A little while ago, one of my amazing career woman, business owner, game changer friends gave me a call a bit stressed and overwhelmed. It was so valid. She has so much going on and, lets be honest here, running your own business is no walk in the park. She felt she was being pulled in one million different directions and could not give enough of her time to all the people and tasks she felt needed it. What’s more, she was working ridiculous hours and felt as though nothing was getting done.
I had so much empathy for her. I totally know what it is like. When you feel like a one man band, your head is spinning and you can’t see the wood for the trees.
So I wrote her an email with a few of my suggestions to reduce overwhelm and boost productivity. I have implemented these things many times in my day and they never fail to help. It is a continuous learning curve and I have to pull myself up constantly but I thought this might be helpful to some of you guys reading this who struggle to get enough done let alone with some ease. So I decided to post it here. Especially those of you with children or who run your own business/work from home. I know I am not alone here.
So, here goes….This is how I create less overwhelm and more productivity….
1. Set the tone for your day:
Start your day with some time just for you. Do something that calms and lightens you. Whatever feels good but has a “yin” quality about it to bring some balance to your day and ground you. For you this could be a walk, swim, meditation, run, yoga, dancing, whatever it is for you.
Setting the tone for your day in this way means that you can carry this calm energy throughout your day and instead of resenting obstacles and tasks in your day you take them in your stride and approach them with a much more positive mindset.
The fuller your day the longer you need to do this for. It may sound crazy but the more you have going on the more time you need to allocate to this activity to get the same benefit from it. Put it on your to-do list as priority number 1 every day!
2. Become a list writer:
What is the one item we have on us at almost all times?
Yup, Our phones. So make the most of them being an encyclopaedia and endless ream of blank paper by putting their organisational tools to good use. No more lose bits of paper and post it notes floating around no more crazy busy mind desperately trying to remember everything that needs to be done.
I have found the Wanderlust app to be so incredibly helpful for this.
You can have multiple lists going and even share them with others. For example, a work list separate to a shopping list, separate to a home chores list etc etc.
I like to add new things to the list as they come up and prioritise them in order of most urgent to least. I instantly feel lighter and clearer and less overwhelmed having it out of my head and down on paper, so to speak.
3. Plan for the following day at the end of your day:
If you don’t complete everything on your to-do list that is OK!
As long as you are prioritising the most important tasks first, then it is more than OK. You will find you get a hell of a lot more done in the long run working this way and not wasting precious time on un important but perhaps “easier” tasks.
The reality is we all think we can complete so much more in a day than is realistic. This just sets us up for failure and disappointment before we have even begun.
Instead, when your day of work is winding up look back at the tasks you HAVE completed and congratulate yourself. Find satisfaction in what you have achieved so far and not discouragement from what you haven’t. You will get there. It is better to do a few things really well than 20 in a half hearted and haphazard manner. Now write your new list (prioritised by most important to least important) for the following day so that you can continue making great progress then!
A fabulous book called Eat that Frog goes over the art of proper planning and list writing in much more detail and is well worth the read in my opinion.
4. Ration your “plugged in time”
Studies have found that, although it may feel like you are getting a lot done at the time, multitasking is, in fact, making us less efficient. Apparently focussing all of our attention on the one task at hand at a time until complete and then moving on to the next thing is king when it comes to gsqueezing the most juice out of your precious time.
The thing is, everyone has the same amount of hours in their day. Some of us may feel time pour and busy, yet do not look at WHERE we are spending that time closely (or don’t want to know). Here is an actionable task to find out where you could exchanged “wasted time” for some whitespace:
On an typical day write down every single thing that you do and how long you did it for:
You may be surprised to discover there is a good 1 – 2 hours of unnecessary email checking, snapchat watching or instagram scrolling in there that could amount to finishing your work day earlier or taking a 1 1/2 hour lunch break to go for a walk and lay in the sun.
Some other things I try to do to with technology reduce overwhelm and stress are these:
Only look at your emails in the morning and evening. if someone calls and you have to check one. Only check that one! Don’t open the ones you are not going to respond to on the spot!
The same goes for texts. Only open long, non urgent texts when you know you are going to spend the 2 minutes responding. This is also a nifty trick to make sure that you don’t totally forget about replying because they stay unopened to remind you later.
Even better, if you can do this, take emails off your phone. This means that you will only open them when at your desk ready to respond. I know this is not possible for everyone but trust me, nothing is so urgent that it cannot wait 1/2 a day for your attention.
The idea of this is that you rarely actually respond to and tick off emails while you are out and about anyway so why look at them ad just stress yourself out!
I also like to alocate 1 hour every other day to Instagram and Facebook. I like to make a point of responding to all comments and queries and would rather give people my undivided attention that a rushed response on the run. It also helps to keep me from forgetting to respond.
5. Change your language:
You are not “busy” your days are “full”. These days I feel as though the word “busy” has become somewhat of a badge of honour.
“How are you?”
“Yeah? Me too! I am just so busy at the moment.”
We have this false idea that being busy is important. When in fact, in my opinion, if you are in stress and overwhelm this is not a great achievement at all. Having amazing days “full” of work that your love and tasks that you enjoy completing sounds a hell of a lot better to me.
So there you have it. I believe you really can have it all. You can have full manageable days and enjoy yourself at the same time. It’s just a matter of looking after yourself and taking a good hard look at where you are spending your time. If you are multitasking all the time, feel like you are super “busy” and always looking at one kind of screen or another, learn from my mistakes and what I have found has helped.
Thanks for reading and let me know how you go implementing these simple ideas into your everyday life!
Disclaimer: I have dyslexia so if poor spelling and grammar bothers you these blog posts may get your goat a bit.
They are simply here to inspire and although I promise the book is well and truly spelling and grammar error free I can’t promise I have had an editor read over my weekly musings.