It happens way too easily. You start out with a couple of unticked checkboxes on your to-do list on Monday morning. As the day wears on, your list starts growing.
Suddenly, you’re staring at a never-ending laundry list. Sweating slightly, you feel the panic and overwhelm start to set in. You’re left wondering whether you should run away or cry over your keyboard.
It’s a relatable feeling that so many share. In conversations with business leaders and educators expressing overwhelm, we recently came across an acronym that someone used to describe this feeling.
OCN: Over Capacity Now
So, what do you do when you’re “at” or “over capacity”? What do you do when you have too much on your plate and a 3-mile long to-do list?
Here are a couple of things that you can do to combat (and to some extent prevent) this hectic and stressful feeling from happening.
Focus on What You Can Control
While you may not be able to control your current workload, you can control your feelings and reaction to your to-do list. By controlling your reaction to your current state of busyness, you can take more focused action to tackle your daily workload.
Here’s what you can do right now:
Take a second to take several deep breaths. Clear your mind and focus only on deep breathing. (Hint: Imagine you’re inhaling and exhaling light with each breath.)
After you’ve taken a second to relax your mind, allow yourself to focus on the one step you can take next.
As you jump back into your work, remember that your current state of busyness is temporary and constantly shifting. Being present to note your emotions in response to your to-do list will help you to adapt to changing workloads.
Advocate for Your Personal Bandwidth
There are only so many hours in the day. You are only one person with a finite amount of brainpower.
You are the most accurate judge of knowing what you can complete in any given time frame. While it’s important to push yourself to be productive, you can only tackle so much.
You need to speak up for yourself and your available energy and mental bandwidth. Whether you’re at home or in the office, speak up for what you are capable of doing and where you need help.
- Don’t be afraid to ask others for help in taking on a task. Otherwise, determine if there’s a way you can reach out and delegate tasks to others.
- Ask questions. For example, maybe you received a task at work you’re expected to run with, but you’ve received limited information. A question to clarify a vague project or task can make all the difference in reducing your potential workload.
- Finally, say no to tasks that you can’t take on. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Double booking and cramming tasks in your calendar not only negatively impacts your overall wellbeing, but in a work context, this could impact a client or customer relying on your expertise.
Your questions and communicating with others go a long way. Not only can you potentially have help and support in your tasks, but you work toward setting boundaries around what you can and can’t take on.
Tackle Your Mountains
Maybe you can relate to this feeling…
You’re hiking or walking up a giant hill. The incline is steep and it takes all your energy to reach the top. Once you do, you feel a sense of accomplishment from the climb, coupled with the relief that everything else is downhill from there.
It’s a great feeling, right?
It’s the same with your to-do list.
Make your plan of attack all about “climbing” your biggest hill first. Do it as soon as you can. Once you complete the major task that’s sitting on your to-do list, you can “coast downhill” in completing your other smaller tasks. Plus, you get to enjoy the feeling of accomplishing the biggest task on your list first.
This approach is really helpful for our Project OTY team.
Plan to Meet and Miss Deadlines
You’re human. You do all you can to meet deadlines, but you realize you can’t do it all.
You might have ten major items to complete for the week. From those ten, you know that you can really only prioritize and complete six tasks this week.
However, the other items on the list might still be critical. If there are items where you might miss the deadline, plan for that.
Let the appropriate people know where you’re at in terms of completing those tasks. With some advance notice, they can plan appropriately on their end too. (Forethought and communication go a long way.)
Maybe you’re on a small team and can’t delegate. What then?
Determine how you can alternatively navigate the situation in the event of a missed deadline. As a simple example, you might have a social post that needs to go out on Thursday, but no bandwidth to flesh out a design. In that event, recycle a social post or piece of content from a prior quarter or year.
Planning ahead and thinking creatively can help you navigate a full plate with more control and confidence.
Celebrate The Wins Along the Way
“I feel like I’m not getting anything done today.”
When you’re in the scenario of having too much on your plate, your mindset can sometimes feel stuck in this state.
Scratching off a task from a list of 30+ tasks might not seem like a huge accomplishment, but it’s worth taking the time to celebrate. This is especially true if it’s one of your “mountains” (as mentioned earlier in this article).
It’s easy to undervalue your work and the tasks you do in everyday life. Everyone has a tendency to do this. That’s why this point is so critical. Allow yourself a moment to applaud yourself.
Make it a point every week (if not daily) to write down three wins. Big or small, note the ways that you successfully showed up or accomplished something on your list. This could include doing grocery shopping, scheduling a meeting, or completing a major project for work.
Share your wins with others or have someone in your network who can be your “accountability buddy.” Let them know what you’re working on and update them in real-time as you finish. In this case, they can share and celebrate with you.
Celebrating the hard work you do will help you to stay motivated in managing a “full plate”.
Are You Struggling with Balancing Your To-Do List and Your Dreams?
Maybe you feel like your work isn’t moving you toward your dreams.
Project OTY is a platform that’s uniquely focused on helping you create a future plan that you can achieve, one step at a time. There’s no need to choose between work and life. Design the life you want to live while understanding how your work and daily decisions can help you to achieve your big goals in life.