It’s easy to come in from the outside and say, this is how I prioritize when I have so much to do and so little time to do it. I make a list of the order of importance of things I need to focus on; delegate those categories I can pass along to someone else, and delete those that really are superfluous.
This is so obvious, but it is often missed when we feel overwhelmed and stressed! The very nature of being an Entrepreneur is being in an exploratory, discovery mode, which often results in going off tangentially in multiple directions!
Your strategy for prioritizing will vary, and be based on different criteria. If you are a business or a Start Up, in all likelihood you will be setting your priorities on making money, increasing cash flow, and/or improving product that generates this result. In a non-profit you might focus on where can you do the most good, or where other non-profit endeavors are failing. If it’s in your personal life then most likely it will be making more time to do things you really enjoy, and be with the people you have the most fun or best conversations with.
When you prioritize, first define your strategy so you have a benchmark for making the order of importance list, and things will fall into place much faster.
When we know this all so well, why do we keep finding ourselves on overload, me included? Since I found myself on overload last month I decided to take a close look at how I had got myself into the situation of feeling way behind, too much to do for the available time, including getting this post written for the #bealeader blog, edited and submitted by the end of October!
After taking a long look inward (at 3:00am, because of course insomnia is a manifestation of overload stress), these were the two headlines that seemed to be the cause of most of my current overwhelm:
1.Pursuing what is new and interesting rather than taking care of the routine…
A clarification first: clients and those I mentor are “new and interesting” which rightfully and appropriately are at the top of the list. No argument there, they come fist on the priority list; they don’t contribute to my overwhelm/overload, as I schedule my time accordingly to do the best job for the people I help/mentor or design for, and I get everything done in a timely way, just about always.
It’s my personal life where I am not in a business or a work scenario where things go off the track! I’ve advised people with this very same problem to start running their personal lives in a more business like manner; of course that’s easier said than done!
Earlier in the week my focus was on planting four Western Cedar trees and 3 Bamboo plants (anything that’s alive comes first, was my justification), but the rains started just after planting (excellent for the newly planted trees) and typical for late October in the Pacific Northwest, but I’d neglected several routine maintenance chores which needed to be done before the winter rains and freeze. The neglected chores are difficult to schedule once everything is wet; wet roofs are slippery and dangerous, and not advisable to walk on! Roof and gutter maintenance has to be done at least 2X annually because we collect rainwater for household use as well as landscaping, so this is not just something that can be put off until next year!
But I got defocused, and scheduled the tree planting (great fun and very satisfying) instead of the routine maintenance, which completely slipped my mind! Now I’ll have a hard time finding someone to do the maintenance, and I’ve created self-imposed stress. In a business scenario, hopefully I would have been cognizant of these two activities being done simultaneously and in time before the rainy weather is upon us!
This is an example of how we create overload for ourselves by not incorporating timeframe (time management) and outside influences (like the weather) into our priority lists. Both the tree planting and the roof/gutter maintenance were on my October list, however there was no note of urgency on the maintenance items, which I might have noticed had I red-flagged them; that is if I had consulted the list in the first place!
When you make lists prioritizing the order of importance of things to do, make sure contingencies are plugged into the list, and be sure and check them from time to time. I am very conscientious in a business scenario, but far more casual in my personal space as I found out this year!
2.Not keeping up with changing and evolving technology, not focusing on the new and challenging…
This is almost exactly the opposite scenario where we focus on the comfortable, familiar and routine things because they are less challenging. However, where technology is concerned this means we can quickly get left behind, and many of us get very stressed and overwhelmed by not being on the b/leading edge. Even some of the savvy younger technocrats I know have admitted this quite openly to me.
I was pretty much up to speed, or so I thought last January, in the areas I had chosen for social engagement, yet today I feel like I am rapidly being left behind. I focused on what I was familiar with/could do easily… Oh great I’ve got the hang of this…. wait it’s all changed!
What I thought was easy is now challenging, and just because I didn’t invest some time into following the evolution of a platform, I nearly have to start all over again. Learn to ride a bike and it’s forever; learn a social platform and you’re lucky if it lasts for six months! Just when I got the hang of Linkedin ‘company products and services’, it morphed into ‘company showcase’.
Even if you design your social strategy, prioritize those platforms where you get the most engagement, and of course hang out where your audience hangs out, you can feel challenged and overwhelmed by the constantly evolving and changing technology you have to contend with.
My solution for this is to learn one new thing every day in the technology department. Make a list, it can be an evolving list, but the top of the list is always what you focus on first; it is a priority learning technology list. If you get stuck on something considering the available time you have, go on to the next thing on the list, but always come away with something new you have learned every day. For me this takes time away from actual social media, however I believe as I get more proficient I’ll be more able to implement my social strategies, so the investment of time in the technology will pay off.
If you try the “priority technology learning list”, learning one new thing every day, let me know how you make out?
Now that I’ve identified how I’m creating my overload stress, I can work on the areas of personal life (house and landscaping maintenance), and on the technical smarts required for effective social networking. I have a prioritize strategy and structure that gives me confidence to manage these two areas, and all it takes now is the time management to implement and do this consistently.