With Q1 at its end and the holiday season fast approaching, it is important to remember we are coping with busy schedules and explore how to focus when we have to juggle multiple issues.
One of our favourite sayings to remember is:
“The same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg”
This means the same experience can result in two different outcomes, positive and negative. It is how you choose to perceive that experience that determines the outcome.
A practical way of thinking about this is placing the open palm of your hand against the tip of your nose. What can you see? Not much! If you were to drive a car like this, how would you go? Not well! If you extend your arm out to straighten your elbow, what can you see now? Your hand is still there but you can see far more of your surrounds. If you were to drive a car like this you may not be perfect, but you would likely perform far better than before.
Your hand represents something in your life which is causing you stress. It is easy to become overwhelmed by workloads and lose focus.
Sometimes, we struggle to look at things as part of the big picture: which can cause two issues.
The first is well-being based. Being consumed by a “stressor” such as workload means that we fail to recognise the other good things in our life. The stressor which is causing the “tunnel vision” becomes our whole reality and all the positives such as family, friends, and other interests aren’t recognised.
The other issue this can cause is performance and focus based. When this stressor becomes our whole focus, the resulting tunnel vision can prevent us from logical thinking or stepping back.
Below are some practical tips to manage your workload, avoid becoming “stressed about being stressed” and staying resilient and positive.
Tip 1: Big Rocks and Little Rocks
First things first – break that mountain of tasks and responsibilities into manageable “chunks.” It is helpful to identify what your big rocks and little rocks are. What are the important and more pressing tasks? These are your big rocks. What are the not as important tasks or have deadlines further away? These are your little rocks.
Although simple, this structure can help provide better clarity around what is worth stressing about or what is causing stress just because it’s there. Some ways to identify big and small rocks include:
- Importance – Is this task a major project with significant impact on the organisation or myself?
- Deadline – Is this due now or later in the future?
- Link to other tasks (flow on effect) – Do I need to complete this task to enable other tasks to be completed?
Tip 2: Approaching tasks with the right mind frame
Our emotions, thoughts and behaviours are all affected by one another.
For example, say Person A and Person B are assigned the lead roles on a new project. It is a big project that the company is very eager to get right. Doris, their long-term work colleague, has been assigned to help on this project. On top of this, Person A and B still have their usual workload to complete.
Person A’s (negative) response is to cling to thoughts of “How am I ever going to get through all this work?”, “These tasks are too hard! ”, “How does the boss expect me to get through all this?” or “I’ve never done this sort of project before”.
Person B’s (positive) response begins by experiencing the same initial thoughts as Person A, however, they take a step back and acknowledge the good things. These include: “This is an opportunity to grow my skillset”, “This new project gives me an opportunity to work with Doris, my favourite colleague”, or “Being given a lead role on this task gives the opportunity to show that I am ready for that promotion”.
Exact same scenario, two different perspectives. Person B is far less likely to become stressed, will focus on the task and whatever stress they do experience is linked to positive outcomes, not an overbearing problem.
Tip 3: Self-care
Self-care is usually the first thing to drop-off when we get busy. It is hard to make time for the things we enjoy or help us unwind when we are faced with busy periods. However, we need to remember that these activities are the best tool to help lower our stress levels.
Exercise, socialising and engagement in meaningful hobbies can have a massive impact on stress levels and resetting focus. Even if you’re too busy for your usual routine, even getting in a quick walk or coffee with a friend makes a difference.
Don’t ask your yourself “Do I have time for this?” Instead, ask “Do I have time not to do this?”