10 tips for getting going on the one thing we should be doing and avoiding the overwhelm
I hope you had a wonderful weekend, and if you were working, you’ve set aside some time to relax and recuperate.
Over the weekend I decided to focus on non-work activities; including some tasks that have been hanging around for months. I have to confess, I’m not always the most productive person. I get easily side tracked, and like many people I can be guilty of putting off overwhelming tasks.
But over the years I’ve learnt how to beat the overwhelm. In fact over the past few months I’ve been doing a number of previously considered overwhelming tasks in my garden.
One such task was pruning some rhododendron bushes that had got completely overgrown. It wasn’t a five minute job, but an overwhelming task I’d been putting off for months. As I was sawing through one of the branches I was getting more and more frustrated that the saw was not up to the job. But instead of stopping to sharpen the saw or get another one from the garage, I kept on going. It was only when I finally relented and went to get another newer saw I realised just how blunt the other one was.
If you’re familiar with Stephen R Covey’s book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” you’ll know the 7th habit is “Sharpen the Saw”. This was (quite literally) what I was failing to do, and the result was frustration and the task taking far longer than it should.
I was also reminded at the weekend of another book “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, who pose the question “What’s the ONE THING you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
In this case, stopping the task and sharpening the saw or finding a replacement was the one thing.
How often do we not do the one thing we should be? Particularly when we are faced with so many potential tasks we could or should be doing. All those urgent and reactive tasks often take over and mean that we never step back and do the things that could be saving time and effort later.
- Training people in our team to do routine tasks so we can delegate them in future
- Setting up new systems or procedure everyone can follow to ensure consistency and things don’t get forgotten
- Rewriting parts of our website so it provides additional useful information for our customers which answers their commonly asked questions
Often the reason these pro-active tasks don’t get done is because they can be overwhelming, or we don’t know where to start.
How to beat overwhelm
So here are 10 tips to help you – or any of your team members – to beat overwhelm.
- Make a list of everything that needs doing. Involve your team as they’ll often highlight things you’d otherwise miss. Or, if you’re new to your role, you may even discover some of the work has been done already
- Prioritise your list focusing on important tasks and those which add value opposed to ‘the nice to do’s’
- Often tasks are only overwhelming because they are too large to do all at once. Break tasks down into the smallest possible action. This makes it easier to chip away at the task
- Identify tasks that can be easily delegated and brief the appropriate person. Better still, review your task list with your team and ask for volunteers
- Prioritise and schedule the tasks that must be done by you. You don’t always need to start at the beginning! Identify some relatively easy quick wins to get momentum going
- Set yourself a time limit for the task. If you tend to be a perfectionist, decide up front what will be good enough (and make a commitment to stop when you’ve achieved this criteria, instead of investing a disproportionate amount of unnecessary time and effort into making it perfect)
- Decide how you will reward yourself when the task is completed (even if it’s as simple as allowing yourself a coffee break)
- Make a commitment to someone who will hold you accountable, and agree when you will review progress
- Remove distractions and focus on that task for the time you’ve allowed. Setting a timer and keeping this visible can help
- Stop and review at the end of the time set aside, and reward yourself accordingly 🙂
If you only do one thing
Teach your team how to beat overwhelm. Share the above tips with any team members who may be suffering from overwhelm, or need help getting going on any tasks they have been putting off or are struggling to started.