Do you find that the more time saving devices and strategies you adopt, the more responsibility you take on? 20 years ago we looked forward to ‘Tomorrow’s World’ in which we’d have less to do and more time to relax. Reality is very different for many.
When we are overwhelmed our decision making ability reduces. We see the constantly extending list of tasks as a threat.
Now our ancestors didn’t have to-do lists, email inboxes and multiple electronic instant notifications. Their day was governed by light and climate, with threats taking the form of falling rocks and wild animals. Their natural and appropriate response to these threats was to fight, flee or even freeze.
Given the relatively short period of time since we lived with predominantly physical threats, our bodies haven’t yet evolved to handle the 21st century threats to our time and energy. Our physical response is therefore the same to an important approaching deadline as it would be to a rampaging bear. Adrenaline and cortisol course through our bloodstream, enabling us to fight or flee. Rather than physically responding we might remain seated in our office chair while these stimulants become toxins disrupting our immunity, brain function and digestion.
To live in an extended state of feeling overwhelmed is seriously dangerous, so here are six simple techniques to take back control:
1. Clear up – de-clutter your desk, go through the inboxes and catch up on filing. These mundane tasks get pushed aside when we are busy but their existence can clutter our mind and disrupt our rational thought.
2. Focus on now – leave the past and trust that the future will be okay. Reliving and ruminating on past negative events can create a downward spiral in our mood which diminishes our ability to feel hope and optimism.
3. Prioritise – you can‘t do everything, in fact most of us (regardless of gender!) can’t multi-task as effectively as we’d like. So choose one thing, the main thing and get it done. This one accomplishment will significantly lighten your load.
4. Bite sized chunks – some projects like moving home seem enormous and insurmountable. So share the load wherever you can and tackle one thing at a time. Ask which phone call could make the most impact today? What document needs reading? Dedicate 15 minutes to that small task, then identify another, and in a couple of hours you will have made huge progress.
5. Notice distractions – but don’t act on them. The theories above are all very well until your time is hijacked by a beeping message, remembered idea or well-meaning caller. No matter what steps we take to mitigate interruptions, accept that they will occur. When they do, acknowledge them, make a note to act later and get back on task.
6. Manage energy – the secret to being productive isn’t in managing time, we can’t slow the clock. We can manage our own energy though by sleeping, eating and thinking well. Our thoughts or inner voice can be an encouraging coach or a discouraging critic, take a look at Dr Steve Peters’ book The Chimp Paradox to explore how to think well.
If despite techniques like this you still feel despondent with your career, please consider taking one of our coaching walks. These half-day, confidential, non-threatening strolls are a tremendous way to dream dreams, test ideas and set a new trajectory to a fulfilling life. We’d be delighted to be part of your journey.