1 Stop thinking about how overwhelmed you are.
Chill. Take a second, slow your mind down. Say a prayer. Do what you have to to not cry, storm out of the building, or hide yourself in the bathroom until lunchtime. When we spend time agonizing over our stress or massive to-do list, we just work ourselves up, and that leaves us with the feeling of not knowing where to begin. Instead…
2 Break it down!
Make a lists and lists and lists. If you’re old fashioned and like writing things down on a piece of paper for the love of crossing something off your list, then grab a pen and paper and get to it! If you’re a bit more techy and like your list to follow you wherever you go, I have two really great apps that I use to stay organized. One is called Trello where you can create boards with lists and checklists of things to do with due dates and all that organized crap! I have boards titled “Today,” “This week,” “This Month,” and “Eventually.” I’ve also worked with my supervisor to create a board with a daily checklist for all the routine tasks that I need to accomplish during the week. This was amazingly helpful as I first began working in my office and is still a great reminder today.
Another WONDERFULLy helpful app is Google Keep. I use this on my phone and desktop DAILY. I create shopping lists, write notes, make voice recordings, and add pictures to my notes or lists. You can set reminders by date/time OR by location! For example, if I’m out and I know that I’m probably going to forget to preheat the oven right when I get home (but I’m not sure when I’ll be home) then I’ll add a location reminder so that as soon as I pull in the driveway, “Preheat the oven!” pops up on my phone. Pretty nifty, right?
3 Clean up your work space!
If you have papers shrewn all over your desk and have 1000 tabs open in your internet browser, you ARE going to feel like you have no idea where to begin. Instead, create a few new folders on your desktop, then create sub folders. Name your files so that they are searchable. Grab a couple of file folders and label those too. Do what you have to to clear your space. Trust me, the more organized you are, the less you have to remember!
Ever think that the task you’re doing should really be someone’s job? Well sometimes, it actually is! Delegation can sometimes be a hard skill to learn, especially for those with a “If you want it done right you better do it yourself!” mindset. Allow yourself to let go of a couple of small tasks that you can trust someone else to handle and then report back to you once those things are done. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with how much you can get done in those few extra minutes.
5 Do your most important tasks first thing in the morning.
One of the biggest mistakes I make when I get to work in the morning is to immediately sit down and begin checking my inbox. I can easily spend a couple hours or so checking and responding to the emails that have piled up since yesterday afternoon. Studies show that the typical most productive time of the day is the first few hours in the morning and we’d simply be wasting those precious focus hours if we only spent that time reading emails. Instead, use this time to knock out a couple of those tasks that really require attention to detail and focus which can sometimes be hard to come by after lunch when we’re thinking of how long until we can go home.
6 Figure out what distracts you.
My super power is not noticing annoying sounds. Pretty cool, right? Most of the time I have no idea that the neighbor’s dog is barking or the faucet is dripping until someone else says something about it. Most people aren’t so lucky. It can be so frustrating when you know exactly what you need to do before 4:00 pm, you just can’t get your mind to work for you. For some people, listening to instrumental music helps them focus. Some need absolute silence. My advice is, when you find yourself distracted or unable to focus, try to call out what’s distracting you and remove it. Seems too simple but most of the time we just try to power through distractions which can make us end up taking twice as long to finish one task.
7 Tackle two little things, and then one big thing.
I know that in my job especially, the little things tend to add up- quickly. There is no way I can leave them all until the end of the day, because then I would still have hours of work to do. But on the other hand, I can’t tackle all the little things in the beginning of the day for the same reason. This is how I like to break things up: storm through 2 little things (i.e emails, phone calls, placing an order, whatever is “little” to your job) and then tackle one big task. This will ensure that you are plugging through your day without leaving any task- big or small- behind.
8 No matter how tempting, don’t let work spill over into your personal/family time.
Go home when the work day is done. When you’re at work, be at work. When you’re home, be home. If you come home and all you can talk about, think about, and do is work, then you’re bound to become overwhelmed. I sometimes get anxious about stopping my work because I may not remember where it needs to be picked up again in the morning. If that’s the case with you, make a list for your next moring with the most pressing task first. If you have your work email connected to your phone, turn off notifications while you’re with family. If absolutely necessary, take one night a week to catch up on extra things from work that you didn’t accomplish in the office. Communicate this to your spouse/family beforehand to minimize distractions and to let them know you are feeling overwhelmed lately and having this one night would help you lighten your workload for the rest of the week. But again, only do this if it’s absolutely necessary and if you feel like it would really help to take the load off your back.
Let me know what focus tips you would add to this list!