For whatever reason, lately I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work I have sitting on my desk and on my computer. The volume is noticeably higher, the phone seems to be ringing more often, and I often feel like a chicken with its head cut off.
I’m guessing I’m not alone, either. We all have ebbs and flows in our jobs, and there are times when things become too busy, too hectic, and there’s just too much going on.
Unfortunately, there are times when I’m not as disciplined as I need to be, either. Sometimes the reason there is so much to do is because sometimes I’m my own worst enemy.
But not always. There are times when the emergencies that are created for me to handle have nothing to do with me—except that I am the one who has to clean them up.
I used to have a sign on my desk that read, “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.” It was funny, but sadly not at all true.
But sometimes it does means that we do double duty when someone else messes up. We have to not only do our own jobs, but also clean up the messes and poor planning of others. We really do have to deal with emergencies created by other people.
When that happens, there are a few things we can do to ensure that we’re focused, energized, and not guilty of creating our own distractions.
- For short periods of time, turn your email off. Maybe even just 30 minutes at a time if that is all that’s possible. Email is a distraction and will cause you to lose your focus.
- Close any browser windows you are not actively using. If you aren’t working in Office 365 or need Google right now, shut down those windows.
- Turn off the radio and if you can, put in noise-cancelling earphones (no radio or music).
- Put your cell phone away. If you really need to know about any urgent calls or texts, get a smart watch or Fitbit that will send just those to your wrist (and not all the other distractions our cell phones can cause)
- Work on a “do not disturb” co-op with your coworkers. They don’t disturb you for an hour (except in dire emergency), and then when they need it in the future, you return the favour. Maybe even trade watching each other’s phone for the same period of time.
- Put your phone on call forward for short periods of time.
- If possible, move to a different location to work on a detail-oriented task (and if you can, don’t tell anyone that you have moved).
- Adjust your working hours to take advantage of when everyone is out of the office (go to lunch at a different time, come in an hour early, or stay an hour after everyone else leaves).
- When someone asks you, “Have you got a minute?” it might be okay if you say that you really don’t and schedule the discussion for another time (obviously, use your best judgment here).
- If something takes more than three minutes, you need to schedule it. Don’t get caught up spending the day taking care of a bunch of small, unscheduled tasks. The danger is that you’ll never find your way to the bigger and more important ones.
- Work with your prime times. If you are a morning person, make sure the tasks you are doing in the morning are not the “easy” ones (the kind you can do with your eyes closed). If you are an afternoon person, save the bigger tasks for when you are best suited for doing them.
These suggestions are simple, but not necessarily easy to do. And remember, this isn’t how I suggest you work all the time—just when you’re feeling particularly swamped. In those times of crisis, these simple tips could make all the difference.