Episode #11: How to Catch Up When You’re Feeling Behind
Buckle up, we’re heading into a busy time.
Life picks up speed as we head into the holiday season. At work, at home, everywhere!
It’s easy to feel like there’s simply not enough time in the day. Especially at the workplace.
I can’t give you the gift of more time. But, I can help you get back in control of your workday so that you can stop feeling like you’re always behind.
Here’s some advice on how to catch up when you’re feeling behind
Treat each day as a blank slate.
No matter what happened yesterday, it’s done.
Today is a new day, full of possibility. Treat it that way!
I recommend getting a fresh sheet of paper to plot your plan of attack. There’s something about a literal blank sheet of paper that’s good for the soul.
Look, there’s only so much a person can do in a day. Taking a few minutes to strategize your best use of the day is time well-spent. Know that you’ll do your best, but everything on that list will not get done. And that’s okay!
Define one clear top priority for the day.
First things first, start each day asking yourself a question.
If I only got one important thing done today, what should it be?
Your “one important thing” will be easy to pick. It will be the one thing that, if accomplished, would make you feel great at the end of the day.
Name it. Commit to getting it done. Block some time for it. Do it.
Trust me, when you knock this one thing out, you’ll feel better at the end of the day. No matter what.
Batch your to-do list.
When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I love batching my to-do list in categories. I’ll divide the paper into sections and categorize the items I want to accomplish.
The categories I use most often are:
- Hot Priorities: This is a short list. No more than 1-2 things should be listed behind your #1 priority of the day.
- Meetings to Schedule: These are the meetings I know I need to plan and schedule.
- Follow Up: Items that I need to follow up with another person or team, by phone, email, IM or in person.
- To-Dos: Activities that don’t fall within the other categories.
Organizing your to-do list in sections sets you up to batch your work. Batching like activities helps you accomplish them more efficiently.
Give the categories labels that are most meaningful for you. The key to this trick is to make it your own!
Keeping your to-dos in one big checklist will make you feel overwhelmed every single time that you look at it.
Critically examine today’s calendar.
Now that you have a plan for the day, it’s time to take a hard look at your schedule.
The only person who will defend your day is YOU.
Stop acting like a victim and accepting every meeting invite. Do you really need to attend every one of those meetings? Be discerning with the invites you accept.
Block time to work on your top priorities. If there’s not enough time available to do so, make some time. Reschedule meetings; cancel items that are no longer necessary.
If you need advice on how to run an effective meeting, check out my recent blog post on this topic.
Know when to say when.
If you take the advice suggested here and still find yourself consistently overwhelmed and behind, consider talking to your boss about it.
It’s much better to proactively flag that you’re overwhelmed before you drop a ball than make excuses later. I’m fond of telling people that it takes a strong person to admit when they need help.
Don’t just complain! Think through options to suggest to your boss that could help alleviate the load. As a general rule, you should identify suggested solutions any time you flag a problem.
Take a deep breath and have this discussion when you have a calm head. The conversation will simply be more productive.
We all have times when we feel like we’re behind.
Taking the time to plan each day will make you feel like you are in better control—of your career and your mental health.
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