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Why You Should Stop Planning and Embrace Uncertainty

Why You Should Stop Planning and Embrace Uncertainty

Let’s face the inevitable: life comes at us fast. In the blink of an eye, change happens and opportunities come and go. We look back and reflect on where all of our time went and how well we spent it. In actuality, it seems like a lot of calloused and brush-burned hands. How can we really control everything that happens?

Reality check: we can’t. Too much stress and energy are placed on our futures, on the ideas and events that we cannot even begin to anticipate or change. Yet, we continue to try to micromanage our experience, without actually living in the moment. In essence, we are slaves to our own devices.

How can we break this vicious cycle? Put that ridiculous color-coded schedule and pencil down so you can begin with yourself.

Start as a “clean slate” and work on how you can shift your perspective and embrace uncertainty with these seven reasons. You’ll start to feel a release of pressure and stress in no time.

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1. It’s Out of Your Control

out of your control

    Easier said than done, right? Just remember, that if you have an idea about how your future will play out, think again. Life never goes according to plan. There are too many factors and elements that can positive or negatively affect our anticipated future. So, why dwell on what we can’t control? Honestly, we can do everything in our power to land a promotion and someone else may just be a better fit. You cannot force that change to happen in your favor.

    2. Now’s the Time to Shift Your Focus

    shift your focus

      Shift your focus from what you can’t control to what you can. Let it go and do whatever you can in the present. If you want a promotion, work hard, learn new skills, take a class, seek advice and do your personal best. Then, the future is out of your hands. Make use of your time wisely, because stressing over what may happen will only give you a headache and a little paranoia.

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      3. You Should Be Comfortable With Discomfort

      discomfort 2

        While that sounds like a lofty contradiction, there is some merit in this idea. Since the future is out of our control, so is everything along the way and you need to be prepared to get a little uncomfortable. Maroon 5 said it so well: “Life isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, it’s compromise that moves us along.” We can’t always have things turn out in our favor. So, how do we deal with this stress? Baby steps.

        Life isn’t easy, so try to train yourself to learn to handle being uncomfortable. Think of what it’s like to exercise. It is hard, but in order to get better, you have to deal with a little pain or discomfort. Over time, things get more manageable. Adopt that idea into your life and your body and mind will start to endure as well.

        4. Accepting Change and Being Flexible Are Soft Skills

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        soft skills

          You want to be successful in your future? Let go of the past and live in the present. Once you let go of control, you’ll be able to understand that change is a part of life and you need to be flexible to have some grasp of what happens in your future. Believe it or not, but these skills are essential for working alongside others and having the best possible outcome for your future.

          5. Life Shouldn’t Be Put on Hold

          life on hold

            Fixating on your future is time consuming and, honestly, a waste of time. Yet, we all fall into this trap. Instead of living in the moment, we are trying our hardest to anticipate the next moment. Let go of the reins and let life take its course. Think of how much you miss when you aren’t really looking.

            For example, say you are vacationing in St. Thomas. You’ve got one day on land before your cruise sets sail again. But instead of smelling the ocean breeze and taking in the glorious sights, you’re running boarding times through your head and what you need in order to leave. You’ve now missed a day of relaxation and luxury.

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            6. You Need to Know Yourself

            know yourself

              Don’t let fear run your life. Be aware of when you begin to lose focus on living in the moment and when you get caught up in something you can’t control. Take a deep breath and think of what you can do to keep your life moving forward. Experience. You’ll be less stressed and able to tackle anything.

              7. When Opportunities Knock, You Need to Answer

              opportunity

                By letting go, you’ll be able to seize the day. With your newfound skills of flexibility and acceptance, you’ll be able to consider more options and paths to take. Don’t let yourself become trapped into one option. Keep an open mind and live in the moment!

                No matter your current career or personal status, these seven tips can apply to your life. Stop stressing and start doing!

                Featured photo credit: Diogo Tavares via unsplash.com

                More by this author

                Kayla Matthews

                Productivity and self-improvement blogger

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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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