27 September 2023

Final lap: Getting to the 2020 finishing line

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Sonia McDonald* has advice that will help us get though the last few days of the most difficult year in living memory.

It’s that time of year. My clients are feeling it, my team is counting down the days and I am feeling exhausted.

No matter what our personal or professional lives involve, feeling overwhelmed and exhausted happens to each and every one of us at many points in our lives.

If you ask a group of people at any given moment if they feel overworked, you’ll see plenty of hands go up.

I bet yours probably would, too. So how do we work on feeling less overwhelmed and more collected?

The answer lies within yourself and how you manage your time, not in anything external.

Here are my tips for feeling less overwhelmed and exhausted.

Don’t let the everyday things weigh you down

Understand that not everything you do on a daily basis is essential to reaching your goals.

Giving those things an unnecessary sense of importance will only add to how overwhelmed you feel.

Remember it is okay not to do it all and be imperfect.

Cut out unnecessary tasks that have become unquestioned habits

Doing what you’ve always done isn’t going to change anything.

It’s time to start questioning why you’re doing certain things, and you’ll often find that you don’t need to be doing them — it’s simply become a force of habit.

Once you stop getting bogged down in the unnecessary, you’ll free up time and become more productive.

Always be ready to reorganise your priorities

Look at what you have to get done today, and what will get in the way of doing it.

Choose the most necessary things to do, the things that cannot wait.

You must also be willing to readjust your priorities (and your calendar) when an urgent task suddenly occurs.

It’s great to get through your to-do list, but not if you’re neglecting the essential things as you do so.

Figure out the way you work best

Everyone has a different routine when they work.

Maybe you do your best work later in the day, or even at night.

Maybe you’re a morning person who works best when you start the day with some yoga and reflection.

No matter how you prefer to work, you must also understand if it’s actually benefitting you.

If you’re not doing great work, it’s time to start experimenting with different work rhythms.

Do the essentials before any others

This doesn’t just mean for the day; you need to look at what you must prioritise for the week, the month, the future.

Ascertain which tasks are most important, so that you’re working on things that provide you with the most value.

Make sure you ‘switch off’ from time-to-time

Our brains (and bodies) need to go on autopilot sometimes.

Some interesting research has shown that we often come up with smart solutions to our problems by reviewing them, and then letting ourselves experience a period of ‘unconscious thought’.

This essentially means letting yourself ‘zone out’; doing things that don’t require much thought like wiping down the kitchen or folding washing.

When you’re not concentrating on trying to find an answer, you’re much more likely to find it.

Establish your limits

Today’s modern technology means we’re all available 24/7 — or at least we feel like we should be.

The truth is, just because we all have those little devices in our pockets that allow us to communicate whenever we want, doesn’t mean we can’t put boundaries in place.

We’re allowed to be ‘unavailable’ and make time for things other than work.

Decide when you’re going to stop answering calls and emails, when you’re not going to do anything work-related, and tell people those time limits.

When you manage their expectations, people usually won’t mind not receiving a response right away. In fact, they’ll likely respect you for it.

Protect yourself from burning out; set healthy boundaries and stop those overwhelmed and overworked feelings in their tracks.

Really think before saying “yes” or “no”

Saying “yes” to everyone isn’t the way to get ahead and reach your goals.

All you’re doing is overworking yourself and lessening the quality of your work (and your life).

Say “no” when you need to, and you can set conditions if necessary. That goes for saying “yes” as well.

Reflect on the impact that accepting the request will have on you and your goals, then decide on your answer.

Minimise the chance of being disturbed

When you really need to get something done, distractions are one of the biggest things standing in your way.

A great tip I often use is putting aside time where my notifications go on silent, so that no texts, emails or calls can interrupt my work.

I’m a lot more productive when I’m not stopping and starting, and that’s true for just about anyone.

These tips are easy to put into practice, and are great ways to cope with the exhaustion and overwhelm that we all feel at times.

Never feel guilty for feeling overworked or fatigued, just remember that you can do something about it.

*Sonia McDonald is the Chief Executive and founder of Brisbane-based LeadershipHQ. She can be contacted at soniamcdonald.com.au.

This article first appeared on LinkedIn.

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