Reducing overwhelm

Published: January 17, 2021

I don’t know about you, but 2021 has had its ups and downs already! With lockdown 3.0 in force, the usual January ‘New Year, New You’ clamour to be more successful AND productive AND organised, and customers returning to work after the festive break, there’s quite a bit going on!  Generally, the thought of a fresh planner and a quarterly planning session is something to be enjoyed, but this year – with regulations seemingly changing every three and a half minutes – it is difficult to raise those excitement levels at the thought of getting prepared! So I’ve pulled together some ideas to help you focus and work productively, but in a way that acknowledges that madness of the moment!

1.)   Be kind to yourself – The last thing you need on top of external stresses is the guilt of not working hard enough or achieving enough. Productivity guilt is a real issue, arising when “we link our behaviour, our performance, our productivity, with our self-worth,” according to Julie de Azevedo Hanks, Ph.D, LCSW. When feelings of guilt slip into your thoughts, take a step back; focus on the things you have achieved and take a few moments to do something for you – a quick walk in the fresh air, a cup of coffee and a biscuit… Try to acknowledge that these feelings aren’t helpful at increasing productivity or efficiency, and that the only way that will really happen is if you feel positive and motivated enough to achieve.  For more information about tackling productivity guild, visit the Psych Central link below.

2.)   Be realistic about what can be achieved on a daily/weekly basis – Who hasn’t got a to-do list that’s at least 50 items long at the moment? The point is, even if your list of tasks is as long as your desk, it’s important to note that there are only so many things you can physically complete in a day. In addition to this, there’s always the odd urgent task that sneaks in via your emails, or a task that takes longer than you anticipated to carry out. As a result, try and factor in some time every day that doesn’t have a specific task associated with it – some ‘just in case’ time! Even If you don’t need it for today’s work, there is something magical about completing tasks that were on your list for tomorrow, so treat yourself to the satisfaction of getting ahead!

3.)   Have a business task ‘wishlist’ – During the last lockdown, I had a jar full of ‘wishlist’ items; some important business tasks, some household related, and some self-care related.  Whenever I had a gap in my schedule, I pulled out one of these tasks (each individually written on a strip of paper), and set about completing whatever was on the paper.  These were all short tasks that would take no more than 60 minutes to complete, but helped to keep my motivation levels up, as I never knew whether I was going to get a treat or end up filing for an hour!

4.)   Keep on top of the important stuff – invoicing, paying bills, keeping your financial records up to date, re-registering with the ICO and checking your insurance is up to date, etc. These are the important things that keep our businesses running. It’s easy to lose motivation and focus sometimes, and let these slide a little, but it’s so important to set aside time for these so that you’re not suddenly hit with an unexpected bill, or have to rush to complete your self assessment. No one needs additional stress at the moment, so why not try the little and often approach? It could help to manage your stress levels over the coming months.

5.)   Lean on your support network – if not for work, then for a brief check-in. If you’ve got colleagues or friends working remotely, why not book in for a 15 minute check in chat (or a virtual coffee if you’ve got a little more time to spare)? We all have wobbly moments, and that’s perfectly understandable, so keeping the lines of communication open can help to share the burden. A problem shared is a problem halved, and all that!

Take care and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to over-achieve this month. These are challenging times, and the odd not-quite-so productive day is understandable!