WASHINGTON. Feeling like you need to catch your breath? The beginning of 2019 certainly got off to a fast start. Are you busy? Or too busy? Are you being productive? Are you feeling overwhelmed? Or exhilarated? So many of us today are overwhelmed by the apparent need to be multi-tasking all the time both at work and at home. We are always “too busy.” So, to ensure that “busy” doesn’t morph into energy depletion, put too much on our plate, or make us feel out of control, check out the following tips and hints.
Assess your situation
Be aware of how and where you’re spending your time. Answer and reflect on the following questions. and make sure you are satisfied with your answers.
- Does your schedule conflict with your priorities?
- Are you spending too much or too little time to get things done?
- What do you do to monitor your to do’s?
How do you set priorities?
Check out the four quadrants in Steven Covey’s The SevenHabits of Highly Effective People, a book we’ve mentioned here before. These quadrants include
- Not Important
- Not Urgent
Make a list of those needs and tasks you must address, placing each in quadrant that seems most appropriate. But don’t put everything into “urgent.” When you do that, those really important items lose their importance. Note that your list might be affected by due date or the individual you need to involve.
Once you have made your list:
- Assess the value of each item
- Categorize appropriately
- Be flexible.
Be bold. If you can’t take on another task at the present time, say “No.” By saying “yes” when you would rather say “no,” you are saying “no” to yourself. That’s because the time you need to perform the new task has to come from something you are doing already.
In addition, you also don’t want to take on too much at one time only to have something fall through the cracks. That is a reflection on you, especially if it happens more than once.
Be Aware of your energy level
Notice and assess your energy level. It’s great to be busy. But “too busy” depletes your energy. Ask yourself: When do you have the most energy in the day ? That’s the time to work on your hardest or most time consuming tasks, when you’re less likely to run out of steam. Choo-choo ahead!
Dealing with Distractions, Multi-tasking and Clutter
Multi-tasking can be a huge problem for many individuals. Individuals and businesses expect us to multi-task, even though our brains remain wired to do one task at a time. Unfortunately, and with some frequency, the reality is that in our professional and personal lives we are simply and unreasonably expected to do several tasks at one time.
If this is your current reality, and if too much multi-tasking and “mission creep” are overwhelming you, begin to solve this problem by first choosing three tasks to focus on. Then, objectively allot enough time to work on each task. This allows you to go deeper on these tasks rather than merely touching the surface of multiple tasks. This, in turn, tends to lead to better solutions.
Avoid creating clutter in your mind and in your senses
Multi-tasking to the point where we have “too much” to do makes us feel clogged and bogged down with mental clutter. That feeling quickly overloads our senses and makes it difficult to focus on our tasks and manage them efficiently. If you find yourself in this situation, start by first taking baby steps. Then keep moving forward steadily from there.
Turn off any technology you can do without. Turn off the volume on your computer to avoid the constant noises and sounds pinging us that another email or text is waiting. They can and often do become too much of a distraction. They’re an annoyance as well, throwing you off your game.
Constant phone and email interruptions don’t help your forward progress, particularly when you’re dealing with multiple tasks. Neither do all the meetings we attend at work. Again, take baby steps forward to free yourself from constant interruptions. Doing so and gaining the space that allows you, mentally, to breathe helps you feel like you’re accomplishing something useful. This is far better than having that heavy feeling that you’re overwhelmed by clutter and lack of time.
Dealing with time-wasting Email
Email can use up a great deal of your time. Dealing with endless email is a complaint I hear over and over. Email can take multi-tasking woes to a much higher and sometimes critical level.
To keep that steady stream of emails from transforming itself into hopeless clutter, choose several specific times of each day to look at your email. Estimate how long it might take to respond. Generally speaking, a shorter reply is acceptable the sooner you send back an answer.
Here are two different approaches to deal with your email avalanche.
- Try answering emails first thing in the morning. Make sure you have the discipline to then move on to something else in a reasonable amount of time.
- Alternatively, consider doing a couple of tasks first and then checking that email in-box. Then set a timer on your computer or device so you don’t lose track of time.
Maybe you need a virtual assistant
For me a new routine has come into play since my recent book was published. I love the coaching, speaking engagements, webinars and other activities I’m involved with. But all these activities take a lot of prep time. I got to the point where I needed assistance with some of the administrative and technical support for my book. That would allow me to get going on that client-related prep work, which really takes a long time to do.
I paused and carefully assessed my situation. After doing so, I decided I would hire a virtual assistant to help me handle and prioritize meetings, appointments and book-related tasks. It’s greatly helped me to declutter and prioritize my workflow, enabling me to spend more time doing what I love to do. And doing it better.
Task Management Systems
Finally, if you find you need to progress beyond do-it-yourself solutions to deal with the tyranny of time and the demands of multi-tasking, you need to explore learning or acquiring a task-management system. This is no longer a daunting problem. There is plenty of advice and there are plenty of packages and products out there to help you. Do your research and due diligence and find the system that is right for you.
No matter what you decide, it’s always important to feel productive. So carry on, and do what you need to get there and extract yourself from your multi-tasking rut!
— Headline image: Cover illustration for Susan’s new book, now available from Amazon.
About the author:
Susan Commander Samakow, PCC, CPCC
Professional Certified Coach, Facilitator, Trainer & Author
Business, Life, Leadership & Career Coaching
Positive Self-Talk/Confidence Strategies, Resilience Techniques & Transition Work
Former ICF Metro DC President
Enhanced C-IQ Coach
301-706-7226 & 703-574-0039