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Take A Moment And Read This Because You Might Be Too Busy Doing Nothing In Your Life

Take A Moment And Read This Because You Might Be Too Busy Doing Nothing In Your Life

Life can be busy. It seems like the older we get, the greater our responsibilities become. Our jobs, families, friends, and even our electronics and social media, are always vying for our attention. Sometimes it feels like we’re sprinting through life trying to keep up with everything.

Being busy isn’t a difficult status to attain. Whenever there’s a chunk of time, there are things that can fill it. The problem is, sometimes we focus on things that don’t actually add value to our lives. Many of us are busy, but we’re not productive.

It’s time to assess whether what you’re doing aligns with your mission

There have been times when I’ve completed a full workday without doing anything of value. Sure, I attended to a barrage of emails and performed menial tasks, but I didn’t tackle anything that put me on the path to advancement. It’s so easy to get stuck in a holding pattern.

Whenever this happens, I like to have some resources on hand to break the monotony and get back to doing purposeful work. One of my go-to reads is Benjamin Hardy’s If You’re Too Busy For These 5 Things: Your Life Is More Off-Course Than You Think.

If you’re too busy, you may need a course-correction

Even the most organized and driven people need to course-correct once in a while, and Hardy breaks down that thought process for his readers.

He starts by acknowledging that people today are too busy focusing on things that don’t matter in the long run. If we don’t stop to evaluate what we’re doing, we can fall into bad habits and stray from the path we’ve set up for ourselves.

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Then, using a series of questions, Hardy explains the areas of our lives that usually get us into trouble. These include organization, environmental energy, financial energy, relational energy, health energy, spiritual energy, and time. The areas he focuses on have to do with our internal and external worlds. Hardy creates an invitation for you to reflect on yourself.

Finally, he sets out solutions to our most common pitfalls. The first thing we have to do is hit the pause button, and organize our lives. If you’ve ever been so busy that it seems like life is just piling up around you, you know the importance of this. Your chaotic inner world leads to external disorganization, which feeds more internal chaos. He argues that you have to stop and regroup when this happens.

Then, he recommends planning and investing in your future. He means this both in terms of financial health, personal health, and relationships, but also in terms of how you spend your time. If you don’t make a conscious effort to define who you are and why you do what you do, you won’t be able to make the most out of life. Vision setting is an important part of this. He states:

“Your vision should be based on your why, not so much your what.”

He further explains that what you do might change, but your why should remain constant.

He concludes by explaining the importance of tracking your work and moving toward your goals every day. When you don’t hold yourself accountable by keeping track of different metrics, it will be difficult to see when you are off course.

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Observe metrics on your relationships, finances, and self-improvement. By keeping track of these areas, you’ll be able to accomplish more, and you’ll be more committed to the end result.

Moving toward your goals takes thought and effort every day. It’s easy to talk about what you want, but it’s another thing entirely to do the work. A famous children’s poem by Shel Silverstein concludes with this:

“But All Those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas/ All Ran Away and Hid/ From One Little Did.”

There’s power in doing the work. Hardy reminds us that “the work” in this case is not busywork. To make progress bit by bit, you have to do the things that relate to your ultimate vision. He recommends doing these things early in the morning, before your energy is depleted by the day.

Why I keep coming back to this article

Re-reading this article is like a yoga instructor reminding you to come back to your breath. It’s the coach telling you to keep moving forward. It’s like saying a mantra over and over in your head in order to manifest a goal. It reminds us that under all the layers of social media, personal and professional labels, and menial tasks, there is a human being dreaming boldly. We have to stick to our core values and fundamentals or we risk getting lost in the shuffle.

The most successful people don’t wind up that way by sheer luck. Building a meaningful life–a life you love–requires planning. You have to monitor your progress and fine tune your methods to get where you want to go. You’ll have to think about how your personal circumstances, experiences, and priorities affect your what and your why.

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Distractions are inevitable. We’re human beings subject to wants and frustrations. We take on responsibilities we don’t need to sometimes. We start labeling everything in our lives as equally important. It’s normal for this to happen, but we have to be able to step back and do some self-study to get back on course.

Takeaways from the article that you can use right now

All this talk does us no good unless we can commit to clearing the clutter from our lives to focus on what matters.

1. Write down your goals and think about your circumstances. Thinking about your goals is great, but when you write them down, it forces you to define exactly what you want.[1]Your written goals can remind you of your purpose when life gets complicated.

Making your goals more concrete can also help you think about circumstances in your life that could affect your outcomes. You’ll be able to anticipate bumps in the road instead of stumbling.

2. Trim the fat. Once you know what you want, you can remove things that don’t fall in line with your why. Think about it like this: The more time you spend on unrelated tasks, the less time you have to do the things that matter to you.

3. Get organized. Setting goals is only one part of the equation. If you want to achieve your goals, you’ll need to break them down into small, actionable steps. When you do this, you can also determine what metrics you will use to establish whether or not you’re making progress. By making a plan and monitoring how well you’re sticking to it, you’ll have a greater chance to succeed than when you fly by the seat of your pants.

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4. Don’t be afraid to make changes. Remember that your plan and methods may have to change depending on what’s happening in your life. Perhaps you have encountered a new challenge, or you realized that your original actionable steps are not reasonable. Adjust your plan so that you don’t lose motivation. Like Hardy explained, what you’re doing can always change, but why you’re doing it should not.

Stay focused on your vision

The static of modern life can muddle our efforts and intentions until we find ourselves working without real purpose. It can happen without warning, and before you know it, you’re unhappy, unhealthy, and questioning your value.

I’ve been there before, and sometimes I just need a reminder to get back on track. If You’re Too Busy For These 5 Things: Your Life Is More Off-Course Than You Think helps me ground myself in my vision, and I hope it will do the same for you.

Featured photo credit: Finda via finda.photo

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Anna Chui

Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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Published on January 16, 2019

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

  • Are you a great strategist?
  • Are you an effective planner?
  • Is Project Management your strength?
  • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
  • Are you the ideas person?
  • Is Implementation your strength?

Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

4. Take Time for Planning

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

You can take the time to think about:

  • What’s the purpose of the project?
  • How Important is it?
  • When does it need to be delivered by?
  • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
  • What are the KPIs?
  • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
  • Who is working on this project?
  • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
  • What tolerances can I add in?
  • What are the review stages?
  • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

5. Focus on Priorities

Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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    The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

    If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

    If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

    6. Take Time Out

    To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

    If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

    Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

    In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

    Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

    Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

    I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

    Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

    If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

    8. Stop Multitasking

    Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

    So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

    When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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    If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

    9. Work in Blocks of Time

    To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

    I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

    Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

    Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

    Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

    Then take another 10-minute break.

    Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

    By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

    10. Get Rid of Distractions

    Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

    “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

    Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

    If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

    11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

    You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

    Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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    Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

    12. Take a Time Audit

    Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

    Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

    You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

    Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

    Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

    At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

    If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

    13. Protect Your Confidence

    It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

    When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

    Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

    When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

    Final Words

    A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

    The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

    If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

    Reference

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