For well over a decade, I’ve had the good fortune to work with overwhelmed, overworked, distressed and distracted business people (some of the best minds in finance, media, real estate, you name it — resumes a mile long and multiple degrees from Ivy League schools) who tell me that they’re stuck in an endless loop of accumulation without relief; literally hundreds of people, each unique in their strengths and personalities, but all alike in their desire to succeed and fear of the obstacle course that stretches out before them day after day.
Throughout this time, I’ve learned so much about what plagues them, what causes pain. And by listening to their stories and working to implement solutions, I’ve been able to learn a few things about what’s really going on underneath that perpetual mound of unfinished paperwork, email overload, incessant daily interruptions and overloaded circuits.
They say that fear of being perceived as weak or incompetent is what keeps them awake at night. Their fires are stoked by anxiety where passion once was. They become panicky, frustrated, exhausted, and often physically ill. They feel they can’t ever finish anything, they have to keep postponing major decisions, they get sidetracked by the mounting tide of smaller jobs, and they never have that feeling of completeness that signals the end of a job well done.
It's exhausting just reading this, isn't it?
I see so many of us today, drowning underneath a tsunami of information, a wall of unfinished tasks. There was actually a time (and I am grateful I lived at that time) when there was literally a beginning and end to the workday. Imagine such a thing! Now, feeling distracted and overburdened is the average experience of the average worker, or as I like to say "You don't have to be ADD to feel like it these days."
If this is striking a chord with you, I want to make something very clear to you up front: You are not alone.
Freddie, a real estate executive I once helped, came to me totally flabbergasted by his workload. He was qualified, confident, and a wonderful employee. But he had absolutely no idea where to begin when he sat down for the day. He told me that each day was like the worst day of his life, as the pile of tasks mounted higher and higher, and he could do nothing to stop it. When he went on to tell me that he has 3,000 emails in his inbox, I assured him that he was not alone, and there was a way up and out. He told me that he spends hours every night answering emails and texts that accumulate during the day instead of eating dinner with his family or going on vacation. He said he felt his life slipping away before his eyes, all to the tune of a dizzying inbox.
The fact of the matter is that there’s only so much time in the day, and each of us is only one person. Time is a commodity, and it is FINITE. We have only one mind, one mouth and two hands. We cannot, no matter how hard we try, be all things to all people or operate as a one-size-fits-all crisis manager in every situation. In the business world being perceived as weak, slow, or incompetent is never a good thing. The problem is not that you are any of these things but if, for example, you are spending 70% of an average day in meetings (that other people are scheduling on your calendar), it is quite challenging to get anything done.
So what can we do?
I believe that it is incumbent upon each of us individually to find our own solutions. Unfortunately people ... the tsunami isn't stopping anytime soon as far as I can see.
So we have to get really good at:
- Saying NO in order to manage incessant interruptions (it's called boundaries)
- Communicating effectively with colleagues and bosses
- Managing my calendar and coordinating it with my To Do list
- Learning how to prioritize
- Taking time every day to plan and make decisions about the reality of what I can get done vs. what I think I can get done
Simple, yes. Always easy, no.
My hope is that you’ll be able to not only see the light at the end of the tunnel, but know that it exists and move towards it.
If you identify or know anyone who might, feel free to reach out for a complimentary conversation. I am known for laser focused results and can promise that you will be glad you took the action! You don't have to live with the stress of the tsunami for one more day unless, of course, you choose to.
Take a simple action now that you have been putting off. Just one. It just might change everything.
Warmly, Coach Nancy