If you’re stressed out, frantic, and frazzled because you feel overwhelmed, buried under a mountain of work and obligation, give any or all of these six suggestions a try for making the most of the time you have each day.
Personal effectiveness is impacted by all the distractions we experience daily. However, small tweaks can boost your self-confidence, improve your time management, and reduce your stress. The more you’re able to achieve in the time you have available, the greater your sense of personal success. These six suggestions are just a few of the options you have to alleviate the frenzy of your day.
HIT THE OFF SWITCH: Close your email program. Turn off your phone and tablet (or at least put them on silent and/or disable notifications, whichever is most appropriate if you need the device to do your job). Do whatever you need to do to stop those alerts that pull your attention away from the task you’re trying to complete.
The constant flow of information hitting your email inbox and your social media accounts is distracting. Each beep, chirp, buzz or popup notification pulls your attention from focused work. Even if you keep working, the alert is a mini-disrupter, forcing your thought chain to break. Technology creates an attention disorder within you, preventing you from focusing. So turn off everything while you’re working. Your email and the world of social media will still be there when you finish the task. Consider checking your inbox and your Twitter feed as a reward for a job well done.
SET A TIMER: Choose a task to complete, set a timer for 25, 30, or 50 minutes, then put your head down and go to work. Minimize all distractions. If someone pops their head in your office, tell them you’re in the middle of something and will get back to them soon. When the timer goes off, stop what you’re doing and take a short 5 to 10 minute break. Follow through if you promised to get back to someone. When your break is over, pick another task to complete or continue the task you were working on, reset your timer, and get to it.
Setting a timer creates a framework within which to work, allowing you to be more effective and efficient. The timer offers clear start and stop points, which is particularly helpful if the task isn’t one of your favorite things to do. Knowing you’re only going to work on the task for a particular period of time, and then do something else, allows your brain to maintain a narrow focus on the thing you’re doing. This works to reduce your stress and amps your effectiveness.
CHUNK YOUR WORK: If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it may be because you’re looking at a long to do list with really big items. Large projects that take a lot of time can be intimidating. But when you break a large project down into smaller, doable components, the overwhelm falls away and you get a lot more done. Spend a little time figuring out all the steps you need to take to get that large project completed. Those steps become the doable chunks. If you can’t complete a step in an hour (or two or within a day…you know what size task works best for you), you haven’t chunked it down small enough. Keep at it until each of the steps are a size doable within a focused burst of time.
Chunking your work into manageable tasks allows you to feel a greater sense of completion when you finish each task. This bumps your self-confidence up the scale and increases your energy to do the next thing on the list.
BATCH YOUR WORK: Organize your work in batches — groups of similar tasks like email, phone calls, spreadsheets, writing, etc. Then work on one batch for a specified amount of time. Read and respond to all your email once or twice a day. Listen to voicemail and make return calls one after the other. Take a good look at the work you do, find those items that are similar in nature, and then group them to do together.
When you can work on a task batch, you narrow your focus and get into a rhythm because all or most of the items in the batch require the same level of effort to complete. The repetition gets you into a flow and you can knock out a lot more work in a shorter period, effectively managing your time for greater efficiency.
CREATE A “NOT DOING“ LIST: Your to do list is long enough without keeping stuff on there you don’t have to do or don’t want to do. Go through your list and find those things, both work and personal, that are pulling your attention from the things you really need to get done. At the office, transfer or delegate the work you don’t absolutely have to do. At home, decide on your priorities and put anything that doesn’t help you meet those on a ”Not Doing” list.
Relieving yourself of the things you don’t totally have to do automatically creates more time for the things you do want to do, which reduces your frazzle. Anything that doesn’t feel like a “Yes” becomes a “Maybe” or a “No”. The “No” items are easy to deal with - just don’t do them if at all possible. The “Maybe” items are the ones to watch out for. A “Maybe” pulls your attention and your energy because you’ll spend time thinking about it (maybe even overthinking it). This saps your confidence because the distraction of a “Maybe” adds to your stress until you can shift it to the “Yes” or “No” column.
TAKE A NAP: When you’re overwhelmed, the idea of taking 10 to 20 minutes out of your day for quiet time probably feels stressful. But you need energy to get everything done. Taking care of yourself by allowing yourself a short rest will ultimately help you get more done in less time.
It doesn’t have to be an actual nap. It just needs to be quiet time, focused on you. You can meditate. Stretch. Do yoga. Go for a short walk. Or close your eyes and grab that nap. Stay off your devices and focus on you. Give yourself the gift of quiet for a few minutes every day and watch how much more personally effective you become.
Allowing yourself to drown under the stress, frantic, and frazzle you feel hurts your health, your personal life, and your work life. The simple suggestions above are tiny tweaks that can make a huge difference, boosting your personal effectiveness, raising your confidence, and improving your relationships because the overwhelm drops away and you’re making the most of your time.