Want to avoid overwhelm? Here’s the key skill you need to learn.
Change in work and life, as we’ve discussed before, is often construed as something requiring grit, endurance, effort, and endless self-restraint. We’re taught to see it like an endless fight with yourself and the world to avoid overwhelm!
And it is hard, sure. That’s why there is so much talk about the challenges of change. And that’s why I created the Gen-ius Journal and have my podcast to share the tools to navigate change. Many of us, need to learn a few vital skills to make change happen.
A major skill set is HOW to avoid overwhelm! Many people fail at implementing change for a simple reason – a reason I like to call the New Year’s Resolution Syndrome. Bang goes the starting gun and people try to sprint into their new life. They tend to very shortly get lost, tired, and overwhelmed.
Attempts to change fail because people attempt to implement lots of different changes all at once.
Your brain likes habit, routine and predictability. The minute you change too many things, you are working against your own psychology. You will not be able to avoid overwhelm. There are just too many plates spinning for your mind to keep track of, so some will inevitably fall!
You need a strategy to avoid overwhelm. That’s where prioritisation comes in!
So how do we do this? Two factors I like to call IMPACT & INFLUENCE…
Impact and Influence: How to Prioritise Your Tasks and Habits.
First off, you need to know what the intention is? What are you looking to achieve?
Without a plan, you’re inevitably going to get lost. But without a clear sense of your intention – you can get very busy working on the wrong things. As the saying goes…
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will lead you there”
Armed with your intention, and having identified the necessary tasks, change or habits (the WHAT you need to do) next you need to prioritise.
So, what are the two criteria? Read on…
Let’s start with impact.
When we think about which tasks or habits are highly impactful, we’re talking about those that have an almost immediate effect on your life. They have a quick positive feedback loop: they make you ‘feel’ the positive change quickly, increasing that sense of reward. Impact is about profound and immediate encouragement – both for you and those around you.
In terms of habit, the reward reinforces the habit by associating the habitual behaviour with pleasure. This is what impact is all about: the immediate kick that will encourage you to do it again. In terms of tasks more generally, it will get you going towards the next one.
Highly influential habits or tasks, on the other hand, are those that have a high potential influence over subsequent ones, the habits you are looking to introduce in the hours or weeks following or the tasks that are coming next. These cultivate the environment to help you establish further positive habits – and keep going through the next tasks.
Whilst you might not feel the effect of these tasks and habits immediately, they are setting you up for the long term. They’ll make your future changes stick and you avoid overwhelm.
Check out this Podcast for more information on Impact and Influence:
Visualising Impact and Influence.
Avoiding Overwhelm – an example.
Let’s take an example. Say you’re considering getting fitter. To avoid overwhelm, you change one little thing in your life: get yourself up early every morning for half an hour’s walk before breakfast. Just one little thing.
The Impact? Immediately, you feel better. Simply being outside improves your mood, it resets your focus, it makes you more creative and thoughtful. You consolidate a healthy sleep cycle – and the exercise improves your metabolism, mindset, health.
And the Influence? You’ve just then created a structure in your day. It encourages a new habit of going to bed earlier – rather than staying up all night with emails. Your mood, so improved with sleep, is energetic, enthusiastic, motivated. Of course, exercise, sleep and happiness all contribute to a more focused and productive you at work.
So many rewards! And all just from a half-hour walk. Soon, this new habit will itself become unthought, become normal. You will identify with the behaviour, you are the person that goes for a walk every morning. It’s just who you are.
Impact and Influence at Work.
Or, one of my favourites that I suggest to people all the time. Dreaded emails!!
Get into the habit of not checking your emails before ten a.m. This is a hugely empowering habit to instil – both highly impactful and hugely influential.
The Impact: You’ve come into the office and got straight down to work. You’re immediately focused on executing tasks that need doing. You get those quick wins in at the start of the day that spur you on to complete more. You feel in control, relaxed which causes positive hormones such as dopamine and endorphins to be released and resulting in you feeling a sense of achievement, more confident, focused and energised – immediate rewards coursing through your veins.
The Influence: You’re taking back control of your day, your time, your tasks. You’re determining and reinforcing boundaries, gaining control of where your attention goes. You’re opening up space later in the day to do more, to build more habits. (Remember, by the way, that acting on the immediate demands of your colleagues is a bad habit in itself.)
Now, get planning. What is your goal? Then list WHAT are going be the task, changes and habits that will have the biggest impact and influence for you? Write them down.
Now you know how to prioritise your tasks and habits, you only need to implement just a few each week. Making change happen doesn’t have to be hard – you might have just been doing it wrong!
Check out how you can use impact and influence to achieve better work-life balance!
How to Prioritise Effectively? Action Points.
- Start with your intention. Where are you heading and why?
- List the key tasks you need to complete and break them down to their smallest executable action.
- Of your tasks, score them by which are the most impactful and which the most influential?
Want to learn more about mastering how to prioritise?
Learn HOW using the Gen-ius Journal. Click the banner below for more information…