Let’s be honest all of us, at one time or another, will suffer from the ‘o’ word. Today’s business environment that we are all a part of is moving faster than ever. Doing more with less is a mantra every single one of us is exposed to on a daily basis. Being overwhelmed isn’t anyone’s ideal scenario, however there are a number of strategies that can help get everything into perspective and your head above water.
As a busy business owner myself in a growing specialist recruitment company I always come back to these 5 strategies on a regular basis. Given the current climate, I think it is more important than ever to reevaluate and ensure that you are using your time to the best of your ability.
Sure, it’s a cliché, but there’s a reason for that. When your tasks are piling up, draw up a clear list of what needs to be done, in order of priority and with a timetable, if necessary. This will provide immediate clarity on how much you need to do and the steps involved in achieving it, which in itself will give a feeling of confidence and control. And, of course, there’s something wonderfully satisfying about crossing completed tasks off the list.
But remember to be realistic about the amount of time each task takes, and allow some extra time for unexpected tasks that arise during the day. Every day I always start with my ‘magic 3’. These are the three most important tasks that must get done that day; it’s amazing how this one step alone focuses the mind.
Busy professionals could learn a lot from writers, many of whom go to great lengths to escape distraction, whether it’s unplugging the internet or working in the garden shed. While most of us have to work in interconnected environments, controlling the amount of time you spend checking emails, making tea and getting pulled into unexpected meetings is essential to keeping a handle on your workload.
And every now and then when you have a towering to-do list, it’s worth making it clear to colleagues that you won’t be responding to emails for an afternoon, or even moving to an empty meeting space for a few hours.
President Eisenhower famously described his two types of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, he pointed out, and the important are not urgent. This maxim applies more than ever in the age of smartphones, when we’re constantly expected to be online and available to respond to new requests, often with an unrealistic timescale. To avoid feeling overwhelmed by your workload, you need to devote sufficient time to your most important tasks, even if that means saying no to more immediate requests.
Ultimately, taking on more work than you can manage is bad for you and bad for your employers, since they’ll end up bearing the cost of your missed deadlines. But most of us (and particularly women, in my experience) still seem to be allergic to saying no. This applies to short-term “urgent” tasks, as mentioned above, but it may also be a longer-term strategy. If you’re constantly feel like you’re close to the brink of overload, you may need to sit down with your manager and rethink your responsibilities.
Historically, the expectation in many industries has been that when your workload is heavy, you work every available minute until your work is done. Thankfully, this consensus is beginning to shift. Not only are employees less happy when they work through lunch or late at night, they’re also less productive. Ghandi is known for a particular saying around meditation.
It goes something like; “When I am busy I meditate for an hour a day. When I am extremely busy I make that two hours.” Thought provoking?
So, on busy days take lunch away from your desk and ideally get some time in the fresh air. Your increased energy in the afternoon will more than make up for the time you spend away from your desk.
In a fulfilling job, most of us actually enjoy being busy. However, to overcome, overwhelm, overload and burnout, it’s important to maintain your equilibrium through time planning, workload management and appropriate self-care.
All the best,