When overwhelmed…

There is two ways to deal with the situation:

  1. Say “No more.” I literally can handle no more than this.
  2. Work on your process and innovate the way you work.

I recently have been hitting the overwhelmed stage, and I told myself I have to find more efficiency in my process, spend less time figuring out what the next most important thing is and lower my mental overhead.

I had the following:

  1. A system for managing customer interests in our products
  2. A task list broken down for each customer I serve as well as our general company tasks
  3. OneNote used for taking notes in company meetings and documenting action items
  4. A highlight/lowlights sheet for the week that needs to be filled out as the week goes on capturing important information
  5. A long-term document for items I couldn’t handle in the short term that would just be cluttering up my day-to-day list
  6. A quarterly business review document that outlines initiatives status of where things are in accounts, and plans for the future

That’s a lot of focii, not to mention the typical flood coming in via email, and actual customer meetings 8-10 per week. I figured I was spending a significant amount of mental overhead constantly shuffling information between them. So I did the following:

  1. I integrated everything in #2 into #3. Using tags in OneNote, allows me to generate lists pulled in all sorts of ways. Based on the company, based on the week it was generated, based on whether it is a meeting to be scheduled, with a few button clicks I can re-arrange the task list as desired.
  2. My highlights/lowlights I integrated into OneNote as well. While it didn’t reduce any workload, it did keep me from switching screens as often.
  3. I combined items #5 and #6 together. Since anything in the long-term should be considered “strategic planning” it should be in the quarterly business review presentation. No need to have another place for it. Anything that doesn’t fit in that document should either be dropped or reconsider if it is a priority at all.

This all doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but it minimizes constant window switching, and more than that, it allows much more flexible re-arranging.

The final and most important piece, is I added a physical journal for document my top 15 priorities for the week, and then breaking them down 5/day (that gives a little wiggle room if some days all 5 aren’t achieved). This takes the mental overhead off of what to work on next during a hectic chopped up day. At the end of the week I review, and along with my newly organized lists, I update.

Systems are important, and I doubt this is the final form mine will take. While I don’t feel it’s made me a crazy amount more productive, it has made my brain feel far less scrambled and my day more enjoyable.