As I’m sure you (the intelligent, astute reader) are well aware, overwhelm is not a friend of productivity or sanity. It usually means things take longer, that they’re not necessarily done in an ideal order of priority, or that they don’t get done on time, if at all. Overwhelm often triggers the stress response so that your amazing brain becomes quite addled and custard-like, sometimes at the most inopportune times.
To tackle this, we want to instill some PERSPECTIVE on everything that needs to be done (and get out of that ‘can’t see the wood for the trees’ feeling. We want to look at how to do ONE TASK AT A TIME – which the research on this area tells us is FAR more productive. And to use technology and time to REGAIN CONTROL of your schedule and priorities.
Whether you’re a business owner, leader, just starting out in your career, or somewhere in-between, these are strategies that will serve you well throughout your career – and help you not only do your job well, but totally rock the house doing it. After all, you are a STAR.
Let’s start with reclaiming the big picture …
Recover the big picture
In the case of my client yesterday, and I think it’s pretty common, she felt on the hamster wheel, scrambling to get done what she could but feeling a never-ending tidal wave of things coming at her with no time to come up for breath. Exhausting.
The first thing we did was step back from it all and looked at her key responsibilities/area of focus in her role. This gives context as to what to prioritise, what actually matters, and how to start ‘chunking’ time in the week and key tasks. More on chunking shortly.
What are your key areas of focus or key responsibilities? And are you spending time on each of these?
As a business owner my key areas of responsibility are client delivery, business planning/strategy, course design, overseeing my (very small) team, marketing and some admin. For someone working inside an organisation their role might include Strategy/long term planning, Project delivery, People management, Admin. You get the idea.
How much of your week needs to be dedicated to each of these areas? My client broke this down into the number of hours each area needs per week. Work this out for yourself. Then you’ll end up with a list of areas, # of hours and these will translate into ‘chunks’ of time – and portions of your overall role. Here’s what I mean…
Perhaps People Management requires about 5 hours a week of your time to stay on top of everyone’s needs, make sure things are delegated well, etc. That’s a percentage of your overall role - and your overall week (of a 32.5 hour week - 40 hours with breaks - that’s 15%). Once you split this out for each key area of your role, you quickly get a clear picture of how much of your week you need to be spending on each area. Put these portions into a pie chart to get a snapshot of these key areas and help you ‘helicopter up’ to the big picture more easily. Here’s an example:
If you are getting buried in the minutiae of day to day demands, not taking enough time for your team members or not getting to important non-urgent planning activities, then PLEASE make your own version of this pie chart (or whatever picture/model you like).
Put it on your wall. Let it be a reminder of what to focus on when your inbox is looking overcrowded and the hamster wheel is winning out.
Get off that hamster wheel!
Those who accelerate in their career progression are often those who are getting the core or most strategic aspects of their role achieved. Those who do well in business are not those getting caught up in day to day urgent but not so important issues, they rise above that regularly and make sure the overall strategy is in motion.
That means CLAIMING TIME in your diary for each of these areas, REGULARLY, and not spending a whole weekend trying to get the planning for next year done because the Board meeting is next week.