Yes, I know you’ve been there. Those times when you have a lot of work that needs to get done but this overwhelming feeling to give up or move it to the side slowly creeps into your mind.
I was at work the other day, and my boss came in and gave me a “small task” that needed to be completed by the end of the day. Since I did not really have a choice, I graciously accepted the responsibilities.
After briefly looking over the paperwork, I quickly realized that this was no “small task.” This easy job turned into something that required a lot of time, steps, energy, and focus. In addition to this wonderful new item to tackle, I also had a huge project that was due that day–with no way to postpone it.
I wanted to run out of the office and go home and crawl under my bed sheets. My day just went from being stressed to becoming insane.
What the heck was I going to do?
Naturally, I did what anyone else would; I went on Facebook for a bit. I walked around the office randomly chatting to people. You know, anything but what had to get done.
Before I knew it, it was lunchtime. I started to panic. Where did the past few hours go? The funny thing is that the more stressed I became, the more I wanted to surf the web or do something that would take my mind off the panic and enable me to forget about all the work that needed to get done.
Seriously, I even entertained the idea of playing paper football with my co-worker.
My boss came in on his way out to lunch asking how the progress was, ”coming along nicely. It’ll be done by the end of the day.” Of course, that’s what I said.
While I did not know how things were going to get done, and honestly a small part of me, that scared part, didn’t care, one thing was for sure – I needed a plan. I needed to strategize. I needed my 9th hour sooner than I normally had it (after work).
I took a deep breath and grabbed a notepad.
Let’s get started.
I repeated a mantra, “You can do this. You’re capable of doing what’s needed.”
I literally wrote it at the top of the page.
See, I know, but can easily forget, that when the feeling of giving up or a feeling of being overwhelmed creeps in, it is usually because I am scared and under prepared. My conscious tries to protect me and attempts to make me fill my time doing other things, like watching youtube videos. The best way to ease the mind and make myself feel better is to prove that I have things under control.
Thus, before getting started, I needed to address these concerns.
For me in this situation, I had to make a list of all the things I needed to get done. I find it works best to visually see how many steps something will take to complete.
A little tip I learned that seems to make things more manageable: I take the step I’m working on, write it on a post-it and put it on my computer. It sits there staring at me, and I back at it, until I’m able to rip it down and throw it away (the act of doing that makes me feel accomplished).
I do this repeatedly until all steps are done. I find that it helps to stay focused on just one aspect of a job vs. the entire thing. This way the stress levels go down. It’s like the saying, “every journey begins with a single step.” The point is to take the journey focusing on one step at a time. If we only focus on that, we will never feel overwhelmed and coincidently we will feel good, because we’re constantly making progress!
So, I created an outline that looked something like this:
Task needed to complete job:
- a. Call John Doe
- b. Rewrite highlighted paragraphs
- c. Get accounting to send up-to-date figures
- d. Unbind and reconfigure with new information
- e. Scan all pages into server
- f. Rebind and give to Jane Doe to approve
- g. Once approved, give to boss
Okay, so the basic outline of tasks needed to complete are in front of me. Now, to break each one down so I know exactly what each step needs
1. Call John Doe
- a. Find info, who this person is, and how to reach them.
- b. Call and ask questions
- 1a. Question 1
- 1b. Question 2
I then did the same with each of the tasks. When I was finished, I had a complete outline of what was needed. Many people might say, hey Miles, just dive in, you are wasting time! However, it wasn’t until I started to focus on each task that I found what I needed, e.g., what question to ask John Doe.
The time I spend creating the outline relieved a lot of stress and made me feel somewhat accomplished (progress!). That gave me the boost I needed. Now, I could work hard and most importantly, work efficiently. Everything was now manageable and easily dissected to succeed.
Now some things to mention.
In times where you feel there is just too much on your plate, there is one main thing to remember: strategy.
Think of it like this. Let us say I approach you and informed you that I have two projects that need to be completed. Project X and Project Y.
Project X would be given to you like my boss gave it to me, just slapped on your desk. However, project Y is accompanied with an outline, a step-by-step list of things that need to get done and how to do them.
Which would you choose?
I’m fully confident that most would choose project Y.
We feel better about taking something that comes with directions. With some type of outline in place, the feelings of giving up, running from it, and fear all seem to either not exist or are at such low levels we could argue it’s more of an acknowledgment rather than a hindrance.
Therefore, with everything in life, we need to turn everything into project Y. We need to plan and create a strategy that will make things manageable.
We need to remember that our perception is key to our feelings. If we perceive difficulty, that is exactly what we will be faced with and we’ll naturally tend to move away from it and let all negative emotions and excuses enter our mind. However, if we deduct those feelings by planning and being truthful to the work that is required to finish the task, we strip all negativity of its powers. With that, our perception changes to a positive outlook and we are destined to see accomplishments. When we experience that, it’s the greatest feeling in the world.
For example, have you ever been so wrapped up in a project that when you look up at the clock hours had flown by? No negative thoughts had entered your mind and you feel good about yourself for what you realized you had done.
We must always actively pursue these moments.
The reason for this feeling is that you had a plan and were systematically executing it, step-by-step. Granted you may not have known it, this is what was happening. This is mostly done unconsciously on task we thoroughly enjoy, but what about the ones we don’t?
It is estimated that 80% of people do not feel their day job is their passion. I’m inclined to think that of the 20% who say it is their passion, 7-10% have trained themselves to think that way. Not that this is a bad thing, but what that does mean is that there is, at most, 90% of the world that feels the same way you do.
Even if we take my hypotheses and throw it away, there is 20% of the world that is or believes they are living their passion. Thus, the goal of life should be to enter that 20%.
One key way to do that is to try to eliminate all negative stigmas that are associated with your job. A big help is to strategize. To break everything you do down into small steps. To view life in small increments instead of a big picture.
♦ I want to note that it is good to know where you’re going, but once you have the idea, only focus on what is in front of you, the path you create will lead to your destination.
Try it for one week if you’re not convinced. Break everything down and create steps to tasks at your job that need to be completed. Only focus on one step at a time and not on the totality of the project, see how things flow.