Have you heard that successful people are people who take action? Do you believe that you have to get it all done to be ‘productive’? Do you have a to-do list that never gets shorter?
Overwhelming isn’t it?
If you are like me, you have been seduced into trying to do more in less time. After all, we have the technology to do it and there are many courses that actually promote themselves in that way, telling us that they have the answer to being ‘more effective’ – getting more done.
In fact, whilst researching this subject on a website, a pop up appeared for a ‘workbook’ that might be helpful for me. Ooh yes – it was seductive – that could help me – I’ll click on it and get the download.
Down the rabbit hole
There I was – down a rabbit hole. Now, do I read it there and then because I am excited or do I put the time in my diary to read the workbook and do the exercises? Then I need an action plan and I need to diarise time to implement the things I have learned about how to be less overwhelmed. That’s assuming I can remember where I downloaded the workbook – or did I remember to put a link in the diary entry?
Don’t these people know I’m already overwhelmed?
Yes, I really thought I could benefit from the workbook so I entered my email address in the anticipation of just downloading it and putting a plan into place to allocate time to work through it. Then it happened!
I was directed to a web page, a ‘landing page’ which informed me that I was now part of over 500,000 like-minded people on the same path and that each day I would receive free, exclusive content – tips and guides – “Each day!” I cried – “Each day?”
I didn’t want to add a daily email to my already overloaded mailbox, mental state and to-do list. I wanted something which would help me DO LESS!
Now I not only had to download a workbook, assign time to read through it and do the exercises but I was going to have to read a daily email with hints and tips which I no doubt would have to do in order to achieve a ‘rich and meaningful life’.
That was Step #1 – I couldn’t bring myself to click on the Step #2 ‘click here’ button. Jeepers! Don’t these people know I’m already overwhelmed? That’s why I clicked the link in the first place.
I just wanted to find a way to feel achievement without doing yet more. Without having to download a workbook, learn another software platform, attend another course etc.
Now, we know that in order to create a change we have to take action – but what if that action is to achieve less input, less interruption, less distraction?
My take on avoiding the seduction and lessening the overwhelm
- If you see a ‘download’, a workbook which might be helpful, or a book to read, or an online survey which will tell you what you need to know – copy the link and put it in a place where you can tag it and organise it for later. There are lots of ways you can do this – just with a sticky note on your computer desktop is the easiest – no I am not going to fall into the trap of giving you a ‘helpful app’ which you will then have to download and then spend time learning to use. You know how to make a note.
- Turn your mobile off or put it on silent when you are doing creative work – writing a blog or a report for a client for instance.
- Silence your notifications on email – unless the building is burning down there probably isn’t an immediate urgency or a present danger that you have to address right now.
- Take 10 minutes out each day to just BE. Walk around the garden, over to the park or walk around the block – have a meaningless chat passing the day with someone. Stroke your cat. If the weather is really bad, as it has been lately, sit quietly in your office, close your eyes and just focus on breathing. Actually today it’s a beautiful day so I shall be walking to my local high street and having a coffee for an hour when I have finished writing this piece.Taking 10 minutes or even an hour if you can, won’t make any difference believe me, in fact, it will make you more productive – oh boy did I just say ‘more productive’?
- Say NO. “Could you just …?” “Oh please, it would really help me.” “You’re much better at it than me.” This is a seduction of another kind. Just say “I’m sorry I can’t do that for you.”
- Have an alarm on your phone to remind you to drink water. Hydration is a real hindrance to being productive and your energy level. Lots of things happen when you don’t drink water and none of them is good.
- Be kind to yourself. Accept that there is only you and that, because you are a busy person, you are never going to empty your in-tray. There will always be something to do. Accept that you will only get four or five things done on your list. Decide what the priorities are and do those things first. Then if you have time, do some other things.
- Decide what is important and urgent – is it just important but not urgent? Download this Important/Unimportant Tool to plot your day’s activities based on their importance and urgency and then do those things first.
Eat that Frog is a good book – sorry I just recommended a book! Put it on your list for when you have time. Briefly, it suggests that you do the thing first that you most not want to do – because if you don’t do it first, you will have it calling to you all day and dragging you down. Get it done and out of the way first. Your day will feel better.
There are lots of other tips I could offer but that would just be overwhelming and, hey, it gives me something to write about in the future.
For now, take a break, breathe, have a coffee, decide what’s urgent and important and accept that not everything will get done today.