Like you I have a tendency to fill my plate up. A lot. I can pile on commitments with the best of them.
But also like you I can feel overwhelmed at times and wonder how it will all get done. Here then some lessons then from life along the way.
- Priorities – No doubt you've seen time management systems for rating projects and emails, A, B, C and so forth, or those cute symbols you draw to remind yourself whats really important. Here's a secret – few of are are disciplined (anal?) enough to do this. Fugettaboutit. You need a much simpler rubric: does this matter or not? You'll find the more you ask that question the less you'll waste time on the 80% of stuff that doesn't matter.
- Distractions – A true vata I can be distracted by something as simple as the wind: I lose concentration. Do what prolific (and fine) author Carl Hiaasen does: remove all distractions. Don't face the open window, turn SoMe off (gasp!), keep phones and email away and you will find you can concentrate easily. For home office workers, protect your “work” space so when you're at work – you're at work.
- Interruptions – This is tough in an open environment. Emerging research shows the “open” concept not only doesn't drive collaboration, it actually hurts creativity. So much for your loft office. Open or not people often interrupt us in the workplace. The solution: training. Discourage the needless interruption – ideas that can wait were meant for email. Asking if you “saw my email” is stupid: stop that. Don't look up, don't feign interest and soon these attention-seekers wander elsewhere. Train others to let you work.
- Focus – As I often tweet, focus wins. I tweet that because it's true. What are you focused on? What must you do today? Start with that. Turns out most of us really have only one or two things that have to be done today: do those. First. And stay after the things that matter – they are constant and you should be too. Focus on the important things in your day, and while you're at it include telling the people you love you love them. That's pretty important too.
- Breathe – It took me a long time to learn I am my own worst enemy. To-do lists, double-bookings, red-eye flights – I was the king of squeezing more into a 24-hour day. And I looked and felt like it. Somewhere along the way I discovered the art of making time for me. A long walk with Chewy in the morning. Coffee on the porch at the crack of dawn. Simply enjoying the beautiful sky or the laughter of little kids as I walk past the school. Breathe. Come out of yourself. Put down your planner for five minutes. It will be alright.
We are so hard on ourselves adding more and more to our to-do lists and then berating ourselves psychically for not getting it all done. Stop that. Stop being so hard on yourself.
Focus on what really matters and give yourself a clean sweep of guilt and negative self-talk for not getting it all done. Because here's the truth: we don't care about “it.”
We care about you.