The holiday season is fast approaching, and schedules are getting complicated. It’s stressful out there. I can almost feel the stress in the air.
Have you ever noticed that when things get complicated, we resist the natural tendency to simplify?
The holidays add even more to an already jam-packed to-do list.
When faced with too much to do we just do more – faster. Who needs sleep, we rationalize.
I wrote about that in my last post about stress survival strategies that backfire.
What works better? Just return to the basics. Stop. Think. Breathe. Slow the heck down and do what matters most, first.
I know, I know, it’s not as easy as it sounds.
On the hunch that this is a particularly busy season for you, I thought I would share a quick three step game plan to keep from becoming overwhelmed and managing your stress. It’s not complicated. It’s not even difficult. It works.
Ready? Here it is Prioritize-Focus-Regroup.
I am always amazed, and just a wee bit impressed when people can clear the decks to make room for a nasty bout of strep throat or an emergency when they have struggled to manage a million priorities before the crisis hit.
It means they have the ability to make tough choices when they are forced to make them. You don’t have to wait for your appendix to burst to get to a more manageable schedule. You have to be willing to get to get clear on your priorities and stick them.
How would you answer these two questions?
- What are the top three areas where you need to invest your time and energy to feel successful and balanced at home this holiday season?
- What are the top three areas where you need to invest your time and energy to feel successful and balanced at work this holiday season?
Write your answers down and put them someplace prominent, where you will see them every day. These six points are your like lighthouses flashing on a distant shore. They will bring you to safety in the storm. They will lead you through the fog. When faced with a tsunami of tasks typical of this season, they will be your solid ground for figuring out what to do next.
And what to do next, is prioritize. A lot.
Whenever you are about to dive into a chore, errand, meeting, conference call or conversation, be sure to consider whether it falls into one of your top six priorities. Then, drill down a bit. Take a hard look at the task. Do you own it? Is it your issue to solve? Does it fall within your personal or professional list of responsibilities?
We so often head off down that well-intentioned path of taking on things that do not belong to us. Leaders who micro-manage instead of investing in developing strong performers on their teams are over-loading their days by taking on things that other people own.
If the task is truly yours, look a little deeper before you get busy with it. Sometimes things pop up that seem to be of the ‘drop everything and do it’ variety.
Rather than jumping into high gear because something looks like a five-alarm blaze, stop and take a breath. Is it critical? If it is, do it. Better yet, delegate it. If you do own everything and everything is critical, it’s time to re-assess your structure. In the meantime, if you’ve determined that this task is significant to the health of your career or your home life, it’s time for the next success strategy.
There has never been more technology competing for our time and attention than there is today. Researchers are madly collecting and analyzing data on the impact of this mammoth level of distraction on the collective psyche.
How much digital noise can you take? Everybody is different, but I can guarantee you that all but the most disciplined among us can relate to getting sucked into the vortex of mindless techno-diversion from time to time.
What are you consistently not getting to because you are pulled away by distractions? What is on your mental ‘to do’ list that is so critical, you will eventually pull a college dorm style all-nighter to get it done?
Whether it’s writing reports, making sales calls or having a tough conversation, if it’s worth moving heaven and earth to get it done at three o’clock in the morning, it deserves your devotion at three o’clock in the afternoon.
So, pick a priority task and dedicate yourself to it at the exclusion of everything else. Even if it’s only for ten or twenty minutes, you will see results – fast.
The stress reduction strategies you put in place today may need to be tinkered with next week to align things again. At the end of every week and the end of each day, take stock of how your endeavors to get control of your stress have worked for you.
Do you feel less overwhelmed? Did you take a serious bite out of some of your most critical priorities? Did you get some sleep? Exercise? Eat some vegetables? Spend time with your family? Seriously dig into something that is a top priority for you?
If you can’t say yes, then what you are doing isn’t working.
Change it up. Regroup. Make a fresh start and try again. If you are like most of us, the landscape changes every day you’ll need to change your approach too. In reality, the holidays are like every day. Too much to do and not enough time to do it all. Stick with what’s important – to you.
That’s it. That’s all!
Here are a few resources I recommend if you would like to dig deeper on the matter:
Single-Tasking: Get More Done One Thing at a Time by Devora Zack
Wait, before you go – was this post helpful for you? Leave a comment below – I’d love to hear from you!!
Author: Cathy Shaughnessy
Cathy Shaughnessy is a PRISM award-winning ICF Master Certified Coach and author of the book series The Really Competent Coach. Cathy coaches senior leaders, mentors credentialed coaches, trains fledgeling coaches and helps organizations build strong coaching cultures. Cathy recommends lots of great tools for coaches. You can find them here.