Why Being Stuck on Autopilot will Keep You Locked in Overwhelm – and How to Break Out of It


I’ve been thinking lately about how much time we all tend to spend stuck on autopilot.  You know, that state where you’re going through the motions, checking boxes, running around doing things… but not really accomplishing all that much.

It’s a state of unconsciousness that leaves you wondering where the day went.  Sometimes you may not even remember what you ate for lunch, or how the time just got sucked away.

And when you have a lot on your plate, being stuck in autopilot also means you’ll likely end your days in frustration about how little you got accomplished.  And wake up the next day feeling like you’re already behind.

But what if there’s a way to break out of that rut and get back on a path that is not only productive, but enjoyable and satisfying as well?

This week’s video will give you some tips for consciously reclaiming your day and effectively accomplishing your most important tasks with ease and grace.


Hi there. Diane Bolden, executive coach and author of the Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader –How to Unleash Genius in Yourself and Those You Lead.

Have you ever gotten to the end of a day where you felt like you just didn’t do the things that you really wanted to get done? And then you wake up the next morning feeling like you’re already behind and perpetuating that same state of overwhelm, that frustration, that irritation that you had the day before.

Why autopilot is a problem

It’s really easy to get stuck in autopilot. And the problem with autopilot is whatever it is that you’re doing is going to be repeated on an ongoing basis. Checking boxes and trying to get through the day and feeling overwhelmed doesn’t necessarily bode itself well to high levels of productivity, to creativity, to ingenuity or to satisfaction and fulfillment.

But what if you could break through that? What if you could have an entirely different experience? What if you could interrupt that autopilot pattern and in its place access a zone where you’re productive or you’re enjoying the work that you’re doing or you’re able to access creativity and think outside of the box?

Well, today I want to share with you a tip that you can try to do just that.

The physical laws that contribute to autopilot and overwhelm

Autopilot is largely a product of the law of inertia which essentially states that an object will remain in motion or at rest unless acted upon by an external force in a way that changes the trajectory. So, if you need to change your trajectory, you’ve got to do a bit of a pattern interrupt.

And there’s another reason why this is so important and that is another law of physics, that basically states things that are similar attract each other. And it’s not necessarily just things, but also thoughts. So, when you’re in a state of overwhelm, when you’re in a state of frustration and irritation and worry and anxiety, chances are likely that you’re going to continue to think in ways that perpetuate that state and you’re going to continue to act in ways that perpetuate that state as well. And if you’re not getting results, you’re likely to continue not getting results and then fretting about having not achieved all the things you really wanted to do.

When you’re stuck in autopilot and overwhelm, try a pattern interrupt

When you do a pattern interrupt, essentially, the best thing to do is to flash forward and to start with the end in mind – to identify for yourself, what would it feel like if you were to get to the end of your day and actually accomplish what you set out to do? Can you imagine feeling that rush of gratitude, of satisfaction, of accomplishment? Can you imagine being able to end your workday and go on to spend time with your family or your friends in a way that you weren’t distracted by the things that were still gnawing at you from work?

Start with the end in mind

Take that feeling a step further. Try and identify – what are the most critical things that you need to have done today? And try to pick no more than three to five things that are really, really important to you. Now take some time to do a little writing – not about the tasks that have yet to be done but see if you can flash forward to the end of your day. See if you can envision that you’ve time traveled and that you’re already the version of yourself that has achieved those critical things you identified that are on your list.

See if you can write a note back to the current version of yourself, sharing with yourself how grateful you are that you were able to accomplish what really needed to be done and how much easier it was than you thought it would be, how relaxed and relieved you feel that you actually accomplished what needed to be done, and how grateful you are for the experience. See if you can capture that. Have fun with it, embellish it a little bit.

And when you’re done, go back to consciously starting your day from a whole different mindset and see what happens.

Bonus tip for when you’re stuck on autopilot

I can give you a tip that will help you to continue to perpetuate this new state of conscious intentional visioning all through your day. I encourage you to work in 50-minute spurts. Set a timer if you need to. Work for 50 minutes. See if you can focus yourself intently on whatever it is that you’re about to do. And at the end of 50 minutes, take at least 5 to 10 minutes to give yourself a little bit of a break. Get up and stretch. Walk around, maybe go outside, take some deep breaths, grab a glass of water, listen to some music, whatever it is that you need to do to give yourself a little bit of a rest and then to come back to your task feeling a little more refreshed.

And before you jump in for another 50 minutes, take a moment and review what you wrote to yourself – that letter from your future self talking about how great you felt after you accomplished all those things and get into that state of feeling. Get into that state of having already accomplished it so that now when you go back to actually doing it, it’s almost as though you’re reliving the memory of what it took in order to get there.

Try it for yourself

As I always tell people, don’t believe what I’m saying because I’m telling you. Try it for yourself and see what happens. I can almost guarantee you that you’ll accomplish a lot more than you thought you could just by starting with the end in mind, interrupting that pattern of autopilot so that you can be more conscious and intentional with your day.

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