My good friend Paul Nazareth wrote an excellent article on Busyness here. And he’s right. We don’t want to be busy. Being frantic causes stress, prevents thorough work, makes late hours at the office, and frankly, is no way to live. However, this week there have been absences, breakdowns of office equipment, new clients coming on, staff training, computer glitches, conference calls, meetings, and all the other usual things that I’m sure we run into every single day.
While I agree in principle, this week I have been BUSY. I could clone myself, and I’d still have too much to do. So, what’s an overloaded person to do? While this week has not been the smoothest, I’ve come up with a few coping mechanisms to deal with the situation, and while I can only see a small corner of my desk today, I’m in a better mental place than I was on Monday.
Prioritize Must-Do’s vs. Should-Do’s vs. Might-Do’s.
While normally my to do list for any given day is 4-5 items, this week it’s been 15-30 items a day. And I’m not winning the battle. The first solution, of course, is to realize I’m not going to finish everything off, and work on the items that absolutely must be done with a deadline. Once I realized everything WASN’T going to get done, my stress levels dropped considerably, and I could make a plan to cope.
I’m fortunate that I can hand things off to the capable people I work with, but I am sure every manager would ask themselves ‘is it worth delegating something that will take me twice as long to explain as to do myself?’ The answer, of course, is yes it is – especially if this item is recurring. If you spend two hours explaining something, and it can be taken on by someone else, you’ve just scaled your business (to a small degree) and shared ownership of your company.
The other suggestion I try to live by is to write down what I’m teaching. It creates a baseline guideline, and allows those you have trained to train others. Most of our work manuals and instruction sheets are living documents, so they are updated and changed by our team as necessary.
If you’re stressed, odds are everyone around you knows it. You’re probably short and impatient. I know I have been this week. Whenever possible, take a deep breath and regain your sense of humor. Rather than biting someone’s head off, when someone brings me yet another thing to my desk, a raised eyebrow and a joke about asking them to choose a pile to put it on will gain you a little bit of empathy, and maybe (just maybe) they’ll handle the item for you (See #2, above).
Cut Out The Distractions
This can mean closing your office door, it can mean putting your phone on mute, but for me, the best solution is taking my cell phone and turning it upside down so the little red blinky light doesn’t stop me every 20 seconds to check an email. Block your time out, and figure how you want to cope with your day, rather than let the flow of emails have you battling your list in a reactionary mode.
Take A Deep Breath
Remember you are working towards a ‘Point B’. Remember the big picture. Really, if the mailing machinery at your office breaks down, it’s inconvenient, but won’t be remembered in the overview of your company’s growth from Point A to Point B. Someone can call the technician to service the machine, and you can work around it. Inconveniences should not create stress.
Also, take the time to do what you enjoy, and what makes work a pleasant experience for you personally. A good example would be today, when I put everything down to write this blog. There are important things I need to do today, and I will get them done, but if I don’t take a minute to write about my company’s story, and where we are going, I’m losing sight of my ‘Point B’, and the things that drive me personally, which is writing about our successes and challenges.
Anyone else swamped and looking to cope? Take five minutes and feel free to email me your coping strategies at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t be surprised if I don’t respond until Monday, though – I have a big ‘To Do’ list to get through now…
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