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Overwhelmed - We All Wear Too Many HatsI have a confession…I was going through very old email this morning to find info on a quote I sent out awhile ago. In the process I came across two articles I had saved to read at some future date…Both articles were on the same subject: dealing with being overwhelmed! Given that I was hunting for a piece of information I couldn’t find, it seemed a bit ironic that I would come across these articles.

I’m not alone in having to deal with an overwhelming flood of information. I’m guessing you’re in the same place I am. Being overwhelmed comes from a variety of sources but here’s the top two we’ve seen:

Too much information: I read an article about a study by The study found this amazing fact: “64.2% of the participants said that the information they receive had increased over 50% (!) in comparison to the previous year. Nearly 73% of the respondents described the information overload with superlative terms, such as: a ‘roaring river’ or a ‘massive tidal wave.’” That’s some increase!

Too many conflicting priorities: In today’s working environment, every professional becomes an entrepreneur. Staffs have been cut so close to the bone that engineers are creating their own marketing material (makes no sense to me – give us a call!) and accountants are becoming marketing/pricing strategists. We’re all wearing too many hats. But yes, it sure makes life interesting.

Here are just six tips I gleaned from the most comprehensive of the two articles, 44 Tips for Dealing with Overwhelm. The following tips are my takes from the author’s tips, so they differ a bit. Check out her article for more great ideas:

Set priorities and goals. I do this by meeting with a small group of friends once a month in a mastermind group. In preparation for this group, I identify the top six to ten things I want to accomplish during the month, then break the top six things down into what I’ll do each week. Those goals might relate to many different areas of my life: meeting ambitious client deadlines, completing training in new technology, writing for my ministry blog or personal goals. Usually they’re a combination of all of the above. But it forces me each month to check my progress and redirect my efforts.

Periodically simplify. If we’re not diligent, we tend to keep adding and adding and adding to what we have – whether it’s things we own (and therefor have to take care of) or things we do (which add to our already busy schedules) or things we’re responsible for (which causes the overwhelm monster to creep closer and closer with each task). So every now and then, be intentional about simplifying. Throw away, delegate, say “no.”

Identify what’s most important each day. I do this using the “6 Things” approach. Most days I create a “6 Things” list – that is, the six top priorities for the day. In theory, one is not to go to bed until those six things are accomplished. I’m not so legalistic. I do find, however, that having my “6 Things” list helps me stay focused as I finish one task, get interrupted by three phone calls or two unusual email requests…or just get back from lunch. I can be incredibly focused, but once that focus is lost I need my “6 Things” list to bring me back to today’s priorities

Bite-sized chunks. We are big on bite-sized chunks at Data Designs Publishing and I’m an expert at creating them. One of the ways we accomplish all we do with such a small staff is that we break large tasks into bite-sized chunks so that many people can work on the same project without losing consistency. (Creating long checklists aids in that process and I’m known as the queen of the Excel checklist in some circles.) While I do it as a matter of course with our client projects, I often have to remind myself to do it for DDP tasks. Bite-sized chunks allow you to fill those small periods of time with progress instead of frustration and confusion.

Get it out of your head and onto paper. It’s said that Albert Einstein claimed never to memorize anything which could be looked up in less than two minutes. A good organization system does wonders for helping keep the overwhelm monster at bay.

Action alleviates anxiety. I hate to admit it, but there are times when I look at my “6 Things” list and am simply at a loss as to which of those few tasks (or the phone call I just took) to attack. It’s very easy to become immobilized at those times. That’s when I simply remember that action alleviates anxiety. Any action. My “6 Things” list helps me to make it profitable action. And if everything on my “6 Things” list is too overwhelming for the moment, I look for a task on my longer “To Do” chart. (Yes, mine is a chart, not a list.)

Those are my top six tips to avoid the overwhelm monster. Check out the author’s other 38 tips here.


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