We always have something we could be doing right now. Most business people have 10, 20, 30 things that we are in the middle of or are due shortly. This makes us a busy people. It only becomes overwhelming when you look at all of it together and think, “This is awful! I’ll never get this all done. I don’t know what to do next.” Has this every happened to you?
It has happened to me. It has happened to most of the people I ask about it. The normal reaction is to just stare at the mess which leads to negative emotions. Hopeless, anxious, out of control are three that come to mind. When you recognize this situation there is something that you can do to bring yourself back on an even keel.
The first step is to close your eyes. Relax. Slowly take a deep breath and slowly exhale. Then get the pile of work out of your sight. If it is on your desk or on your computer, the easiest way to make it disappear is to turn around, face the other direction. If your work is all around you, walk away. Go look out the window. Go get a cup of coffee (even though you might be thinking alcohol.) You need to clear your mind and I don’t want your eyes to keep reminding you that nothing is getting done while you are wasting time thinking.
What are you thinking about? Get your mind up out what you need to do and remember why you do it. What are your goals? What do you need to accomplish? Most people have several levels of goals that they want to accomplish. An example is company goals, manager’s/department goals and your own goals. In a perfect world these are all synchronized and support each other. I have never lived there and I am guessing that you probably don’t either.
An example of the three levels might be:
The company’s goal: deliver superior quality to the customer.
Your manager’s goal: as many done as possible, as quickly as possible.
Your goal: get the answer to the guy in accounting by the end of the day, just like you promised.
What you should do is:
- Write down all of the work that is in the pile.
- Determine which goals they support.
- Prioritize the goals. Which goals are more important?
- What is the impact if the work is late or not done at all?
- Can/should someone else be doing it?
- Can you get someone else to do it?
Prioritizing the work can be tricky because it depends on the company culture, your relationship with your manager, schedules, and other factors.
If meeting commitments is highly valued, then getting the answer to accounting might come first. If your boss might explode on you if you don’t do as ordered, maybe this should come first. Or maybe the work that impacts the customer should come first. Of course things can get complicated. Maybe a lower priority is needed by tomorrow, while a higher priority is not needed until next week. You have to make these decisions based on your situation.
You now have a clear head. Your goals are re-established. You have the work listed. Your priorities are set. Then simply follow the trail
You should be able to slow down the re-appearance of this feeling of being overwhelmed by keeping your goals and priorities in mind when looking at your work…Of course, saying “NO” once n a while is also very useful tool.