“Self-pity is our worst enemy, and if we yield to it we can never do anything wise in this world” – Helen Keller
From the moment our kindergarten teachers asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up to the job interview question that asks us to envision where we see ourselves in five or ten years time, everyone seems to want to know what we’re doing (or hope to do) with our lives. Some of us have detailed road maps in our minds, with mile-markers for each goal: Obtain a college degree, land a dream career, start a family, visit Mars, achieve world domination—whatever. Others like the scenic route. We have a vague picture of someone in the distant future who looks like us and is doing amazing things, but they’re too far off in the distance for us to see just what those amazing things are. Whether you’ve had your entire life planned out since you were 5 yrs old or are just winging it, we all need a jump start from time to time to keep us moving in the right direction—or any direction. Here are eight creative ways to motivate yourself to reach your goals.Advertising
1. Sing to yourself
Seriously. Like laughter, sunshine, and fresh air; singing elevates our moods and increases our well being. It can even be a useful group exercise to enhance collaboration in the workplace. Read more about it here. Studies have shown that singing triggers a release of endorphins, which are the body’s natural way of chemically relieving pain and stress. When we’re happier, we get more done. This might be why Snow White likes to whistle while she works.
2. Visualize your success
According to Dr. Frank Niles, visualization is a simple but useful motivational technique because when you form a picture of succeeding in your mind, you begin to see the possibility of reaching your goal. When I was working on my dissertation in graduate school, there were days when meeting the daily writing goal I’d set for myself seemed insurmountable, let alone finishing the entire book-length project that sat in my stomach like a baby with an unknown due date. When I began to feel overwhelmed, I’d often visualize the moment of achievement, walking across the stage, receiving my degree, finally earning those three letters at the end of my name that I’d poured so much blood, sweat, tears, and vodka into. Six years and quite a few drinks later, I managed it.Advertising
3. Speak about achieving your goals in definitive, positive terms
Instead of saying, “if I get married,” “if I get that raise,” “if I quit smoking,” say “when I get married,” “when I get that raise,” “when I quit smoking.” This shifts your focus from possibility to actuality. Spiritual teacher and best-selling author Dr. Wayne Dyer has written and spoken extensively about the “I Am” discourse, which is a form of positive thinking that takes its name from Judeo-Christian Scripture but is portable in any walk of life. Dyer tells us humorously that God didn’t introduce himself to Moses as “I will be,” or “My name is I hope things will work out.” No. He said simply “I am.” Using this affirmative vocabulary in our own lives, argues Dr. Dyer, can help us to visualize our goals and keep our eye on the prize.
4. Use sticker charts
We all remember the thrill of achievement when we rushed home from school to show our parents the shiny gold star we’d received on our homework assignments in school. Who’s to say this positive reinforcement can’t work for adults too? Draw up a chart of your goals, with various benchmarks. Each time you achieve a benchmark, give yourself a gold star, or a smiley face, or a googly-eyed cat. Whatever gives you a sense of accomplishment. This ties into the visualization technique as well, because charting the trajectory of completion gives you verifiable proof that you’re making progress.Advertising
5. Keep a goal diary
Like creating a chart with eye-catching visuals, writing down your goals and reflecting regularly on their progress helps you to both focus on the desired outcome and holds you accountable. In 1979, a study conducted in the Harvard MBA program asked students if they had goals and if they’d written down those goals. 3% had written down their goals, 13% had goals but hadn’t written them down, and 84% had no clearly defined goals. Ten years later, the study revealed that the 3% who had written down their goals were the most financially successful. While financial stability is only one quantifiable way to measure success, the study still points to a link between clearly defining one’s goals and achieving them.
6. Find a “study buddy”
While this can be a useful way to motivate students to complete homework, it can also work well for anyone who has a hard time settling down to work. I used to notice that I graded papers much more efficiently when my boyfriend was sitting in the other room doing the same thing. While this might not work for everyone, I’ve always found that glancing up now and then to make a comment about something I’ve read does more than allow for a break in the action. The other person becomes a sounding board to bounce my ideas off of. Even Sherlock Holmes relied on Watson’s insights to solve his cases.Advertising
7. Keep a corkboard in your workspace or someplace visible, with empowering quotations
Personally, I find Yoda a great inspiration. It’s hard to quit anything when you’ve got “do or do not. There is no try” staring you in the face. Turn to your favorite books and movies, or your role-models. Pick your favorite inspirational quotes and keep them close to remind you that you can do whatever you set your mind to.
It might sound counter-intuitive, but I’m going somewhere with this. You probably remember being told off in Biology class for staring into the fathomless blue eyes of your lab partner instead of concentrating on the frog you were supposed to be dissecting. However, according to Margrit Tarpalaru, there’s a way to procrastinate “consciously, creatively, and, most importantly, guiltlessly.” Tarpalaru, a teacher who uses this technique to plow through grading, refers to it as the “micro-break,” which many of us probably think of as that reflexive urge to check Facebook for five minutes, only to look up twenty minutes later and wonder how we got sucked into the social media vortex. Instead, Tarpalaru suggests techniques like a quick daydream. Glance up from the computer screen and spend a few minutes thinking about all of the glorious things that await you once you’ve gotten through the day, or the week: biking with your partner, having drinks with friends, the summer cruise you’re planning. Like the other visualization techniques we’ve talked about, this practice keeps your eye on the prize, and it’s a conscious form of procrastination because you can’t have that drink, or board that cruise ship unless you meet that deadline, which inevitably forces your mind back on work.
How do you motivate yourself? Can you think of any other useful tips? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Featured photo credit: Cheerleader via pixabay.com
Published on January 16, 2019
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.
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:
- Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
- Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
- Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
- 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
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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
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