It is common to feel overstretched or even overwhelmed at work. Our culture often seems to value busyness and expects us to be always switched on. If this affects you, there are steps that you can take to regain control of your time.
It is vital to keep your values and priorities in mind, and either find space for them in your life as it is, or find a way to change jobs or careers so that you can do more of what you love everyday.
Here are six strategies that I have used successfully to overcome overwhelm and be more effective at work.
One main focus
Try to keep to one main focus or objective each day – decide on the most important thing to get done, and fit other tasks around that. If this seems unrealistic, choose a focus for the morning and one for the afternoon. This doesn’t mean you throw away your to-do list. But if you give absolute priority to one objective each day, you’ll go home with a sense of achievement, and probably find you get a lot of other things done too.
Group similar tasks together
I try to allow a solid hour or two at a time for more complex tasks such as writing blogs or proposals, because it takes less energy doing it that way that picking up on odd bits here and there. This works well for phone calls too. Experiment with different patterns. If you have a blog or report to write, does it work better for you to spend a solid two hours on it. Or does it suit you better to start with a rough draft and then come back to it later in the day or week or work on it in small bursts.
Follow your energy as much as you can
If your energy levels are low, then it can make sense to switch to basic admin tasks, if you are feeling energised and creative then tap into that as much as you can. But don’t let low energy be an excuse for delaying an important piece of work. If you are struggling to get started then…
Chunk it down
If you have a big and possibly daunting task, then break it down into a series of small ones. Keep breaking down a task until you have an action that you can do now. Even if it’s the first action is just looking up a phone number, or a quick piece of internet research, or sending an email, or even just scheduling the next step into your diary – DO something to make a start.
Keep on top of emails. Once I’ve opened an email I either delete it, move it to a suitable folder for future reference, action it now, or flag it for future action.
If you get a lot of email newsletters you can use software like unroll.me to collate and organise them for you. If you find yourself regularly deleting the same newsletters before opening them, it’s time to unsubscribe.
Tidy up to get unstuck
When I feel stuck or unmotivated at work, I tidy my office. I find it easier to think with a tidy space, and it provides a sense of satisfaction that can then motivate me to tackle my other tasks. Nigel Risner has said that space management is even more important than time management. This makes sense as working in a mess slows you down and brings your energy levels down. But one person’s idea of tidy is another person’s clutter – you will know what works for you. For me, it’s about having a clear desk, and organising my project work in tidy piles or magazine folders.
I’d love to hear your tips, please share in the comments box below.