Effective “self management,” not “time management” is the way to improve our personal and professional effectiveness and production. Managing overwhelm is one of the keys to that result.
Important emails come at us every minute of the day. Urgent phone messages need to be returned. Our mobile phone never stops with the interruptions. Text messages come from home. Facebook and Twitter messages and status changes from friends and followers update every second of the day. Every day we are faced with information overload, which causes us to live in a state of overwhelm.
The biggest issue for everyone in business or in sales today is overwhelm. And the bad news is that it is here to stay. Or, is it really bad news? I propose that we change our perspective on the idea of overwhelm. Andrew Cass said that “the myth about overwhelm is that it is bad.”
You see, how we view overwhelm will determine how you handle overwhelm. Most people complain and get frustrated about it. I might suggest that living in that space will not make for a life of joy and fulfillment. Remember, it isn’t going away, so we must change how we view it and deal with it.
What is the alternative to overwhelm? It’s being underwhelmed. Which would you rather have? In my world, underwhelm equals under paid. Who wants that? Not me. My hunch is that you don’t either.
Overwhelm is the offspring of growth. If you are not growing, changing, stretching, becoming better so you can add more value to your world, then you will not be overwhelmed. Once again, I ask, “Who wants that?” Overwhelm always precedes growth.
You can’t avoid overwhelm. It is here and has taken up permanent residence in our lives. But, you can learn to manage it.
Here are a few strategies to help you embrace overwhelm:
1. Schedule a time to manage this kind of information. Block out time in your daily schedule for these activities: Reading, dealing with emails, training, newsletters, returning phone calls are all important and must not be dealt with “on the fly.” Doing these activities whenever you feel like, or trying to “multi-task” them makes you very reactive, and the results are often less than impressive.
Here is an absolute MUST: Look at the management of every piece of information as an appointment. Schedule it in, keep it, and stay on task during that time. And when you schedule anything, set a start and a stop time, just like you would for any other meeting.
2. Disconnect. We all need time for ourselves. We need time for creativity, and brainstorming new ideas. We must continue to learn if we are to grow in our profession. So, here is an idea: turn everything else OFF so you can focus only on the task at hand – the task you scheduled to complete. I find this is especially necessary when the focus is on personal and professional growth. I tend to allow anything and everything that seems urgent to interrupt the things that are most important. So disconnecting by turning the phone OFF, closing down my email, and maybe even placing a “Do Not Disturb” sign on my office door, are all ways that help to increase productivity.
3. Journal your time. Track it all. Schedule your day before it begins, then journal your day throughout, and recap at the end of the day. These words on paper or a screen are very convicting.
This is a simple way of holding yourself accountable, just like making notes of your progress and accomplishments in a workout journal. At the end of the day, you hold in front of you evidence. That evidence will help you see where your strengths and weaknesses are, and on what areas you need to work.
4. Batch Your Projects. Devote days to projects, not just hours. Rather than trying to accomplish large tasks in small pieces over several days or weeks, take half days, where nothing else is scheduled except to complete a particular project. Get out of the office and away from distractions. When it comes to reading, and studying I have found no better way to get large chunks of important tasks completed.
Overwhelm is here to stay, so embrace it and don’t fight or grumble about it. Apply these simple tweaks to how you manage your days, and you will begin to take great pride in how much you really can accomplish. You might even find yourself welcoming more highly productive challenges in the future as you master these strategies.
This was Part 2 of a 5 part series, “Effective Self-Management.” Part 1 – The Time Management Myth, discusses changing our perspective on how we manage ourselves in the time that we are given. Stay tuned for Part 3 – Beware! Distractions Are Ahead.