100% Jodi: Too Much to Do, Not Enough Time

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If you’ve been following along with the podcast or got my newsletter a couple weeks ago you know I was sidelined with a strained muscle in my lower back and I am feeling so much better now and am back at my burpee workouts and moving toward my goal. This is going to sound strange to say but I am so grateful to be back doing crazy amounts of burpees!

I did a lot to care for my injury but the real turning point was when I sucked up the scary and the discomfort and started going for walks, doing light aerobics and then building from there. Go figure, movement is beneficial to the body.

Recently I had a conversation with someone about leadership challenges.

Her biggest challenge is one we all face – and one that seems so much more overwhelming at this time of year: How to stay focused when you have so much to do – and you feel like all you’re doing is simply putting out fires and keeping up with minutia – and getting nothing of significance accomplished.

I know this is an all-too familiar topic for many of you. The good news is that you can stay focused, even when it feels like you have no time to spare and you’re extinguishing whatever fire seems to be burning brightest.

Here are my 5 of my favorite strategies for staying focused – try implementing even one and I bet you’ll see noticeable results in your life

1. Turn off the phone, close your email & shut the door to regain focus.

Ever hear of a digital detox? I’m sure you have, and right now you’re probably thinking, “What?! Like I can disconnect now.”

Don’t get me wrong – I love smartphones just as much as you do. But the importance of disconnecting from technology is even being recognized by hotels, many of which now offer a whole new kind of “detox package”.

Instead of the customary offerings that give guests a chance to “cleanse” by dining on a special diet and engaging in a fitness plan, digital detox packages have been called the “next big trend” in the hospitality industry.

No need to spend days detoxing – a mini-detox can be just as effective. Close out that email, turn off the phone, and shut the door to focus on what’s really important (and it’s not that Facebook post from your friend detailing what she made for dinner last night).

We all have the same amount of hours – so instead of trying to use your energy on dozens of tasks, target your energy on a limited number. Focus on what will give you the biggest bang for your energy buck!

2.  Renegotiate commitments. Did you say “yes” to something when you should have said “no”?

Many people say yes to avoid confrontation or maintain and image of themselves as giving, capable and in control. You can take the middle of the road option: the neutral no.

“A neutral no is steady, uninflected, and clear. It is mostly notable for what it is not: harsh, combative, apologetic, reluctant, or overly nice.”

Saying “yes” to everything is one of the fastest paths to burnout. It is perfectly ok to say “no”; in fact, you owe it to yourself to be honest about what commitments you can – and cannot – handle at a given time.

Practice makes perfect on this one, and for some people, saying “no” can be really hard. Just keep practicing until it becomes comfortable for you. Oh, and there’s a bonus here: when you do this, you’ll gradually feel more and more empowered and confident.

If you absolutely hate to say “no” I recommend using the phrase, “That’s not going to work for me.” It’s a way to say “no” without shutting the other person down.

time urgency

3. Take a deep breath when you see something on “fire”, then take a closer look.

There’s another fire burning somewhere right now, just waiting for you to come put it out. Wait – is it really something that needs your attention now? Has it turned into a total conflagration, or is it just a “flare-up”?

I like to take a closer look at the issue and see if it’s actually something that can wait, even if it’s just for a little bit. That little extra time may allow for the fire to burn out on its own…and if not, that bit of added time allows me to look at the issue with a clearer mindset.

When we are overworked or overwhelmed we don’t see things clearly. We lose our ability to rank need and so everything feels urgent. Taking that deep breath and calming down before making a decision will give your brain some time to turn those capabilities back on.

4. Reset your expectations.

Sometimes, because we have such high expectations of ourselves, we assume other people have the same expectations of us.

Oftentimes, however, it’s our own expectations running the show – and rarely do we live up them.

According  to Eckhart Tolle,“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation – but your thoughts about it”. Reset your expectations and be real – and by taking an unbiased second look, the situation can end up looking totally different.

I often remind myself that if I’m the one who set the deadline then I’m the one who can change it. I look at whether it was an arbitrary deadline or if it is tied to something time sensitive. If it was an arbitrary deadline I chalk it up to a bad guess and move the date.

Being overly stressed can impede your ability to get tasks done in a timely manner. If by changing the due date on some less import tasks allows you to give your biggest priority more mental bandwidth, all the better.

make time

5.  Free yourself by delegating!

This strategy is unfortunately often under-utilized by many people who think they have to “do it all”. Amy Gallo in Harvard Business Review says if you’re working long hours and feel you’re the only one who can do the job while your staff keeps regular work hours, you may not realize that you’re hoarding your work.

Don’t make excuses by telling yourself training someone will take too much time. Keep a checklist and see exactly how your time is spent. “You’re likely to find that a lot of time is spent on low-leverage activities that can be delegated,” says Jeffrey Pfeffer, author of What Were They Thinking?: Unconventional Wisdom About Management.

There you have it – my 5 favorite strategies for keeping focused when it feels like the fires are burning all around you.

And don’t forget the Create Goals that are Worthy of You Mini-Course has exercised in it to help you identify your Superpowers as well as qualities that, once developed, you can leverage to get things done more quickly and effectively. This mini-course is $49 but as a listener of the Women Taking the Lead podcast you can use coupon code goals10 to get $10 off at checkout.

I hope this was of value to you and here’s to your success!

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  1. charlotteeasleylcsw

    Thank you for this today…. number one–for me it gets to be a habit. The digital world can be such a rabbit hole. Reassessing the fires is another one that is so helpful and one I often forget when I look around and there are 20 campfires starting to get out of hand!

    1. I hear you, Charlotte! Shutting down the extra electronics and juicy platforms can be difficult, especially if you’re a business owner, a mom, or both! Put it on your calendar and try it a few times…you’ll be amazed at how much work you can get done!

  2. Maritza Parra

    I really want to get better at number 5 on this list! Delegation is something I have done and do AND could be doing so much more of… I just always feel like I created another job for myself by having to tell someone else what to do! Yikes…! Going to make more of an effort to get better at this…

  3. Oh, sister. All so easy to say, yet SO HARD TO DO as women. We think we have to do it alllllll….perfectly. I can vouch for all 5 of those suggestions as working, yet can find myself not doing those 5 things, too. A post to bookmark for sure! *Wildly applauds*

    1. Amen. Being around other women like you helps to remind me of when my calendar, my workload and my expectations have gotten out of control. We are never going to be perfect but if we surround ourselves with others who also want to have success and a fulfilling personal life we can support each other to keep taking a look at how we are working and living. So grateful to have you as a part of my circle of women taking the lead, Amber.

  4. L.A

    So simple and easy, yet we seem to constantly forget about these small things that can make a big difference. Delegating to others is defiantly my challenge here and I’m glad to take it upon me. Thank you for the encouraging reminder. 🙂

    1. It’s hard to delegate what feels so personal to others. There is a lot of trust and letting go involved. Keep exploring where the struggle is and see where you can release some of it. You are a master of this, Lian!

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