As you come into your week, you might find yourself overwhelmed.
Too much on your plate. Too much to do.
Too much email to catch up on.
You find that things are overflowing quickly.
How are you going to catch up?
Overflowing With Todos, Email, and Meetings
As you get to work, you find that your buckets are overflowing.
You know you are behind, and it is an overwhelming feeling.
Maybe it happened while you were out.
Maybe it was a slow, gradual build-up and you didn’t take notice or action.
The email keeps coming, your todo list keeps growing, and your time is already spoken for by too many meetings.
Soon you find that you are treading water to keep up.
And things just keep getting deeper.
Here are just a few of the areas that may be overflowing:
- Email – Email loves to overflow. If only we had a “pause button” to stop more email from coming in.
- Todo List – There is always more to do than there is time. Is your todo list a mile long?
- Calendar – Meetings seem to multiple if left unchecked. Is your time being booked more by others than by yourself?
- Voicemail – Does your voicemail box fill up until it stops accepting new messages?
- Paperwork - Your desk seems to be growing. Or rather, the piles of stuff on it are.
Start Bailing Out
What do you do when all of your buckets are overflowing?
When your ship is filling up with water, it can be tempting to abandon ship.
To leave all the problems behind and walk away from responsibility.
You have probably heard people declare email bankruptcy. Or re-starting their todo list from scratch.
These are extreme tactics and I am not in favor of them. They set dangerous precedents and lead to bad habits.
Before you abandon ship, here are some actions to help you bail out of your overflow:
- Block Time To Catch Up – Block out time specifically for catching up. This is especially important when returning from a break. (Maybe Mondays and all days after a break should be meeting free?)
- Stop Filling It Up - Of course, one of the important things to do when your bucket is overflowing is to stop filling it. Take action to stop the flow that is filling your bucket. Maybe it means not taking on any more tasks. Or turning off your phone until you are caught up.
- Set Regular Times For Cleanup – Don’t just block time when things are backed up. Schedule regular time to catch up and clean up. If you are bailing regularly, your buckets are less likely to overflow in the first place.
- Tie Important Tasks To Another - If you have trouble remembering or getting to those important maintenance tasks, then tie them to a task that you know will get done. One of my favorite examples of this is cleaning out your car when you are filling it with gas. You are just standing there… and there is a trash can right next to the pump.
- Get Help – The time to ask for help is when the water levels first start rising, not when things reach a critical state. Don’t let your pride stop you from asking for aid when you need it.
- Delegate – What things are in your bucket that you can (read: should) delegate? Supervisors and bosses tend to “hold on” to tasks that would be better suited to their team.
- Start Small – When you are overwhelmed, you often don’t know where to start. Break things down into smaller pieces and start there. You can eat an elephant if you break it down small enough.
Get Your Head Above Water
When the flood is overtaking your inbox and your todo list seems never-ending, it can seem like a good time to throw in the towel.
But, you can catch up. You can bail it out.
It just takes some hard work. Some discipline. And some stick-to-it-ness.
Soon, you will find that your head is back above water.
And that is a much better feeling.
Question: What is overflowing in your life?