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February 16, 2018

Overwhelm Can Kill Your Productivity

Sometimes we have so much to do, we feel like we are being buried alive, our stress level soars, and our ability to get things done plummets. What do you do if you can’t get out from under overwhelm?

  • Stop and regroup. Step back and take a deep breath—or several! Make a list of everything you must do. Don’t prioritize it right now; just put it on paper in no order. Sometimes this alone helps relieve the stress. Call this the Task List.
  • Create a Priorities List. Setting priorities can be challenging when you are in overwhelm because it is difficult to differentiate among activities. One easy way is using paired comparison. Number your Task List using the alphabet and then prioritize by looking at pairs of tasks. Here’s how:
    • Which is more important, A or B? You decide B.
    • What’s more important B or C? You decide B.
    • What’s more important B or D? You decide D.
    • Now you compare D to every item still on the list, one at a time.
    • Let’s say you end up with Q as the most important action. It becomes #1 on your Priorities List.
    • Now start again and apply paired comparison to all items on the Task List. When you are done, you will have easily created your Priorities List.
  • Apply the Pareto Principle to your Priorities List. The Pareto Principle states that 20% of your actions will deliver 80% of the results you need. Take your Priorities List and identify the top 20%.
  • Go to your calendar. Use your calendar to set aside to time to focus on the top 20% of your Priorities List. Fill in your time doing the 80% when you can.

When you feel threatened by overwhelm, take these easy steps to regain a feeling of control and to refocus on your top priorities. See my post How to Use the Pareto Principle for Productivity at Work for more information.

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