Operation: Crisis Management

KBB_elastic_bandsOnce in awhile, you will find yourself in a tangle.

If you are reading this, then maybe you’re in the middle of one right now. Or maybe you’re reading this because you’re hoping to have the information in case you run into trouble one day.

Either way, you are not alone. We are together in this. I am here for you.

I got the idea of “Operation: Crisis Management” from an English teacher I had way back as a senior in high school. She was incredibly sensitive to the overwhelming pressure we faced before graduating and she’d watch as even the best of students (including myself) would crumble under the enormous workload. Every once in awhile, she’d take one of us aside after class, sit us down and declare, “You need crisis management!” Looking back on it, I’m amazed how often she took the time out of her own busy life to go over our assignments with us and decided what we needed to prioritize in order to get the most important things done. It’s something for which I now I am incredibly grateful.

All of us will eventually need to evoke “crisis management”- whether we’re catching up on work after an unexpected illness, coping with a family emergency, or experiencing personal problems. These are all crises, and you can work through them.

The most important thing is that you find your helpers first: a team of friends, family members, colleagues or members of the community who are willing and able to provide the resources that you need in order to manage whatever you are going through. If you do not have access to these resources, find someone you trust and ask them to help you. At the very least, you owe to the people who care about you to let them know that you’re working through something difficult. They want to be allowed the opportunity to help.

Professionally speaking, it’s important that you maintain honest, direct and appropriate communication with your superiors and your colleagues about your capacity to perform at work. Maintaining boundaries is important and healthy, but a few quick words with your boss about your break-up, or the death of a grandparent is better than taking time off without warning, or spending the majority of your shift crying in the bathroom.

Now more than ever, it’s important to be mindful of your own needs. People are over-scheduled and over-worked as it is, and dealing with a crisis lowers your mood, zaps your energy, and in some cases makes you sick. You are allowed to take a break, which means learning to say no to anything that’s not an immediate priority during this time. Delay and delegate tasks whenever possible– it will allow you the breathing room you need to complete whatever needs to be done, and hopefully give you time to recharge. Eating right, drinking water, exercising, fresh air, meditation and getting enough sleeping all help with burnout. (For more tips on how to deal with burnout, read this post. I’ll also convince you to sleep more here.)

Sometimes crises will come up and they will be unexpected, or inevitable. Personal crises such as deaths, physical and mental illnesses, break-ups or other emergencies will, unfortunately, happen to all of us.

Once in a while, we come across people who always seem to be in crisis whether it’s because they’re overwhelmed by their dysfunctional family, burdened with continuous relationship problems, or constantly take on too many projects at work. You may be one of these people yourself.

Bad things happen to everyone. It’s how we cope with them that counts.

As difficult as it may seem, each challenge we face comes with a learning opportunity that ultimately helps us understand and grow as human beings. Sometimes there will be things that happen that are circumstantial, or out of our control. Sometimes they are sad and unfair. But we have a choice as to how we handle them.

If you begin to notice the same patterns occurring, and the crises you seem to face over and over again are similar, it may be time to revisit your own behaviors and choices. Be honest with yourself and ask what you may be contributing to your own crises. Do you avoid making decisions? Are you saying yes to more things than you can handle? Instead of beating yourself up about past actions that you can’t control, figure out how you can use this information in the future. Maybe it means learning how to set better boundaries, or learning when to say no. You have the power and the self-insight to develop your own coping mechanisms in the best way you see fit, as long as it doesn’t inflict any harm on yourself or others.

J.D. Salinger once said, “On particularly rough days when I’m sure I can’t possibly endure, I like to remind myself that my track record for getting through bad days so far is 100%, and that’s pretty good.” I’ve survived 100% of the bad days as well.

You can too.

KBwB-BFlower-50Sending lots of love and good feels out over the interwebs to anyone that’s going through anything. I hope this post helps you in some small way.

Even though I write a blog with the word “busy” in the title, I still feel like we do way too much stuff. Part of keeping busy is finding a balance, so sometimes I blog about that here. I hope you take the time to find balance, too.

 

 

 

 

 

How to Make Up For Lost Time

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Life happens. Interruptions occur. Things get in the way. Despite our best intentions, most of us have had to deal with backlog in one way or another, but once you have a case of backlog it can start spreading like the plague. The more time you spend trying to catch up on the work that you’ve missed means you’re missing out on even more new work coming your way or worse; you’re so caught up with tasks that need your constant attention that you let your older projects slide until it becomes a bigger problem- you miss a deadline, you let down a colleague, or even lose a client.

The key to dealing with any kind of back log is to figure out a way to deal with your workload as efficiently as possible without getting overwhelmed.

At the beginning of any project, I recommend writing down all the tasks that are involved. The same can be applied to your backlog. Make a list of all your projects that are on your plate.

Working on a project is fruitless if you do not have all the materials or information needed for its completion. Organize all the necessary paperwork, gather your materials, and contact those involved for any additional information you don’t have. It’s better to know exactly what you’re dealing with then discover you’re missing a crucial piece of the puzzle while in the middle of a project. If you’re waiting for other people to get back to you on something, accept that this task is temporarily out of your hands and focus on the things that only you control.

Now that you have a better picture of the things you need to work on, prioritize what you need to work on based on urgency. Is a project or colleague at risk if you don’t deliver something on time? Have you made a commitment to something you cannot back out of? Are you responsible for another person’s health, safety or well-being? All of these tasks need your attention first.

Next, see what you can juggle.  Are there tasks that you can delegate to others, such as personal assistants, subordinates, caregivers or secretaries? Is there a co-worker who can pick up that shift or take on that extra work for you? If there’s anything on your list that no longer holds your interest, has no direct benefit to you personally or professionally, or is a commitment that is bigger than you are willing and/or able to take on, consider deleting it.

Finally, decide what you can put off. This is officially your back-log and can only be processed once your other, more urgent tasks are completed. Even if it still seems enormous, you can forge ahead with the confidence that the most important aspects of your life are under control.

Like any other large project, it’s always best to break it down into small chunks. Try breaking down tasks based on category, or action (like “Meeting Notes to Type” or “Reports to Review”). Make room in your schedule for dedicated back-log processing time, paying attention to energy levels throughout the day. If you find yourself procrastinating, make your processing time a special date with yourself and take your work to a coffee shop, or reward yourself with a small gift or special treat. If you’re having trouble finding the time, try and find hidden chunks of time in your schedule to catch up on reading or other easily portable tasks, such as commuting or waiting for a flight.

Making up for lost time and getting down to dealing with your backlog is a task that’s often overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Remember I did it, and I was the girl who was accused of running a law firm out of her tiny apartment. I shudder to think about the months I spent dealing with all of that backlog, but the sheer amount of space I gained (and the peace of mind it gave me) was well worth the battle.

KBwB-BFlower-50Want more advice on how to deal with workflow? I make it my life’s work to figure out other people work. I share all my ideas on productivity, scheduling and organizing all in the Busy section of my blog.

Do you need to catch up on your clutter? Find out all about how I purged my apartment here, and all the papers I would not recommend getting rid of here. Cleaning out your closet? I did that too.

Still having trouble breaking down your enormous to-do list? Read my suggestions on how to best tackle it here. Or read this post to find out how I re-organized my to-do lists so I could actually get things done.

 

When Those Lists Keep Adding Up

KBB_stack_of_filingAlmost everyone I know has a to-do list. Think about yours. It could be on a piece of paper, scrunched in a corner of your daily agenda, or neatly outlined on your Smartphone. Maybe it’s just in your head as you scramble to get out the door to do your errands.

No matter what form, we all have our ways of prioritizing all of the things we need to do in order to keep our businesses, homes or lives in order.

Now I want you to think about your list. If you’re like most people, your list is probably a mile long. You’re bound to forget one of those things, or worse: you might put it off.

Thought about that list? Great. Now ask yourself, what’s the one thing that’s been on here forever? What do I just keep forgetting? What to-do just seems to keep on slipping through the slats? You might have to dig a little deeper to think of that one thing but once you have it, grab onto it mentally and don’t let go.

Is this an exercise in procrastination? (No. I was going to write a post about that but I think I’ll just do it later.) It’s actually proof of something that I’ve only learned very recently.

To-do lists don’t work.

Now don’t immediately start composing that nasty email to me, because to-do lists have helped out a ton of people, myself included. But all too often we fall into the trap of using a to-do list as a brain dump. We write down every single little thing we’ve ever thought of doing ever, instead of just keeping it short, sweet and limited to a certain category of things.

People familiar with the practice of GTD (Getting Things Done) will remember how creator David Allen suggests organizing several to-do lists in order of context.

I have to admit that had been something that has helped me tremendously. My lists are shorter and I am much more selective about each of the items that go on each list.

This doesn’t mean you have to become a hardcore GTD convert in order to gain something from this practice. The next time you write down a to-do list for all of the errands you need to run on Saturday morning, limit the things you need to do to just that Saturday morning. If it’s not an errand, don’t add it to the list. If you do, you run the risk of losing your memory’s grip on that item and the task will never be completed. Not much of a to-do list, right?

It may seem like common sense, but you’d never include items to pick up at the grocery store on a list of things to do to clean your garage. So why would you do any of that to your to-do lists?

Try at least grouping your to-dos into like categories. You may even want to try separating those to-do lists by context, rooms in your house, or by home improvement projects. Whatever floats your boat!

Who knows? You might actually end up getting some of those nasty tasks crossed off.

KBwB-BFlower-50How many items do you have on your to-do list? I’d love to hear about yours as well. Drop me a line at keepingbusyb@gmail.com or comment below. Together let’s get them done! Looking for other projects to keep you busy? I’ve been sharing all of mine here.