By: Melissa Lagowski
CEO, Founder and Queen Bee, Big Buzz Idea Group
Do you find yourself buried in overwhelm while reviewing the weekly to-do list? Does it feel as though you work and work but never get to the one thing that needed to get done today? Are you constantly struggling to tame an inbox that constantly floweth over?
When overwhelm hits me, I am instantly reminded of Elton John’s “Circle of Life:”
“From the day we arrive on the planet, and blinking, step into the Sun,
There’s more to be seen than can ever be seen; More to do than can ever be done.”
Work is like water: It flows and flows when given the chance. And do we really want it to stop? To be fair, if our desks were cleared off, the phones quiet and inboxes empty, would we even have a job? Would we be making the impact that we were sent here to make? But on the opposite end of the spectrum, we work and work until we reach exhaustion and still feel like we have accomplished very little.
So how do we break this cycle?
Make a list each day of the three most important things you need to accomplish. You can make the list last thing in the day for the following day or make it first thing in the morning, but be sure to make it! And when you begin the work day, do those three things first – before any distraction or someone’s “emergency” gets you sidetracked and off course.
It may seem strangely simple, but when you do this day after day and tackle the most important priorities before the rest of your to-do list, you will move your organization ahead much faster than if you just randomly tackle a laundry list of tasks. As you start tackling the biggest priorities, your confidence as a leader will start to grow and you will reclaim a fresh energy and rejuvenation rather than feeling buried, beat up and deflated.
All too often, we go at the day with no solid plan, thinking that we are only going to spend a few minutes catching up on emails; after four hours fly by, we can’t believe that it is already lunch time. Next thing you know, people stop by your office with random issues, a couple phone calls come in, and then it’s five o’clock. The workday is over and you’re left feeling like you have accomplished nothing because you were at the mercy of everyone else.
And before we realize it, days lead to weeks and weeks lead to months where we haven’t made nearly as much progress this year as we had hoped.
It’s time to take back control of your day! The first step requires that you set clear organizational goals for the year. Next, break your biggest goals down into smaller tasks. Once the steps are outlined to accomplish each goal, you can work backwards to identify what you need to do on a monthly and weekly basis. This process helps you prevent overwhelm and provides you with accountability on a regular basis.
With a clear roadmap of where you are going as an organization and what must be accomplished in the year ahead, you are now adequately prepared to identify the three most important tasks that must be done each day to keep moving the ball down the field.
By completing your three biggest initiatives first thing in the day, your most important work is getting done first. By listing only three things you want to personally accomplish each day, you are being realistic in creating a balance between what you want and what others need from you. And every time you get to cross something off your list as “done,” your brain releases a small amount of dopamine. This release makes us feel good, motivates us to get more done, and it makes us think that work is fun.
The best part of this process is that when you get to the end of a week, or even a month, you can look back and see measurable growth toward your organization’s goal. It might take a bit of effort to be disciplined in executing your three tasks, but over time it gets easier and you will be surprised how the distractions that were previously preventing your forward movement start to fall away.