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8 Ways To Avoid Getting Lost

8 Ways To Avoid Getting Lost

When I think about getting lost, two particular instances stand out in my mind. One was when I was in my late teens and I drove out to a forest in the middle of nowhere with a group of friends. It was daytime, sunny, and perfect for a picnic. We found a lovely spot deep in the forest and enjoyed a selection of tasty food. Soon dusk arrived and it got a little cooler, so we built a fire. We stayed so long that complete darkness fell and the fire died down. We were cold and tired and ready to go home. Except… which way was that again?

We looked around us and all we could see were the trees directly in front of us. One of my friends has one of those mini torches on his key-ring, but that was about as useful as wearing flip flops in the snow. Just to clarify, this was also before every man, woman, child and baby owned a mobile phone, so if we wanted to find our way out of that forest, we had to find use more traditional methods. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t absolutely terrified.

Somehow, we managed to find our way out of there and I cannot begin to describe the relief I felt when we saw the car parked up on the roadside. It had taken us well over an hour to find our way out of that creepy black forest and it was a situation I never wanted to repeat.

Fast forward several years and we come to a more recent experience. I used to have a satnav, but when I got a smart phone I wondered why I bothered carrying several electronic devices when my phone was able to do everything. So I tapped in the address of my friend’s house, a friend I had never visited before. To be fair, I did know most of the way to her house, I was just a little unsure of the last few miles of the journey. I plonked my phone on the non-slip mat on my dashboard, turned up my tunes and set off.

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It was a beautiful day and the sun was hot on my face. Unfortunately, it was a little too warm for my phone, but I didn’t realise that until I got closer to the destination and needed that little extra guidance. I looked at my phone, expecting to see a map and an arrow but to my horror there was just a black screen with an error message reading ‘Temperature Too High’ or something like that. I pulled the car over to a safe place and pressed all buttons, but nothing happened. My phone had overheated in the sun.

Now not only was I unable to see the directions, I couldn’t phone my friend either in order to ask how to get there. I had been so reliant on my phone that I didn’t have her number written anywhere else and I couldn’t even remember the name of the street she lived on! I felt so stupid for putting my entire trust in this minicomputer that was now just bits of overheated plastic, metal and glass.

In the end, I had to wait until the phone had cooled down before I could start again on my journey.

I expect you have had experiences of getting hopelessly lost too, otherwise you wouldn’t be looking at my eight fantastic ways to avoid it! In an attempt to prevent others from experiencing the sheer panic that washes over you when you realise you’re lost and/or stuck, I have put together some tips and tricks on how to get yourself back on the right path – literally!

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1. Recognise the landmarks

I now make a point of paying particular attention to things that catch my eye when I’m out and about somewhere unfamiliar. You can either use your memory, a small notebook, or if you’re confident of the battery life of your camera or mobile phone, you can take pictures of where you have left your car and then several landmarks along the way. You can note down street names, pubs that you pass, memorable places such as cemeteries, churches, schools etc. It’s much easier to find your way if someone gives you directions such as “Keep going straight on until you see the giant doughnut on the left, and when you see that take the next right and look out for the pub covered in hanging baskets, when you see that, turn left.”

Getting directions like “Drive for half a mile, turn right and in a quarter of a mile turn left” can be confusing, so try to give people directions using landmarks too! They will thank you for it.

2. Follow the people

If you’re in a city and you’re not familiar with the language, you can follow the general flow of the people to find the most popular parts of town. Especially during rush hour. Using this method, you’re most likely to follow people to the train station or bus terminal and from there you will be able to get public transport to wherever you’re trying to get. Terminals and stations also often have an information desk which will hopefully have information in several languages.

3. Look at the roads

Find the biggest road you can if you’re lost. The wider the road, the more traffic it is designed to carry, which means it is a main route. Follow the road and you will find yourself in a town centre before you know it or you will see road signs along the way which should point you in the right direction.

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4. Learn to use a compass

You can either carry an actual compass, or if you have a smart phone, you can use a compass app. Learn to use the compass in places that you know well to get to grips with directions. You will notice that satellite dishes on houses all point towards south-west and churches and gravestones usually face east. When you arrive in an unfamiliar place, take a note of which direction you are facing. Keep checking your compass to see which direction you’re walking or driving. If you get lost, you will be able to go back in the opposite direction until you find familiar surroundings again.

5. Use nature

If it is night and the sky is clear, the North Star is always helpful in giving you a sense of which direction you are heading in. If you checked your position when you arrived, you will be able to use the North Star to tell you which way to go back.

If it is daylight, you can push a stick into the ground and mark the end of its shadow. Wait a little while and you will see the shadow move. The direction the shadow has moved in will be east to west. This should give you some idea which way to go if you are in the middle of nowhere.

6. Read maps

It seems like an obvious point, but take a map with you whenever you travel to somewhere new or make use of the map app on your smart phone. Actual physical maps are ideal to have in your pocket, especially if you find yourself in an area where you don’t have any signal.

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Study the map before you leave for your new destination so that you can get familiar with place names, landmarks such as big parks or lakes as well as train stations, rivers and visitor attractions. Have an idea of where you want to go and look at it on the map in relation to where you will be staying or parking. Once you’re there, the street names will feel familiar to you and you’ll have a good idea of where to go and how to get there.

7. Grab a GPS to go

Also known as a Global Positioning System or satnav, when you have a good connection to a satellite these pieces of kit are invaluable for someone who does a lot of travelling to strange places. You can use it whilst driving as it will sit on a special mount on your windscreen, or you can carry it when you’re on foot. You can even get a wristwatch with built in GPS  so you can easily find your way in unfamiliar territory.

8. Learn the basics

If you’re going to a foreign country, make sure you learn some simple phrases to ask for directions, and make sure you will be able to understand the answer. Also learn words that appear often on road or street signs so that you make sense of your surroundings once you arrive. If you’re really struggling with the language, go to or call a nearby hotel as they almost always have someone who can speak English and they will be able to help you.

Featured photo credit: Jessica via flickr.com

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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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