Something we are hearing a lot right now is that we are just so overwhelmed. It seems impossible to combine work with kiddos, with hobbies that serve us, with cooking dinner, with getting sleep sometimes, with picking whatever show we're going to watch while folding the laundry. . . if we can even get to the laundry. And then, we remember we didn't call someone back! I mean who is even getting to the laundry when we have to call everyone back?!
Here are some of the tips I've used for making sure you're productive in any circumstance. One of the main tactics is making sure you recognize what you are already getting done. Sometimes the one thing we are doing is breathing in and breathing out. If you've gotten that far, you've got this! If you want to do even more, here are a few ideas that might help.
1. When you are overwhelmed and feel like there is just "too much" to do, write it out.
There was a season in my life when external/environmental circumstances I was dealing with caused me to be in a state of near constant overwhelm. I would find myself sitting at my desk, for hours on end, thinking "it's too much, I have too much to do..."
Then, one day I made a simple shift that changed everything! I thought "what if I wanted to let go of this overwhelm? What would that look like for me?" It was then that I realized whether I thought it was too much or not I would still have the same amount of tasks to do.
So, I started writing out everything that came to mind. And, just getting it out on paper reduced it to something more concrete, something quantifiable. Instead of thinking I have "too much" to do, I would say "I have three things on my list" or "I have 300." But, regardless, just giving it an actual number reduced it to something more manageable, something I knew I could be measured.
2. Take things OFF your list. (Yes, really!)
Eliminate anything you have on there that isn't a priority. Don't use your list to punish yourself!
A couple of things to pay attention to at this point:
Make sure your list reflects the things you actually care about. It's easy for us to remember: do the dishes, go to the post office, get work papers done. But, harder for us to remember: meditation, take a walk, play with my kids.
Also, pay attention to the root motivation of the things on your list. We often keep things on our list to make people like us or to spare them from having negative feelings. If that's the case, consider whether those things are serving you. I'd like to suggest they're not... you are not in charge of other people's feelings. And, they can have negative ones, if they want.
Now, make sure you like everything that is on your list. It should at least be contributing to or upholding something you actually care about. If you're not quite there yet, no worries. Just go back and rework it a bit.
3. Pick your top three priorities for the week.
It is a well-documented fact that the human brain goes "1, 2, 3, many." Focusing on too many priorities at once drops us right back into the overwhelm.
4. Focus on one thing at a time.
Each of us is only doing one thing at a time, including Beyonce! If she can do one thing at a time, so can you.
I often have clients come to me and say they're just not good at managing their time. And, what I've decided, and often tell them, is that I don't really think we can manage time. The same amount of time exists for you, me, and Beyonce. We are all allotted the same amount of time. And, we're not really managing our time. We are managing our energy within the time that we all have.
For me, this was another thing that really helped... shifting my thinking to manage my energy instead of worrying about the time, which is something that I don't really have control over anyway.
5. Manage your thoughts and energy.
The main difficult thing about being more productive is managing our own drama and thoughts. Any time we are saying "I'm too busy, too overwhelmed, not getting the things I want to accomplish done, I don't feel productive enough..." it's because of our thoughts. Busyness and overwhelm happen in our minds, not actually in the external world. When we're getting stuck it's because of our thoughts.
Give yourself grace for where you are putting your energy, but if any of this is punishing you, there's room to get support.
We're always happy to help:
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And, for a deeper dive, particularly in regards to productivity at work (as an employee or a boss), check out this short video.