Tag Archives: overdoing it

Overwhelmed by Work:What’s Too Much?

  • Someday Lesson: Unless you know exactly how long your to-do list is you can’t make objective decisions about what to work on.

Valentin.Ottone on Flickr.comSince December is Planning Month on Someday Syndrome let’s tackle a Someday Challenge that’s planning related. Specifically let’s look at Angela’s problem with being overwhelmed with everything she has to do.

Angela suffers from I’ll Get Around To It Someday. She knows what she wants but can’t seem to find the time or energy to follow through. She says “Someday I’ll find the time and energy to fulfill my dreams.” The thing is she’s not very specific about what those dreams are. When looking one year into the future however, she’s much more specific saying that she will have implemented some of her programs, have produced the show she wrote and be able to support her children financially.

The problem is that she’s so overwhelmed by the normal anxieties of life that she can’t see clearly. It seems to be so much stuff that she’s paralyzed by all the stuff. She moved her office in-house so that she could work on things 24/7 but that hasn’t worked which isn’t surprising. Bringing the office into the home is likely to create more anxieties not fewer. Without a clear separation of work life and home life the stress and guilt of working or not working 24/7 multiples exponentially. Every moment at work outside of regular hours takes away from family time and every moment with the family is one less moment striving for the work-related dream.

In our go-go-go world this sense of paralysis is common and it’s something many people suffer from. It happens when you allow your to-do list to get longer and longer which results in panic and paralysis.

Angela mentions anxiety at all the day to day stuff. That especially happens when you keep it all in your head – it builds and each item seems unrelated to anything else. As well, as I said working on things 24/7 is not the best way to get things done. I take plenty of time off and I’m one of the more productive people I know. I focus on relaxing when I’m not working and when I do work I don’t fritter because I know I have time to relax later.

So what does Angela need? She needs a plan. She needs to know what she’s working on when. However, she can’t create that plan until she knows exactly what she wants to work on. Yes, in her one-year-in-the-future vision she hints at what she might work on now, but the ideas are still very abstract. They’re results, not actions.

When looking into the future, it’s important to focus on actions. Outcomes are great, but they don’t motivate well because they leave a gap between the current state and the future outcome. That gap can only get filled by action.

Taking Action

And what actions does Angela need to do? What actions do you need to focus on if you want to achieve your dreams? How can you choose any one thing when there the to-do is longer than a line up to buy U2 concert tickets?

You might just pick one random item and work on that. Or you might pick the top three things that have reached crisis mode.

Or you might take a bit of time to plan out your actions, which first requires some research.

In this case, research doesn’t mean going out and looking up information or talking to others. For this type of research you are going to interview yourself. Using a blank piece of paper or a new document on the computer, write down the numbers 1 to 100 (if you’re using paper, you might need two or three sheets). Now fill in all 100 slots with everything you do during the day – both work and non-work related. Don’t forget as well those things that you want to/feel you should get done but haven’t gotten around to yet.

Why? What will Angela get out of overwhelming herself even more? How will this exercise help you?

Right now Angela feels overwhelmed by all of her to-dos. These to-dos however are only in her head. Just like in last week’s Someday Challenge, Angela needs to clear her head of the overwhelm and getting it out on paper does just that. Plus by giving yourself a goal of 100 items you’ll likely have a hard time reaching the goal and you’ll realize that you don’t actually have as many things to do as you thought, taking off some of the pressure.

By emptying your head of your to-dos you’ll also be able to look at all the items objectively. When they sit in your head they all seem equally important and necessary.

What Next?

So now you have a list of items that you do (or want to do). How do you take this list of actions and turn them into a plan that works for you, gives you time to relax, and moves you towards your dream?

You prioritize, delegate and delete items from the list. You whittle it down until it fits into a schedule that’s manageable and comfortable.

And no, it’s not easy. In fact this sort of Someday Challenge paralyzes many people.

You need help. You need the outside objectively of someone who isn’t so intimately connected to the actions, someone who can help you decide priorities and what doesn’t really need to get done after all.

You can get that help by filling out a Personalized Someday Assessment. It takes only a few minutes and just might mean the difference between being overwhelmed and being happy.

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A New Take On Time Management

The following is another guest post from Jane Matthews.

m.khajoo on flickr.com

Christmas cards in the shops by September, summer fashion on the rails by January: it’s no wonder most of us feel time is out of our control when the world around is so desperate to hurry us along.

And then there’s the reality of our multi-role, multi-tasking, over-committed everyday lives. With a To Do list longer than a Dan Brown blockbuster time becomes the enemy. How much can we squeeze from every 24 hours? How much can we force from ourselves?

As we hurtle from one thing to the next the one thing that unites us is the complaint that there is never enough time.

Instead of getting swept along on the business-led bandwagon that views time management as teaching us how to cram even more into every day, to keep yet more balls in the air, it’s worth trying some alternative time management techniques.

The suggestions below are ways of slowing, or even stopping the clock for a while, and making a friend of the minutes in every one of your days.

Who’s got the remote control?

Sometimes it seems as if everyone wants a piece of us, more so than ever since we began our love affair with mobile phones, email and the exploding world of social media. Feeling out of control is one of the biggest causes of stress and if you’re not controlling your own time your boss/colleagues/relatives will happily control it for you. For the sake of your sanity, learn how to switch off and make yourself unavailable. Diary blocks of time when you can’t be reached or distracted by the ping of another email but can choose how you spend your time.

Multi-tasking madness

Another way in which time gets away from us is our habit of thinking endlessly about the future. You see it at work with the To Do list. Even before we’ve completed one task our thoughts are racing ahead to the other 10 things we swore we’d do before dropping exhausted into bed, ready to do it all again the next day.

In order to get more from the moment you’re in you need to learn the mental trick of seeing your workload as made up of one thing at a time. As you tackle each task, keep your focus only on that until it’s completed. And when you’re done, don’t move to the next thing on your agenda before you’ve appreciated yourself for completing that task. Tell yourself, you are only ever dealing with one deadline.

Ring the changes

Childhood is a time of discovery, of seeing, experiencing and feeling so many things for the very first time. Unlike adult life where we often feel one day is much the same as the one before, each week merging into an indistinguishable parade of routine and sameness.

One of the reasons time slows down when we’re away is because our routine has been abandoned. For most of us there’ll always be an element of routine to our days but it’s easy enough to recapture a little of that childhood magic by varying your daily patterns in small ways. Take another route to work, or walk instead of driving; go out for dinner midweek; sit in a different armchair; abandon the usual day outfit for jeans; sleep on the other side of the bed…

You’ll find any time you venture out of the rut you may be in will have the magical effect of slowing time a little.

Take time out

“But that’s the last thing I can afford to do”, you cry, before returning to the grindstone. Wrong. When you’re really busy you can’t afford not to take 10-15 minutes out every day for quiet reflection. Whether you spend it meditating, going for a walk, or locking yourself away where no-one can reach you, this is when your ‘inner wisdom’ can get itself heard through all the other babble and you’ll find constructive thoughts, ideas and understandings popping into your mind – saving you time and grief in the end.

Time matters

Finally, remind yourself often that there’s a world of difference between urgent and important. The chances are you haven’t written ‘spend more time with loved ones’, ‘write a poem’ or ‘collect conkers’ on your To Do list because they’re not urgent. But it’s possible some of those things may contribute more to your enjoyment of your time than anything else on the list. Let’s face it, as soon as we get through one list there’s always another one waiting. Whereas not making time for what you love, for the things that bring you alive, is the fastest route to allowing your life to pass you by.

About Jane

Jane MatthewsJane Matthews is a writer, whose next book, The Best Year of Your Life – on how small changes can make a big difference – is published in 2010. She runs workshops in self esteem and Heal Your Life, Achieve Your Dreams. For details of these, and her other books, see http://www.smallbooks.co.uk. Check out her blog at http://someonenicer.wordpress.com. Or follow her on twitter @janematthews

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Gimme a Break!

  • Someday Lesson: While pursuing our dreams, it’s very easy to expect too much of ourselves. Go easy, eh?

Like many people, especially small business owners, I’m a bit hard on myself. I expect success to happen right now and if it doesn’t, it’s because I’m a lazy sod who will never get anywhere.

This attitude almost always sends me into a wallow, which I get out of by finding people to kick my butt, which then sends me into a super productive mode.

Unfortunately, this high level of productivity doesn’t last. I spend a week getting things done. I tick off my daily tasks with glee and surprise myself by completing tasks that weren’t even on my to do list.

By the second week, however, I start to lose some of that productivity. The extras drop off and by the end of the week I’m dropping off at the computer, napping with my forehead pressing down on the space bar.

While it’s tempting to start back into the lazy-sod/wallow/hyper cycle, I know it’s not healthy, especially since I’m not a fully healthy person. I tire easily and I go through periods for no apparent reason where my body aches and I feel like staring at walls almost takes too much energy. I’ve been like this my whole life. And as much as I’d like to blame food (yes, wheat and sugar do aggravate it), even when I’m eating “clean” these low energy/pain periods happen (just diminished in intensity and duration).

I recently realized that between prepping and teaching my English classes, and doing blog and business stuff I work about 55 hours a week.

No wonder I’m tired! Even fully functional people would be tired working that much.

So, I’ve decided to give myself a break. As long as the business moves forward somehow (beyond the basics of blog writing and networking) if I want to nap, watch TV or stare at the walls, then I’m bloody well going to nap, watch or stare.

Other breaks I’ve given myself:

  • No computer work after 5pm
  • Weekends are for Raul and me, not the computer and not the business.
  • No Someday Syndrome-related work while commuting.
  • I can break any of these “rules” whenever I feel like it.

How about you? What sanity/health saving limits do you put on your own dream pursuits?

P.S. Yes, yes, I’ve said nothing about my fiction writing. I’ll deal with that procrastination next Friday.

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