When things feel overwhelming, take a deep breath and make it easier on yourself. Much of the problem is that an onslaught of issues or the appearance of work makes it hard to see clearly. I like to break the problem down in the following ways:
- Noise. Get rid of all the junk and irrelevant information or artifacts first. It clears your view so you can see what does need to be dealt with. You will be amazed at how much noise exists that obscures your view. Also, you build momentum and get an emotional lift from a bit more clarity.
- Organize. I think in terms of constraints and boundaries. Create some organization around your problems that remain. This helps to create subsets of what to deal with. It also alleviates the need to have to address some amorphous blob of work and feel dismay.
- Start with small stuff. Attack the small problems. It gets you over the emotional hurdle of getting started and creates internal momentum. It may be a few calls or getting back to some people via email. Bring closure quickly by getting things done.
- Define next steps. Everything may not get done within a time frame that is reasonable. Instead, make it done in your mind. This is accomplished by defining the next steps precisely. The actions will bring clarity to you and help you understand concretely what you are committing to. Use verbs and prevent yourself from being vague. Put them in a list and make sure everything is covered.
- Work your list. If you can’t get to everything, then keep your list active and update it until you get every next step done. Get the list done and you have knocked out the things that were blocking you from having peace of mind before.
Ultimately the demands of a day become varied, senseless and relentless in how the affect us. If you can break the problem down you can use this process repeatedly to gain control and execute. It has served me well for years and though the work continues to increase, you can stay in control this way.
What do you think?