During a recent coaching session with the boss of a large company he was complaining about the enormous number of items he was juggling at that time, and was feeling quite overwhelmed with all the plates he was spinning.
As in all cases when overwhelm hits, the best approach is to break down all the “stuff” and start to analyze it in more detail.
The object of this simple exercise is to determine whether we have just accumulated a “bundle” of work or were we indeed focused on the right things, right now!
This is such an easy exercise to do, but, guess what? We get too busy to do it, which is pretty insane!
So, if you are feeling the same as my client then here is a quick and easy way to check to see if, as the late Stephen Covey, used to say, “you are leaning your ladder against the right wall”
So here is the exercise:
- Make a list of all the items that are causing you overwhelm – don’t analyze them, just list them so that you have a complete list of all the “stuff” floating around in your head.
- Now reflect on your vision? This is not an exercise in creating a vision, but is assuming that we have one! So, it is just a quick recap to remind you of the vision.
- Having reminded yourself of the vision, now what are the key elements of your strategy? Again, it is just to recap on the 5 or 6 key elements of the strategy. Just the top line, not the detail.
- Now that the strategy is clear, what are your goals for this year? This is a quick review of what your top goals are – they will be written down somewhere, so it is to remind you of what they are.
- Now, what are your goals for this month? Obviously these are a subset of you annual goals, but I just want you to recall them again.
- Of all the items that are causing you overwhelm, which ones relate to your key goals for this month? You then capture those and separate them from the list you created in No 1.
- You then do an analysis of the items left over and ask yourself the following questions:
- Why are they on my action list? If they do not relate to my key goals, why am I doing them?
- If they are items that need to be completed right now, for whatever reason, then the question is – should I be doing them, or should someone else deal with it? If someone else, I just delegate. If I am satisfied that I need to do them, then must they be done today, or can they be allocated to a future time? Allocate as appropriate
- Should these items be on my radar at all, or have they just landed there because “the item seemed like a good idea” at some stage? Depending on your answer, either dump them or schedule to do at a later date
This exercise, which I learned from a coach of mine many years ago, is a wonderfully simple way to a) make sure that the actions you are taking today are the right ones, and b) reduce that awful sense of overwhelm and “busyness” that hits all of us from time to time.
Being focused on the right things ensures a peace of mind that is critical to performing at our best – it frees our mind to be creative and efficient.
I hope this straightforward exercise will help you to focus on the right things, but I would love to hear if you have any tips that really help you to reduce overwhelm – the community would benefit from your experience.
So, let’s hear them!