I’m not going to lie – I’m feeling overwhelmed right now.
The start of the year is always busy with tax and VAT returns, and new annual contracts. Then there’s chasing up all the things that didn’t get done in the pre-Christmas craziness.
On top of that, I’ve got two major new projects at work, and I’ve taken on a couple of professional courses. Oh, and there’s the teeny matter of single parenting a busy 11-year-old.
When you’re a single parent, the toughest thing is having nobody to hand over to. Running your own business is, I’m realising, just the same. When things get super busy, you just have to find more time, because there is nobody else. It’s tough.
Just to be clear – I do realise I have a great job, and I’m fortunate to be able to earn a living doing something I enjoy.
But I don’t enjoy feeling overwhelmed. I feel stressed, and run down. Mentally, I don’t perform well. When I’m overwhelmed, I can easily waste a whole morning panicking and not getting anything done.
I start reading an email and need to look up some information to respond. But then I spot a Facebook thread that needs attending to. Or I see a post on Facebook that I need to share with a client… is it just me? There’s so much to do, my brain seizes up, and I do nothing.
This past week or so, though, I’ve been in the office solo and working on my techniques to GET SH!T DONE. So in case you’re a mental flapper like me, here are 5 top tips for getting things done when you’re overwhelmed.
1 – Make a List
There’s something about the action of writing a list that helps me to focus. We have a whiteboard in the office with a daily task list, but I also find a blank page in my notebook, write the day at the top of the page, and do a list, so I can cross items off. As a bonus, this is a valid reason to buy new stationery.
2 – Start Simple, then Go Hard
Mentally, I’m like a small puppy, in that I’m motivated by rewards. So I’ll start my day with one of the easiest jobs on my list – usually sending out new opportunities to bloggers via the website. It takes just a couple of minutes but means I can tick off a couple of items on my list in minutes. Feeling I’ve done something productive for a client makes me happy.
Once I’ve done that I’m a lot more inclined to focus on something trickier, so I’ll take on the hardest job on my list, while I’m still mentally sharp, and the coffee on my desk hasn’t gone cold yet.
3 – Organise your Email
When I’m trying to focus, the thing that’s most likely to derail me is email. Always. You can waste so much time flicking through emails, thinking, “I’ll get to that later,” or “I know what I’ll say to that.”
Firstly, I use auto-responses to reply to emails. This saves me typing the same thing over and over. On a PC you can do this in QuickParts, on a Mac, I use template signatures.
I spent some time last week updating my auto-replies to add some new responses to my repertoire. This now means I can easily reply to common emails about media packs, payments and the like.
Second, I am ruthless about having a one-touch policy for email. This means if you open an email you must deal with it right there and then. Reply to it, forward it, file it – and don’t move on until it’s done. This feels like a hassle but overall saves so much time! Try it and you’ll be a convert.
4 – Make a Social Media Routine
Like everyone, I can easily fall down a Facebook rabbit hole and be lost for an entire morning if I’m not careful. What I have found is that scheduling content makes it a lot easier for me to resist the lure of social media when I’m working.
Since using Buffer to schedule Twitter content, for example, I am perfectly able to keep my social Twitter use to mornings and evenings. Similarly, I have two evenings a week when I know I’m editing and scheduling YouTube content, so I have less reason to go onto YouTube on other days.
With Facebook, I have separate accounts for work and personal so that if I’m working, I’m logged into my “work” account and don’t see tags from friends and family.
It’s not perfect, but it helps.
5 – Take Time to Exercise
Maybe it’s just me but as I get older I’m physically more affected by stress. My heart pounds, my head aches, I don’t sleep well. It’s not good.
When I feel like this, I can’t tell you how hard it is to persuade myself to get to the pool. Besides, who’s got time when I’ve got 20 things to do as soon as I get to work in the morning?
But honestly, the hour it takes me to get changed, swim, shower and get to work? Invaluable. For 30 minutes I can’t focus on anything other than my swimming stroke, and the sound of the music on my walkman. Afterwards, I feel mentally more alert, and physically more relaxed.
I hope these tips help next time you’re over-worked and overwhelmed. Do you have your own tips that work for you?