As a society, we are spread too thin and stressed out. There are too many emails. Too many Zoom meetings. Too many tasks and demands on what is seemingly a never-ending to-do list that is running your productivity. When we try to do everything, and be everything to everyone at once, we can’t really focus on anything. We kill our own productivity, we experience burnout, and worst of all, we miss out on life’s enjoyable moments.
For those of you thinking “It’s me” right now, you are not alone. The majority of people right now are feeling overwhelmed, uncertain, and overworked.
Imagine that you could dump all of your problems, concerns and distractions out on a table in front of you. These could be a number of things, including (but certainly not limited to):
- A work presentation, emails, texts, meetings and phone calls
- Social media, personal relationships, parenting issues, family problems
- Politics, world events, the pandemic, climate change
- Your bills, your finances, your career, your children’s future
- Making dinner, weekend plans, exercise, that side-eye your neighbor gave you yesterday…
Then, for each of these distractions, put them through the filter of what you cannot control, and what you can, and should control.
Ask yourself two things:
1. What are the things that are within your Span of Control?
Not generally controllable. Not theoretically controllable. Not controllable if only…
Is there something you can personally do right now — right at this very moment — that would actually resolve or change this concern?
2. Is this vital to the goal(s) I need to accomplish today?
Note the word “today,” because that’s the important part here. There are long-term goals, and then there are items that must be achieved pronto. It’s important to realize the difference between ‘urgent’ and ‘necessary’, and focus your attention on the most valuable work, first.
Saving up for your children’s college is a worthy goal, but incessantly checking your mutual fund site for fluctuations, isn’t helping you hit that deadline to submit a project at work. Sign off your mutual fund site and get back to that slide deck. When an issue that isn’t immediately resolvable or solvable keeps you from accomplishing things that can be checked off your list today, then it becomes simply another distraction sapping your focus.
Now, pick three. This is all about prioritization and time management.
Once you’ve crossed out all of the uncontrollable and unbeneficial distractions, your list might look something like:
- Make dinner
BOOM. That’s it. That’s what you can do today.
If you feel intimidated by, or overwhelmed by the big stuff, I recommend getting a few little wins under your belt to boost your motivation. Think how good it will feel when you focus on those few critical things and cross them all off your list. Time limit this, though, so you don’t fetter away precious time that you should be spending doing the value-added work.
So, when that familiar feeling of overwhelm begins creeping in, just go back to those first two questions:
Is this under my Span of Control right now?
Is this vital to what I need to accomplish today?
Then refocus your energy on accomplishing those things. You can reclaim your focus and achieve greater impact — it’s all about purposefully directing your time and energy.