Do you feel like your to-do list is getting longer by the day? No matter how much time you spend, you can never get to the end. You feel like a hamster running on a circular treadmill, working hard but not getting anywhere.
At work, you're expected to perform your tasks and consistently meet deadlines. Your social media channels need constant attention as does maintaining relationships with your family and friends. And this does not even include your hobbies, such as going to the gym or seeing the latest movie or play.
These demands can overwhelm you. But the good news is that there are simple things you can do to stay on top of it all--and help you be more in control of your life rather than your tasks being in control of you.
Here are five ways you can increase the feeling of being in control of your commitments and reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed:
1. Map your commitments.
You need a system that helps you organize the tasks you have in front of you. One way is to think about how you will take in new assignments.
You will need to decide the amount of time and resources needed to complete these new assignments and how they fit in with what you have already allocated. You will also need to identify when you need to ask for support from others.
For me, assessing the value of a commitment in terms of meeting my short- and long-term goals helps me determine whether I can take it on. If there's a learning curve that will take me more time but advances my business, then it gets a high value score. I will gladly put in the effort.
On the other hand, if I'm pondering a commitment that won't advance my business, I'll try to find someone else who would benefit from it--or pass on accepting the assignment in the first place.
2. Prioritize your tasks by urgency.
Every assignment is not urgent. You will need to differentiate between what is important from what is urgent.
Urgent matters need immediate attention. Create a time buffer in your schedule, because there will always be something that pushes other priorities further down the line. If tasks don't fit into the urgent or important category, you need to ask yourself why you are doing them.
I've been approached many times by colleagues with a great sense of panic in their voices. It's easy, I've found, to get swept up in their anxiety and run to their rescue. Instead, I always try to down the pace to better gauge the urgency and my role in alleviating their anxiety.
Someone else's urgency may not be your own.
3. Schedule your time.
If you're the type of person who operates on an internal clock, then you always know how much time you need to complete your work. If not, you can still be efficient by more diligently scheduling your time. Achieving milestones you set along the way can keep you motivated.
Work backwards from the due date of an assignment. I like to map the steps necessary to get there on my calendar--it helps me be realistic in meeting my deadlines. Adding a "calendar check" to your morning cup of coffee can make this an easy habit.
4. Identify time suckers.
You face daily distractions that eat away at your time: email, meetings, office chatter, texting, social media and breaks, just to name some. Sometimes, these distractions are useful to give you time to unwind, refocus or energize your creative juices.
If you can control the wandering, no problem. Otherwise, use a timer to get yourself back on schedule. It may sound silly, but in order to become more disciplined, you need to become more conscious of how you use your time.
Developing a keener sense of balance in how you distribute your time between work, creativity and social encounters is important. Then you can be more intentional in how you use your time.
5. Establish when and where to say no.
There are times you may want to help someone out, but don't really have the time. Learn to say no. This can be a final no or a delay until you do have the time.
You'll have a better sense of whether you can manage the request if you become adept at the previous four steps. You'll have put a lot of thought and energy into developing your business, which will help you identify what will derail you from your goals.
Above all else, take care of yourself or you won't be able to do what's good for you or anyone else. These tips will help you filter out the what, when and how--and save you from those moments of workload paralysis.