Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Too many things to do at work? 3 tips to try to make it better

During the month of January we find ourselves excited about goals or resolutions we've set. We typically start the new year with determination, hope and a long list of things to do. There's anticipation in the air for change and making the current year better. But what's that I smell? It's pungent, acidic and burns my nose if I breathe it in too deeply. It is the scent of anxiety.

While making resolutions and setting goals are positive, they can also be a source of anxiety for many. If you are a leader, it is important that you understand this phenomenon. Be sensitive to what others may be experiencing during this post holiday time of year. If you are a high performer, there are a few self management techniques you'll want to try to lessen that unspoken workplace anxiety:

1) Ruthlessly prioritize.
Work smarter not harder, become very strict in your approach to time management; Ask yourself where am I spending the majority of my time? If it's not on the highest priorities of your job, redirect your energy to the highest priorities. If you are unsure of where your priorities should be, ask your boss. Do your part: Cut out unnecessary phone calls, conversations and deliver on what is expected. Better yet, you can more easily exceed expectations when your focus is laser-like. Don't forget to make yourself a priroity. Take care of your body. It is the only one you'll ever have on Earth. If you have resolved to exercise more this year, do it. Researchers continue to tell us that exercise is the number one stress reducer and defense against premature aging.

2) Eliminate time wasters.
Stop working on projects and initiatives that are going nowhere. Ask yourself, which activities or projects are the biggest drains on energy with the least return? Which initiatives continue and clearly have no chance of being successful? Can I make a valid case to propose to my boss that we discontinue some tasks? Examine yourself and be honest. Are you truly spending time on work, or are you checking Facebook or Twitter? Are you having problems meeting deadlines due to too many uneccessary texts or phone conversations with family and friends during your day? If so, its not your workload, it's your work mode!

3) Ask for help.
Be sure to ask for help. Not by whining or complaining. Not by being passive-aggressive. But directly apporach your boss and ask if there is anything that can be taken off your plate. If the task is large, find out if there are others who can assist you in completing smaller elements of the task. If you are unsure of how to complete a task or what resources are available to you, ask. Avoid becoming paralyzed by the amount of work in front of you. It may be difficult if you are a high performer, but it is better to ask for help or discuss reasons why an unnecessary task needs to be eliminated. True leaders will listen and attempt to be reasonable. If you work in a very high pressure, demanding environment, it is important that you know that you are doing your very best everyday.

If after trying these techniques you still feel overwhelmed, it may be time to ask yourself a few other questions: Do I still find joy and passion in my work--even when things are busy or stressful? Can I maintain this pace without negatively affecting my health and family? Do I have a good support system or mentors? Am I willing to start networking to see what other opportunities I need to consider(yes, even in this economy)? If I have have to remain, are there other healthy/positive/relaxing activities I can do to remove my focus from workplace pressures?

Perhaps its my age, perhaps its having been in too many workplaces where high performers tried to deliver and ended up losing their health, confidence, passion and joy for their work or their organization.

There will always be stressful times in the workplace. There will always be a time when deadline pressures are placed upon you. That's to be expected AND accepted. But one thing I know for sure (thanks O) is that life is too short to remain in a negative, non-nurturing work environment.

You can be a high performer, an authentic leader and a joyful human being...mmm...now what's that I smell? Ahhh, yes. The scent of being content and peace while still performing at a high level. Kinda reminds or soft lavender. Try these tips and let me know how it goes as you breathe in the sweet scent of blessings in the New Year!