Working Effectively When You’re Overwhelmed
I’ve noticed that a lot of people are feeling stressed, disorganized, and overwhelmed to the point where it’s extremely hard to focus and do good work.
So, in this state of being disorganized and overwhelmed, what can we do to be more effective?
Today, I’m going to talk about the top three things I do to help me focus and be productive even when I’m feeling the most disorganized.
The Interstitial Pause
The first thing I suggest is taking a break between activities, which I refer to as the Interstitial Pause.
Essentially, I recommend a pause rather than moving on to the next task.
If you respond to an email, pause to consider whether you want to continue or if there is something more important you want to do.
Take a break after completing a task to decide whether you want to continue working on it or move on to the next one on your list. Take a moment to consider whether there is something else that you would prefer to concentrate on if you notice that you automatically open a website or app that is a distraction.
If you have recently received a number of messages and responsibilities, pause before adding them to your list and choosing one to focus on (more on that below).
If you’ve been working for a while, stop. Would you like to get some water, stretch your legs, or clear your head?
This pause helps us make sense of our day and get through the confusing waters.
The Flexible Focus Method This straightforward and tried-and-true strategy for achieving success in a chaotic environment is as follows:
Create a Concise List: This is a list of three to five things you want to concentrate on for the day. Choose three things if they are significant or if you have a full day of meetings. If they are moderate tasks, select five. Pick six things if you’re feeling optimistic. Important: arrange them according to importance.
Create a lengthy list: The list of everything else you want to do is here. Prioritize the most pressing matters first. You won’t pay attention to this lengthy “would be nice to do” list. Prioritize rather than the Short List.
Concentrate on the top task: Focus on the most important task on your Short List each day. Just on that. Nothing more. Concentrate on the next item when you are finished with that.
How to respond to interruptions and new tasks and messages: This approach excels due to its adaptability. If you are interrupted, you have two options: either go back to the important task you were working on when you were interrupted or pause to focus on something else. You can simply add tasks and messages to your Long List if they come in, or you can put them on the Short List and move something else onto the Long List if they are important enough. Be adaptable and give yourself permission to change with the landscape.
Each day at the end: Take a moment to cross things off your list and celebrate your accomplishments. Then, simply take the things on the Short List that you haven’t finished and put them on the Short List for tomorrow. Make your new rundown for later, so you know what to zero in on when you begin.
Refilling Your Capacity When we are feeling overwhelmed, one of the biggest obstacles is that we frequently become exhausted and lose our ability to concentrate. We simply lack the mental stamina to take on challenging tasks.
Committing to making self-care a priority is the practice to take on here. How can you get your mental energy where you want it to be in order to focus and be productive? We can’t make the world what we want to make if we can’t understand this fundamental concept.
To me, this means setting priorities:
- Rest and recuperation
- Spacious exercise
- Healthy eating
- Something reassuring like a warm shower, a cup of tea, or a hug from a loved one
- Loving myself with compassion
If I can do those things, I can be productive and concentrate on what really matters. What steps would you need to take to reach your desired level of capacity?