It’s the end of the day, you have just plopped into your car, couch, or bed and breathe a heavy sigh of relief. Finally. If I had to guess, there’s a pretty good chance that today was one of those days. One of exhaustion, when your head is spinning but it feels like you didn’t make any headway. Chances also are, this was not what you intended for today. Today started with big plans, positive intentions, and lots of gusto.
We all start many days with the eagerness of accomplishment, but work and life does not always play along. And if you are not prepared, stuff will steamroll you. Too many of these days and it’s 6 months later and nothing has changed for you except the date. You had half of those 1-1 conversations with your staff, your jeans still don’t fit right, and progress feels minimal and challenging. In order to keep being a relevant contributor, you need to start with you.
You need to be able to think clearly so you can act intentionally.
How does this happen?
When you start your day, your head is clear, but once you step foot into the waking world…the demands and interruptions begin. Your brain, your head, only has the capacity to handle so much information and only so much demand upon your memory. 4-7 pieces of information actually, before you feel the anxiety pulsing through you, the struggle to keep the overwhelm at bay begins. That is what’s draining you…not that you have a lot to do, but that you are tasking your brain with handling it all. This is a sure way to burnout.
The fix? Getting the thoughts and tasks out of your head into a system.
Now, before you disregard that and think you have one, or that it’s elementary to do so, I challenge you to define what exactly your system is. Is it just living in your head? Adding to the clutter? Trying to make progress but is swallowed by interruptions? Is it even working?
How you can make this better:
Step 1: Create Your Master Project List
Take everything on your plate, out of your head. This can be done by simply putting pen to paper. Or, you can make it look like a masterpiece (one of my clients created a bird on a wire type along a wall in his office, included were time frames and motivational pics, it was beautiful!).
Create it on whatever medium keeps you engaged, something you smile at when you see it. Make it a source of delight! It being visual also provides a prompt, which your brain loves. And it is reassuring…every time you see it, you know that the information is safe and your brain can move on to other things.
Step 2: Find the MIT and Connect the dots
The MIT. The Most Important Thing, accomplishing this will make you feel great, so why not plan on executing that asap? It's probably going to give you the best results and is probably the thing weighing on your mind most. Know what that is so you can jump on it at your first opportunity (perhaps you figure it out the day before?).
You may or may not have heard of chunking, this is exactly that. Group things that go together. If you only list out your tasks on paper and stop there, it’s just a giant to do list! Then, when you do have some time to work, you can’t decide what to do. Too many choices and you become paralyzed. Make categories and start grouping your tasks accordingly (i.e. Financial, Marketing, Personal).
Can you refine this one step further?
Step 3: You chunked tasks, now, chunk time
Urgent, not urgent, deadlines, time consuming or not, etc. Instead of Tuesday morning you read your P/L and Wednesday afternoon is budget, combine the two during a block dedicated to Financials, you get the idea. Your brain will be centered and focus on that topic and results will come quicker, faster, and better.
Step 4: Hold true to your priorities
If you are saying yes and committing to something, that means you have to say no to something else, no one can do everything well. Become comfortable with getting out of the default answer of "yes". Thoughtfully weigh out what’s truly important, what generates results, what creates what you want, and do those. It’s tempting to say yes, that’s the helpful person in you, but just know that sooner or later…this will give way to overwhelm. And you will only be upset with yourself for not keeping on target.
You may disregard a system as worthwhile because “It’s all up here!” But, that’s where it will stay, day after day, exhaustion setting in as you concede defeat because you let the interruptions win. Now that you have a system in place: use it. Dedicate to using it at least for a couple weeks, anything new takes time to adjust and find your stride, allow for a bit of the process.
The whole point is to know this: You do have a say in your day...be still, and be able to be intentional with your time.