Being overwhelmed isn’t reserved for certain, high-pressure jobs.
Everyone has things they’re juggling:
The list goes on and on.
How do you stay up on it all?
How do you maintain quality relationships with your wife, son, brother, mother?
How do you deal with all the STRESS?
Well – here is the system I’ve created.
This is my strategy for dealing with overwhelm and it’s broken into four parts:
I provide a video overview on how to deal with being overwhelmed here:
Productivity starts with prioritization. When there are too many things to do, some things aren’t going to get done — at least not right away — and you want to be sure that you’re not dropping any of the important ones.
There are many tools for setting priorities, starting with the basic “to-do” list. Another popular model, the Eisenhower box or Eisenhower matrix, categorizes tasks based on both urgency and importance:
â€¢ Important and Urgent: These are immediate action tasks. Do them right away! They should be top priority.
â€¢ Important and Not Urgent: Set up a plan for doing these before they slip into the “urgent” category. You want to be looking ahead at how to get them done, but they can wait until the Important/Urgent tasks are out the door.
â€¢ Not Important and Urgent: Irritating little things that have to get done. Delegate these if you can, or hire outside help to take care of them. If you have to do them yourself, schedule it after the Important/Urgents.
â€¢ Not Urgent and Not Important: These are mostly time wasters. Drop them entirely, delegate them, or take care of them in a low-effort way during your spare time.
The Eisenhower matrix is just one way of categorizing priorities; anything that helps you divide up the things that have to happen now from the things that can happen later is useful. But without some sort of system, even the best of us will mis-prioritize things that could have waited from time to time, or let something important slip through the cracks.
Once you know your key tasks, it’s time to bear down and focus on them exclusively.
Multitasking doesn’t really exist.
At the best, it’s a way to do several things poorly.
Tackle one task at a time, setting everything else aside while you’re doing it.
One easy productivity strategy is to start your day on your most urgent task. Don’t even open your email until it’s done. By giving yourself a couple hours where you’re not thinking about new, less urgent matters, you can really dig into the key task for the day.
It’s also important to close disctractions down when working. Don’t have your e-mail up where you can see the notifications of new e-mails when you’re working on something important. The e-mail can wait. Ditto social media or messaging services — if people really, desperately need to get ahold of you, they can call your phone. Otherwise it can probably wait.
A kitchen timer (or most smartphones have a timer feature, these days) can also help with focus. Set a timer for between 30-50 minutes and don’t let yourself move away from the task at hand until the timer goes off.
Be realistic — more than an hour or so isn’t going to happen; the human brain just can’t go that long without some kind of break — but be strict within the small window of time you set aside. Turn off your internet connection if you have to. A lot of computer programs these days have a built-in “productivity mode” that blanks out everything but the program window; use them if they’re helpful.
Do whatever it takes, but focus!
Most of us take our tasks as unique challenges.
Every project we work on, we start from scratch.
Try to be attentive to what tasks you’re doing on a regular basis.
Once you’ve had to do something two or three times, you should start thinking about ways to systemize it, so that it goes faster the next time.
In my case, meetings with other people are necessary so often that it was worth systemizing them.
I set one weekday aside as my “meetings day,” and used a scheduling app to let all the people I meet with pick a time slot. That way I know when the meetings are going to happen, and I don’t have to spend time every week just setting them up.
Remember, time spent blocking out time is, well, time! It comes out of your schedule. The more you can systemize your regularly-occurring tasks, the more time you free up for the tasks themselves.
It’s not uncommon for very successful people to burn out of their fields abruptly. From sports to business, you see big names take sudden leaves of absences, or switch careers altogether.
In most cases, they leave because they don’t love what they’re doing. Success in and of itself is meaningless, if you don’t enjoy the thing you’re succeeding at.
Remember that work is a tool, not a goal. It should be helping you reach a goal: fulfillment, happiness; satisfaction. (And yes, basic sustenance is on that list too. We all have to eat. But we should strive for more than that.)
I keep a sign above my desk that asks me if what I’m working on right now is worth the time I could be spending with my family.
It reminds me not to waste time on things that aren’t important, and to focus on doing the job that I love in a way that’s good for me and for my family.
Give yourself time every few weeks to look your work life over and think about how much you’re enjoying it. If you can’t think of much positive to say, it may be time to rethink the tasks you’re working on altogether!
So what do you think?
Any tips you have to share on dealing with being overwhelmed?