Tips to manage the tsunami and stay on top of your game!
I feel compelled to talk about ADHD (which I'll use interchangeably with ADD) and how we as adults are impacted at work. Why? Because all of my clients are adults who are challenged and struggling with the onslaught, and I don't believe that enough of us are talking about/dealing head on with this.
ADHD is often unrecognized and/or not accepted or tolerated in corporate America and wreaking havoc in the workplace today from the mailroom to the boardroom. Think about unexplained absences, difficulty carrying out assigned tasks or inconsistent performance and follow through. It is costing billions of dollars annually in lost income, lost productivity, medical costs and retraining. So whether you are a CEO, HR professional, small business owner, hedge fund manager, VP of Sales, Harvard MBA or just plain working for/with/around an ADD boss, manager or employee, chances are you are behaviorally dealing with the consequences of ADHD at work in yourself or someone you work with. Amazing as it is, nearly 12 million people don't even know they have ADHD. One of them may work for you. Or, one of them MAY BE YOU!
It is no secret. The onslaught of responsibilities, information, distractions and ongoing interruptions puts us as ADD Adults in a particularly vulnerable, challenging and precarious spot.
Why? Because work life is becoming increasingly faster, as competing demands are escalating at a dizzying paces, tolerance levels for error are zero, and expectations to efficiently and masterfully execute so many tasks simultaneously are the norm. As a result, many of us are feeling out of control, stressed to the max, scattered, anxious, and not particularly competent or effective in the jobs we are doing. We are being stretched beyond what we are capable of stretching (or comfortably, that is). Most of our time is spent just trying to catch up and get organized or cross things off of the never-ending To-Do list, when we haven’t yet quite mastered the skills required to do it on a basic level in the first place. This is often stressing a system whose internal structure isn’t “built” to contain the pressure. Having said all of that, fortunately or unfortunately, the work environment isn’t going to conform to our needs any time soon. We will each have to take responsibility in the midst of the storm.
Why are we, in particular, at risk? Our natural tendencies and inclinations have always been to be impulsive amidst the external swirl of information and demands placed on us at work. We often move at a lightning fast pace, not even stopping to think or consider the fact that the human brain simply does not have the bandwidth to process the data points bombarding it every single second. So we get highly distracted and don’t show up on time. Or we get fired because we get too overwhelmed to do what we have to do on the job. We are naturally like magnets attracting information, new ideas, people, places and endless possibilities and unlike magnets in that we have a hard time sticking or completing. The fact is that for a non-ADD person, modern life is challenging at best. But for those of us who are dealing with ADD traits and tendencies on top of it, the overwhelm is magnified exponentially and the potential consequences that much greater.
So what are we going to do about all of this? The answer is simple but not easy. Every one of us has to figure out what works for himself/herself. It is an individualized approach, and at the end of the day, it all boils down to one thing (in my experience of hundreds of hours spent coaching business professionals over the past 10 years). And that is, having the organizational skills in place to manage time and task. Sometimes it manifests in email (I have had clients with 3,000 and no clue how to even begin to make sense of it) to those with no calendar/planner or clue as to how to use one, to To-Do lists with 85-185 things on it on any given day. Many of us don’t realize that until we learn the skills required to get organized and stay organized, the probability of not being overwhelmed and feeling out of control is slim to none. Even though we have different degrees of challenge, we also experience many of the same challenges, and the good news is that the solutions are universal as well!
5 Simple Tips for Starting to Manage the Tsunami
You literally have to PLAN (pause) to PLAN: you can’t plan on the fly. You need to STOP amidst the external/internal swirl of information to designate an appointment on your calendar for when you are going to plan and commit to it as if it was a meeting with your boss (except you are the boss).
Always note due dates and time sensitivities first when looking at an overwhelming To-Do list and deciding what to do next. That is what you do first. Duh! It will then become clear as to where you will start and what steps you need to take next and after that and after that.
Once you have mapped out all of the tasks, you will have an idea of how long any given project should take. Remember to add the x factor (it will probably take at least 25% more time than you think you need). And remember: before you leave one task, even if it isn’t completed, think of what the next step will be when you get back to it.
Routinely make/consolidate lists of what you have to do (in no order). The key is to consolidate them into ONE so as not to have forty lists and sticky notes all over the place. From there, you can more easily start to break things down into small steps and ask yourself “When am I going to do XY or Z”? At least you see the whole landscape.
Never ever leave home without your calendar! This means actually looking at it every day and using it as if it were a living document. It will become your best friend and source of peace of mind, and most importantly, the first step to having a productive, purposeful life is really developing the ability to routinely STOP, THINK and THINK THROUGH.
Bottom line is: the tsunami isn't stopping anytime soon as far as I can tell.
We are each responsible for our own intervention and making the small, simple (not always easy) changes that will yield big dividends in the productivity department.