Are you going about your day feeling completely overwhelmed, thinking about all the things you need to do and want to do and feeling like you have accomplished so little? Are you feeling that you are not getting things done that way you should? The way you want to?
Let me tell you something about getting overwhelmed that you absolutely need to know- it is totally not your fault. Modern life is so demanding, we are constantly wired, constantly connected, we all try to do too much, and we all suffer from stress one way or another as a result. Did you know that a recent American Psychological Association survey found that 3 out of 4 Americans report experiencing at least one stress symptom in the last month. 45 percent report lying awake at night, 36 percent report feeling nervous or anxious, 35 percent report irritability or anger, and 34 percent report fatigue due to stress.
No more! Not you! You deserve to be less stressed out. You deserve to be focused. You deserve to get what you want done. There are simple ways to do that, and I would like to share them with you.
Here are three immediate steps that you can take right now in order to regain control and stop feeling overwhelmed:
Step 1: Stop Multitasking. I Mean It. Now.
Sometimes when I talk to people about how to stop multitasking, they tell me that they are not sure that they even want to stop. It sounds something like:
“Why would I want to stop? It’s way more productive, and everyone on my team does it! I wouldn’t even know how to stop, and I would just get behind.”
Unfortunately, multitasking is one of the most damaging myths when it comes to productivity.
Multitasking creates an illusion of productivity, rather than actually being productive.
Researchers call the process that happens in the multitasking brain ‘task switching’. This is how it works: You are focused on one thing, then a distraction comes along that acts as a signal to switch tasks. You have a few milliseconds of delay in brain activity, then reorient yourself to the new task.
Not only does task switching require so much more mental energy than simple focus, but it also prolongs the time it takes to complete either task.
Researchers believe that we lose almost a third of our workday to the half-focus created by task switching.
Out of an average workday of eight hours, that’s over two and a half hours, every day. This leaves a pile of half-done tasks waiting for our attention.
Not only that, but multitasking creates mistakes and messes.
It is time to put a stop to mixing being busy with being productive. It is time to go back to doing one thing at a time. Repeat this to yourself as a mantra: “one thing at a time”. Stay focused. Stay productive. This is the right way to do it. Remember one thing at a time.
Step 2: Make Yourself Uninterruptible
You are trying to get things done when you get interrupted… again.
It seems like the 50th time today, that you have been interrupted while trying to get your work completed.
So here is the most common mistake when it comes to interruptions:
you may think that most of your interruptions are beyond your control.
After all, how can you control that one annoying co-worker always stopping by to gossip? Or you can control the loud person in the next cubicle that hums all day long? What about your mother-in-law calling you just when you need to get things done around the house?
Here is the truth: many of the interruptions at work and at home can be prevented or avoided altogether.
The unexpected fire drill may be beyond your control. However, many other interruptions are completely preventable.
Here is what you need to do in order to block interruptions right now:
- Turn off the notifications – No ringing, no chiming, no pop-ups on your phone or computer. Turn those off and make room for some well-needed focus.
- Avoid the gossip – Gossiping can waste hours of your day. And how many times are you going to tell the same story over and over? Avoid it. These are pointless time and energy wasters that you really don’t need.
- Physically isolate yourself – If you feel that you can’t get work done, find a quiet place and close the door, go work or do things in a way that will not allow anyone to interrupt you. You will be back after you can some things done. It is a legit and very helpful thing to do, don’t feel guilty.
- Wean yourself off of social media- A new study has concluded that social media, along with television and video games, are not only a huge part of the average American’s life but are responsible for thousands of wasted hours. The study found that the internet user of today (2019) spends an average of 2 hours and 22 minutes socializing online a day. Now I am not telling you to not socialize online. That would be extreme. But that time can be cut shorter and should definitely be pushed away from your most productive hours and not interfere with them. In other words: stop checking your Instagram in the middle of your workday. Believe me, it can wait. If you are tempted (again) to go on your social media in the middle of your workday- tell yourself- 2 hours and 22 minutes. Just as a reminder of how these lost minutes add up.
Step 3: Make a DO NOT DO List
Do-not-do lists are more effective than to-do lists in creating focus and clarity. Here is the reason: do not do lists define and eliminate your distractions and bad habits. A do-not-do list is a list of tasks you simply don’t do, no matter what. You delete them, delegate them, outsource them or simply say no when they try to find their way on your to-do list. A very well thought out not-to-do list should help you to focus better and to only perform tasks that have the biggest impact on your productivity and success.
Here is what a do not do list may look like:
- Scrolling through my social media newsfeed as a must-do every morning
- Hanging out with people I don’t really like or care about
- Creating productivity-themed music playlists, instead of actually being productive
- Keeping hundreds of emails in my inbox instead of deleting them or putting them in folders
Getting overwhelmed is not about what is on your plate. Getting overwhelmed is about how you manage your most important project- you. If you feel overwhelmed, take these three steps today. You will feel that you are regaining control, you will be more calm and productive and you will feel better. You can get things under control. Start today.