In today’s professional setting, balancing work can be quite challenging. With all that is on our plate, including having to meet deadlines, complete large projects, meet quotas, the stress and anxiety can be significant. At times, I find myself overwhelmed and consumed by the tasks at hand and think “where do I even begin?”
I couldn't deal with these challenges by flying by the seat of my pants, so I came up with a few key concepts. These allow me to stay organized and focused on what needs to be done. This works for me, but even if just one concept here works for you, it could make a big difference in your day!
Work keeps piling up. This is especially the case if unexpected meetings arise or if you are out on vacation, for instance. Trying to get caught up seems impossible.
I have found the first step to balancing that workload is to prioritize what is most important. You want to figure out what needs to be addressed, separating these tasks from the less pressing ones. Every day, I prefer to go through all my emails along with meetings to understand what is most important. I ensure that I have everything prepared and prioritized regarding what needs to be addressed first. If there are tasks that you can push out, even pushing them back an hour or a day can free up time to ensure that you are able to get to the most important items.
I find that being off for even a day, I come back to an overloaded inbox and stacked meetings. At times I have said to myself, “it would be easier to have just worked and not taken off”. While you might have been able to keep up with work, you need time to unwind and collect yourself.
What has helped me the most is “chipping away” at your task list. I like to call it “attacking low hanging fruit” where there are items that can be quickly addressed. This makes you feel accomplished as you are moving forward and accomplishing small things that add up. Think of it this way, making your bed in the morning. It’s a small task but it gets the day rolling and makes you feel that you can accomplish more that day. What is the difference in your work life? Chip away at your emails, meetings, projects and do a little more and more as the day progresses and before you know it, you will be caught up!
This topic is probably the hardest one to live by, but conceptually the easiest to do. Dedicate time to important tasks and projects so you are focused and able to complete them. Too many times people will rush through something then go to present it and find errors. Or maybe their thoughts are incomplete, or their point is not accurately portrayed. Dedicating time will allow you to be prepared and have the time to think through what you are doing and even offer up better solutions. I find myself blocking off “busy” time on my calendar. This is not dedicated to one specific meeting, but to open time that allows me to dedicate that time where it’s needed.
Easier said than done, I know. The key here is to realize that stress will only make what you are doing harder. If you are following the previous steps, not stressing should come naturally. One thing I have found to be true, even if something goes terribly wrong, is that tomorrow is a new day and it's not the end of the world. Have a positive outlook and focus on what is at hand and what YOU can control. There are a million articles out there offering up tips to relieve stress. Use these resources. I like to live by a mindset of “it's not worth it to stress” so even if I stress at times, I don’t let it control me and I don’t live my life being stressed.
These four concepts have made a huge difference in how I maintain a balancing act. I hope they can help you too. When you are faced with a feeling of being overwhelmed at work: prioritize, chip away, dedicate time and, most of all, don't stress!