Sometimes, when we have so much to do that we become overwhelmed with all of our impending deadlines, we freeze up and end up accomplishing nothing. This is what I call Time Management Paralysis and it is a huge hurdle to overcome in our Time Diets.
Time Management Paralysis is a problem because it causes our stress level to rise and our productivity level to sink. It isn’t caused by laziness or disorganization. It’s caused by a hectic schedule and a lengthy to-do list where everything seems of equal importance.
This week, I had to overcome a serious case of Time Management Paralysis. I went up to my office, sat down at my computer, looked at my list of tasks…and froze. I didn’t know what to do first. I’m staring down a jam-packed month of seminars, conference presentations, deadlines and projects. Everything I needed to do seemed like a big, daunting task that had to be a priority. When everything is a priority, nothing gets done.
Here is how I regained my productivity.
Four Steps to Fight Time Management Paralysis
1) Calm Down
It may seem simple, but a huge part of Time Management Paralysis is all in your head. If you spend too much time thinking about the huge stack of work you have to do, you psyche yourself out for failure. Don’t let yourself spend precious energy on self-doubt. (Loyal readers know my favorite story about the two cows that illustrates this point.)
2) Write it Down
All of our deadlines and obligations can get tangled up in our heads. Take the time to write down everything that needs to be done, even if it doesn’t seem very organized. Just putting it all down on paper can free up valuable brainpower, allow us to think more clearly, and bring back that feeling of control.
3) Break it Up
When writing down all of your big “Meat” tasks, be sure to break them up into smaller more manageable pieces. For example, I am giving a presentation in Texas next month. When I see “Create San Antonio Presentation” on my list, it sounds difficult and daunting. Instead, I broke that task up into smaller chunks and wrote, “sketch out speech,” “create slides,” “make hand out,” etc…Those smaller tasks are easier to complete and remove the anxiety of tackling something huge.
4) Set Yourself Up to Win
We know our strengths and we know that some tasks are bound to give us more frustration than others. When you are trying to overcome a case of Time Management Paralysis, start off with a task you know you’ll be able to finish. Experiencing some productivity success will give you the momentum to tackle the tasks that are more likely to pose a challenge.
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Photo Credit: David Castillo Dominici