Feeling Overwhelmed? Plan To Plug The Brain-Drain
By Hazel Bernez
Regardless of where you work, be it a traditional office space or a virtual office, feeling overwhelmed by your job is a common stress that warrants addressing. For those who share their home space with their office, some might even argue that with their office just a couch, or the kitchen table away, these folks are prone to feeling overwhelmed as the job is never far from hand. No matter where your workday finds you, here are some tips that may help keep your head in the game:
- Get out! No, not the movie – although that will definitely give a completely different perspective on being stressed! Take a break and, best of all, get outside, just for a moment; your tired brain will thank you. If you absolutely are unable to get outdoors, then at the very least, walk away from your desk for 10 – 12 minutes to:
- make some phone calls and walk/stretch as you talk;
- get a non-sugary snack; or
- do some gentle weight-shifting exercises.
- Silence is golden! Mute all of those attention-grabbing dings, swishes, swooshes, or drum-beat notifications and alerts your various devices make each time someone or something is trying to get you to “notice me - now!” This is a really simple way to calm your mind and it doesn’t have to be for the whole day; just turn off and tune inwards for even an hour at a time to see if this can help you focus.
- Talk to a colleague – by phone or best, in-person. Try not to talk about work, but if you must, then swap good-things-that-happened-to-me-recently stories. The positivity is infectious and provides a boost of optimistic energy for when you return to your desk.
- Keep your mind centred on things you control versus things you influence. It’s easy to want to control everything around you, but that’s probably at the root of the added stress you feel. Become very clear on areas where you make the greatest impact, then do those things first! Issues at the office may all seem to land at your door, but that doesn’t mean you need to open that door! Sometimes it’s good to pretend you’re not home. From behind your curtains, you can simply watch those problems walk themselves to someone else’s front door - someone who can actually do something about it!
- If you truly feel like you’re getting nothing done and the work just keeps piling up, ask for help. You might be surprised to find that there are other people around who are able to take things on. Insight from others might get the job done better, or differently, or in a manner you had never even considered because of your stressed perspective. Asking for help doesn’t mean you’re incapable or inefficient; it just means you recognize your limits and know how to utilise your resources.
- Test against the 1, 2, 3 rules:
- will the task matter or become bigger in 1 day?
- Yes – find a resolution, solve or complete the task, then move on.
- No – then attack an issue that does have a “1” attached to it.
- will the task matter or become bigger in 2 months?
- Yes – if the issue has long term impact, then move it up the priority ladder and deal with it quickly before it grows.
- No – then you are right to leave it alone and reprioritize.
- Will the task matter or become bigger in 3 years?
- Yes – if an issue will adversely affect your life in 3 years, give it attention as soon as possible! These sorts of issues are usually of a personal nature, and generally not work-related. If it is work-related, however, it may have more to do with where you see yourself in 3 years’ time, or your ability to support yourself/your family. Break the issue down and see how each component fits within the 1, 2, 3 rubric – deal with each accordingly.
- No – then this isn’t significant enough to be overwhelmed by today. Ignore!
- will the task matter or become bigger in 1 day?
- For those work-from-home employees, designate one place as your workplace. That way work doesn’t loom from every corner of your home. When you “go to work”, your mindset is ready to do the job rather than having the job beckon you from the bathroom, kitchen countertop, or bedroom. When your workday is over, close the door to your “office” and enjoy the comfort of your home like anybody else would do. Resist the temptation to keep popping back to work.
- Get ready for the next day at the end of the previous day. One popular method for this is the Ivy Lea Method. This exercise forces you to think about prioritizing and is surprisingly effective:
- Write down the 6 (and only 6) most important things to do the following day;
- Prioritize your task list in its real order (see 6 above for a clue on prioritizing);
- When you start work the next day, do task 1 first. When it is complete, go to task 2;
- Follow the task list in order – do not skip any tasks;
- If you don’t get all the tasks completed in one day, move those to the top of the next day’s list;
- Repeat every day.
If you find yourself moving the same tasks each day to a new list, then that may indicate that procrastination is the real culprit to the way you feel. Is this due to anxiety, or from feeling unable to do your job, or from something else? This is a good time to speak with your manager; discuss what’s going on to see if another solution can be uncovered.
Now, it’s time to head outside to get a quick breather before glaring at my task master, oops, working on my task list, for tomorrow!