So you’re feeling buried at the office and projects, tasks and responsibilities keep piling on. Not to mention that your phone number must be listed somewhere as a local first responder due to the number of fires that you get called to put out. Welcome to the distinguished club of the modern professional, where we take pride in the fact that we drowned yesterday.
The truth is that no one wants to feel overwhelmed, but more companies are doing more with less, running lean and ‘hustle’ is a highly sought after skill. But remember that there’s a little thing called ‘work-life balance’ that has become more important than ever, in our Veruca Salt, ‘I want it now’ society. You’ll perform better, be happier and so will those around you, both in the office and at home, so take heed.
If you can relate, then I offer the following tips — let’s call it an action plan to seek oxygen at the surface. But trust me, it works.
Stephen Covey’s time management quadrant is a great and logical illustration of how we can easily fall prey to the tyranny of the urgent.
Ask yourself, “What absolutely must get done today,” and go with it. What would happen if you don’t get to it? Work from that. The rest is just noise right now and will be waiting in the wings, but the high priority items deserve and require your undivided attention.
Put Your To-Do List On A Small Slip of Paper
When you’re ready to get serious about productivity, make a to-do list on a small piece of paper – not on an app or online. Use a Post-It note. If it doesn’t fit on the paper, then I guess it isn’t really that important, at least not today.
This will force you to keep it limited, not to mention that lining through those final tasks you’ve slayed can make you feel like the cubicle warrior equivalent of a UFC fighter who just finished off their opponent with a left hook thrown with bad intentions.
Turn Off The Distractions
And by this, I mean all of them. Turn off social media — delete the apps off of your phone, even if just temporarily — kills the Outlook email notifications that pop up and throw a party every time someone tries to electronically steal another brain cell and fiber of your soul, and focus on the task at hand.
Stop Multitasking… Seriously, Stop It!
Listen, its killing your brain cells and impacting your work performance. While your spouse (if you’re married) might immediately conclude that you’re just a lazy person who can’t walk and chew gum at the same time (or so I’ve heard,) the truth is that multitasking is not only bad for the brain — says Forbes, Inc., the University of London and Stanford — but it’s been shown to lower work quality.
It’s no badge of honor, in fact, multitasking shows that you’re not focused on your top priority projects. And if you care to get those done effectively, enough already.
Hey control freak… yes, you! You have direct reports, co-workers and teammates for a reason. Workloads always seem uneven in the office and usually it has to do with our bravado in feeling that we can do it all, by ourselves. This is making you no better off and it’s holding others back, since you might be able to give someone else some experience that they otherwise wouldn’t have gotten, so let the pride and ego go. You’ll be surprised more often than not, how capable people not named you can actually be.
If you’re concerned that you’ll ultimately be held responsible, choose wisely when delegating and give solid direction and support, but stop letting your ego get the best of you.
Give Yourself A Head Start
Start your work week on Sunday night. Create your prioritized to-do list, assign items for delegation and anything else you can get in front of the night before you get into the office. It will only take you a few minutes and when you have a sense of organization and focus, it will allow you to start strong in attack mode. This will build momentum early in the day and once you start knocking things out, the domino effect will kick in.
Lastly, know that I’m walking the walk here — this post was due about two months ago, but it never fit onto my Post-It note, and therefore had to wait. So I hope it was worth the wait and that you found it useful.
If you have any other ideas, hacks or suggestions on managing a full plate, please leave me a comment below.