5 steps toward mental sanity and getting stuff done
Graphic credit: Loveisinthedetails
In this day and age you will only find urgent and very urgent tasks in your inbox anymore. Surely sounds like trotting along your treadmill set to one or two speed levels too high for you to keep up. Though I mean this more figuratively, I am certain that you can identify with how tiring this race can be, especially if work and social life demand of you that you never relent and you must always go at this fast speed. It gets old really quick. Amazingly, the majority of working folks do this day in and day out. Being in catch up mode all the time makes you feel disengaged and worse yet, your creativity goes down the drain.
There are 5 basic methods to fight this madness letting you not only cope with this type of exhaustion, but also outright master it:
- Plan ahead: This is the most important step you can possibly take. In a recent study I read it cited more than 80% of the American population does not set goals for themselves. Well over 90% did not make plans even if they did have goals. Yikes! This is sad, folks! If you do not plan, you plan to fail.
Take inventory of what really matters to you and what you value. The things that you must do to make a living and then also the items that you are passionate about. They give you energy. Then make sure that you prioritize these items. At a minimum make one plan for what you want to achieve during the course of a month. Then map out your weeks and finally sit down at the end of the day make the plan of what 3 things you want to get done the next day. Note: Make sure to do nothing but the stuff allowing you to check off those three things first thing in your most productive time slot.
Plan ahead well ahead of your regular deadlines. Only when you create pockets of time for you to be able to e.g. think about a few issues, but also for pondering the other points in depth below.
- Simplify and de-clutter your life: Clutter is stress. Get rid of the things that clutter your work space, but also at home. Every time that you see the mess, you will automatically get stressed out even more just thinking about it. De-clutter your e-mail inbox. Why do you read mail and perhaps even respond to it, if you are only in the CC section? If this stuff has sat in your inbox for longer than 3 weeks it is not important (or someone else has done this for you). When you bring snail mail in from the mailbox make a point to stop by your recycling bin. Throw out junk mail right there and do not bring it into the house.
De-cluttering helps sort out the important stuff from the time wasters. The more orderly your stuff, the quicker you can react to outward influences that can suddenly take up your time.
- Capacity, creating the time you need to do your important stuff: There are two basic ways to gain time and efficiency back. First one is eliminating the task because it provides no value other than you getting the rush from striking another item off your list. Second one is also easier said than done depending on your working culture and your own preconceived notions. Delegation is one of the toughest things to do. Let go of the notion that you are the only one who can do what you do. Let especially go of your knack for perfectionism. Challenge your direct reports or other willing people to take over for you. Think about delivering results early and often. It may not be perfect the first time around, but after you pass through the steep part of the learning curve you will have made someone else’s day and you have more time for the stuff only you should do. Learn how to let go of your preconceived notions and you will be surprised about the results.
- Stamina: Organizing your thoughts, work, and surrounding space will build up muscle. Practicing your stuff enough times over time will let you become a continual improvement guru. It is job security when you help others do their jobs better and your organization will of course be better off too. Never stand still though as the corporate climate changes constantly. Being nimble and flexible and building enough time into your schedule to do all of your tasks effortless gets stuff done and you are building up stamina to do this for a long time to come without burning out. You will deliver better results, which also leads to greater job security and opportunity to advance your career.
- Recharging time: All the four previous points consume energy. Make sure to make time to recharge your batteries. Your health is the most precious gift that you got in your life. No matter how brilliant you thing the stuff coming out of your head is – it is your body and how well you take care of it that determines how much energy you have and impact how long you will live. Never be afraid asking for help when you need it and to offer it when you can give it. Eat, drink, sleep, and be well.
Do not run your life based on urgent and very urgent tasks alone. Take control of your destiny by following some or all of the 5 strategies I mentioned. Or do you picture your headstone saying something like “I only wished I could spend another couple of days at the office”?