How do you flip the switch when you are overwhelmed and anxious with way too many things to do from being busy to being effective?
I want to take you through a process that has helped me and many of the leaders we work with here at Development & Leadership Coaching.
But first, you need to take a breath!
This is something that I struggle with in my own life. I think that every leader does. If we aren’t careful, we can get caught up just going from one thing to the next all day every day. I want you to STOP and BREATHE. Then, ask yourself this important question.
“Am I really doing the things that are critically important for me to do that are going to move our organization forward towards the vision we have for impacting people’s lives, or…am I just busy?”
The process I am going to share with you is one that we walk leaders through when they are getting to that place of feeling stuck, overwhelmed, anxious, and constantly busy, but really beginning to wonder if they are being as effective as they should be.
Before I share this process with you, I want to encourage you.
I have found that there are a couple of reasons why we can often get stuck and feel this sense of overwhelm, busy-ness, and doubt about whether or not we are being as effective as we should be, and it doesn’t always mean you are doing something wrong. In fact, you may be doing something right!
Now, one of those reasons could be that you just have a gazillion things to do and you are feeling stressed and anxious, you are not organized, you aren’t on top of anything, and you haven’t got a clear sense of what you are supposed to be doing. That is a very real scenario that we can face, and there are ways we can help people move through that, but oftentimes this is not the case.
A more common scenario looks more like this…
You’ve actually become better as a leader in planning and looking ahead. You’ve grown a clearer sense of where you want to head. You have some strategies in place that you are really trying to consistently work out, and as you’ve improved in that aspect of your leadership, what comes along with that is this greater sense of feeling overwhelmed, busy, or wondering if you are really focused on the things that you should be.
So, that feeling of overwhelm is a by-product of good planning. Oftentimes, the better we get at planning and clarity on our role, the more overwhelmed and anxious we can become about all there is to do. Why? Because you are clarifying your vision and the steps to actually move forward!
The process I’m going to share with you can be helpful in both those scenarios, but particularly when you are doing better in planning is when this process can help you big time.
First, you have to clarify and refocus on key areas.
Clarify or recommit to the primary areas of contribution that you have as a leader. Answer the question, “What are your key areas of contribution as a leader?”
There are probably only a handful of things that really only you can do, or that you’re ultimately the most responsible for in your organization. Refocus yourself on these things.
For most leaders, these are the things YOU are ultimately responsible for:
- Vision, mission and values
Ask yourself, “Where are we going and what is the impact we are trying to have on life?” This is your vision. Your mission is who you serve and how you serve them. Identify your values in terms of your organization at its best, and what the leader of that organization really needs to embody.
- Financial health
While there are many people involved in finances in terms of growing giving, revenue, or the program, you as the leader of this organization must know that you are ultimately responsible for the financial health of the organization.
- Shepherding staff
Shepherding staff and your board takes time. This is people oriented work, and usually a huge area of focus for leaders.
Self-leadership is one we often forget, but it’s incredibly important because before we can lead others well, we have to lead ourselves well.
This is the time to ask yourself some tough questions:
Am I healthy?
Am I focused on the things that I should?
How am I doing spiritually?
How am I doing with my time?
How am I doing with my areas of strength and weakness?
Now, I don’t know about you, but this usually feels selfish to me. So step back for a moment and look at it from the perspective that you, as the leader of this organization that is going to do amazing things in the lives of people, needs to be strong, ready, and healthy to be able to do for others what you’re really called to do.
- Thinking and planning
Thinking and planning is a time intensive work that no-one else in the organization is going to do for you. Very few people in your organization are going to go to bed tonight thinking and planning about where this organization is going to go. So, this is a key area of contribution for you.
Now, you take all of these responsibilities and FILTER them.
There are several things we tell our leaders to do to filter the things they are responsible for, and these are also things that I do myself.
- Create a 6×6.
Now that we’ve got the primary things that we’re responsible for clear and identified, we’re going to filter all of this by creating a six by six. Write down the six key projects you need to get accomplished within the next six weeks. These are things that if you don’t get them done, you are not going to be moving forward in the next six weeks like you really hope to.
- Budget the time on your calendar.
So now you have your six by six, but just creating it is not enough. Now, you have to budget the time to actually work on those things. These are not your daily things. These are the six big projects that you want to move forward on, contribute to, and see happen. In order to do this, you’ve got to budget the time.I find that it works best when you chunk the time. I recommend chunking ninety minutes, usually, of focused attention on these things. Chunk the time and hold to it to be able to know that in the next six weeks you have allotted the time to work on this.
- Automate, delegate, eliminate
This is where most people stop, if they are doing this at all. I’m going to take it further. Next, we are going to take the long list of things that you are doing, not on your six by six, but all the stuff that is making you feel busy and overwhelmed. Now, create three different lists.
What can be automated?
What can be delegated?
What can be eliminated?
Automating is something that I would think nowadays people would be real quick to try to do, but it involves technology, working with other people, and making checklists. So, we decide that is too much work, but if you are doing something more than once on a regular basis, it is a candidate for automation. I promise you the work up front is worth it!
Delegation is not about taking your job and giving it to someone else. It is about identifying three key things:
What is it that I’m trying to equip other people to do?
What is it that I, and only I need to be doing?
What is it that others can be doing maybe even better than I can do?
Then, you need to eliminate. This is the one that most people just want to skip over. I guarantee you, if you look over the past six weeks, you will find things that you have already decided not to do. They are still on your list causing you stress, but they haven’t been done. They may not have been done in months.
We need to go ahead and own that reality. Let’s either get it done or let’s eliminate it. I’ve got things like that on my list every time I look at it – eliminate!
Then, the other aspect of elimination is taking it one step further to the point of pain. There are some things on your list that you would like to get done and that you feel like would be positive, but the reality is we need to eliminate them from our lives because it is good, but it’s not the best.
When you eliminate to the point of pain, you know you are eliminating at the right level.
- Scheduling time windows
Take the tasks that you have, the things coming your way, and the requests for meetings, and break these into three simple groups.Things that I have to get done in the next two weeks.
Things that I have to get done in the next six weeks.
Things that I have to get done in the next six months.
This will free up the way you emotionally work through each day. The more you can help other people understand the way you are doing things, the better you will be at this as well.
It’s a simple process really. It starts at the highest levels of contribution, filters all the way down to the the details of automating, delegating, and eliminating, and then to the tasks that we are actually going to do.
This process is proven. I know it will make a huge difference for you, and I would love to see what you do with it.
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