I had a coaching conversation with one of my beloved clients yesterday and he said to me, with some serious concern in his voice, that he was feeling overwhelmed and that he wanted to figure out once and for all how to get himself caught up. He asked me for help. He wanted me to teach him how to make better use of his available time so that he could have some semblance of a balance in his life, and avoid feeling overwhelmed all the time. He is, at the moment, one stressed out cat. But in a few weeks, he will be in much better shape and feeling in control. If you’ve ever been in his shoes, read on, and you will learn how to stop being overwhelmed all the time. What we discovered together was that it would make sense to follow the following action steps.
Reflect: My client is suffering from a bad case of reacting to every stimulus that comes across his desk. Near as I can tell, he is even trying to deal with them instantly the moment they come across his desk. This is a recipe for disaster. Our decision was to reflect for a few moments about every new request for his attention that comes his way, first. By thinking about the request and thinking about the next steps, my client can stop just reacting without thinking and give himself a chance to leverage some better thinking and gain some leverage and efficiency. I also told him to spend five minutes in the morning reflecting about what he wanted to accomplish for the day. After he has identified the top 3 or top 5 actions that he wants to take today, he is ready for the next step. He does the same thing at the end of each day. His last five minutes before shutting down for the night, is to reflect upon what he accomplished each day, and what remains undone that is still a priority. He writes himself a note and then transitions to his evening with his family.
Prioritize: This gentleman has not been investing in himself by prioritizing before he takes action. He is like a headless runner, who is running flat out, but in the wrong direction, or in random directions. Now, if you think about it, prioritizing makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? Each of us has a limit to the amount of time and energy we bring to business each day, right? Why would you want to squander that time and that energy? Of course, you would not. So, I counseled my friend to take a few minutes during his moments of reflection to decide which are his highest priority objectives and to stack rank them from most important to least important. How to stack rank them this way, you ask? Figure out which actions you can take today that will save you the most time, have the largest positive impact, or will bring the greatest efficiencies in future days, and get those prioritized highest.
Plan: Once you have your head clear about what needs to be done, and in which order, you need to plan for when you and your teammates can get those priorities accomplished. Put these priorities on your calendar, and use the most effective time of your day (the time when your energy and focus are highest) to get those highest priorities onto your calendar. If it’s not on the calendar, there is a pretty good chance it might not get done. On the other hand, research shows that people who put their highest priorities onto their calendar each day, avoid a lot of the noise and fluff that other people get caught up in because their calendar is already booked with important meetings and time to take action. There are fewer gaps that can be filled with “faux urgencies” as I like to call them. If you’re busy working on the priorities, the other annoying stuff has a way of gravitating to someone else who is less busy. Get this working for you. Get important actions onto your calendar and learn to say “No” to requests for your time that would prevent you from getting your most important priorities completed on schedule.
Take Action: A plan is only useful if it is put into action quickly. Great intentions are wonderful, but great follow-through on great intentions is what makes positive change happen in this world. Take action. Now! Today! Right this minute! Don’t procrastinate, and don’t hesitate. Do it in the next five seconds, and you’ll be on the way to greater focus and greater productivity. There is nothing stopping you, except maybe yourself. Get out of your way, and get proactive. Get s@#% done!
Don’t settle for mediocrity. Don’t settle for reacting and being overwhelmed. There is a better way. Follow the simple system above, and you’ll see a noticeable difference in just a few days. Try it and let me know how your experience turns out. Maybe we’ll write about it in a future article?
Michael is an executive development coach and business advisor to CEOs, their leadership teams, and their emerging leaders. Michael is passionate about helping executives to take their game to the next level and teaching them how to collaborate and perform to greater effectiveness. If you’d like to talk to Michael about having him help YOUR company to eliminate bottlenecks and to invest wisely in developing your next generation of leaders, email Michael at email@example.com.