder if we can expect a proliferation of smaller, more private platforms to find their place. Not only are they safer and friendlier, but they also foster a loyalty and intimacy that the big networks simply can’t.”

Canada needs more tech giants: “What Canada really needs is an environment where many—not just one or two—domestic world-class tech giants can emerge. The kind of companies that make a lasting impact on the Canadian economy.”

The upside of automation: “A 2017 report from Gartner concludes that artificial intelligence will create more jobs than it kills.”

The details that matter in technical writing: “The sequence of information, the categories you use, the emphasis you imply through your hierarchy—all of these decisions impact how well your audience understands what you write.”

Blogs killed the web: “The old web, the cool web, the weird web, the hand-organized web… died.” (#MakeTheWebWeirdAgain)

A brief history of Jimmy’s Coffee in Toronto: “Jimmy’s got started when the founder, Phil Morrison, bought an investment property near Portland and King in 2009. At that time the property was “literally a crack house” and Phil wasn’t sure what to do with it. So he thought, why not start a coffee shop?”

Unemployment isn’t an issue in Iowa: “The fierce competition for hiring has led to both a drop in the unemployment rate and a rebound in the prime-age employment-to-population ratio in Iowa.”

The tipping point in life of being washed: “It’s more about that transitive moment: There you are in the train station of life, waving goodbye to your edge and your youth as they depart.

On paying attention to microcopy in emails: “By surfacing the most important or unique information from the content of the email, there’s additional context to help the recipient know whether they need to act or not. It also makes it easier to find a specific invoice when searching through emails in the future.”

You don’t have to live in the public eye: “Back then, the worst I felt social media did was waste your time. Now, the worst social media does is cripple democracy and ruin your soul.”

A conversation with the content marketers at REI: REI does amazing work with content both online and offline. Check out their handy preparation checklists the next time you’re in a store.

On building cities for people: “Urban planners spent the 20th century building cities for cars, not people, and alternatives to driving have been systemically undervalued. This legacy has resulted in substandard health outcomes, missed economic opportunities, and a shortage of affordable housing.”

Teenage journalists pushing against unhappy admins: A snapshot of high school newspaper editors exercising their rights & freedom of the press. Aside: I forgot that I had worked on our high school newspaper for a time (albeit it was more of a newsletter).

The importance of art, according to Dave Eggers: “When we are without art, we are a diminished people — myopic, unlearned and cruel.” (This is an opinion piece on the lack of art in Trump’s administration.)

Zooming out from link building for local businesses: “For agencies using local sponsorship campaigns as a way to boost one or many clients’ local rankings, there is another consideration not to be overlooked: reach.”

Smart homes are a new frontier for domestic abuse: “Internet-connected locks, speakers, thermostats, lights and cameras that have been marketed as the newest conveniences are now also being used as a means for harassment, monitoring, revenge and control.”

Get out of the office to improve your strategic thinking: “Tethering yourself to your desk may help you power through more emails, but it’s rarely a recipe for innovative strategic thinking.”

On the upside of turning big projects into small projects: “When you break a big project into smaller chunks — into tiny projects — you stand a better chance at maintaining motivation and rekindling interest.”

On improving product teams: “I believe making things better for the end user should always turn into a good business decision at some point.”

You can keep up with what I’m reading by following me on Pocket.

Featured image: Photo by Tim Trad on Unsplash

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