How I Take Action When I’m Overwhelmed

How I Take Action When I’m Overwhelmed

I love the feeling of dominating my to do list. When I am organised, taking action and achiveing consistently I feel unstoppable. I know I’m not the only one who’s heart flutters when a tick box is able to be ticked, or a task can be crossed off, and I’m sure I’m not alone when I say “productive” is not and has never been permenant state of being for me.

So the question for me has always been, why is motivation inconsistent? Why do we conquer some days and hesistate and procrasitinate on others? How can we manage the indecisvness and the paralyses when they quickly blind side us so easily? When we’re overwhelmed, how do we still do the things and tick the boxes and cross of the tasks?

I have no idea (anticlimactic I know, I’m sorry), but I have found a way to trick myself into taking action when I am feeling this way. When the youtube video below popped up on my explore page, it was a game changer.

The method Jessica describes in the video is below:

Step one:

Write down everything you need to do. This part is easy. It’s your classic to do list. Get everything that’s poking around in your head onto a peice of paper. Don’t leave anything out.

  1. Walk the dog
  2. Call mom back
  3. Finish first edit of research paper
  4. Finish passport renewal application
  5. Mail passport renewal application
  6. Fold laundry
  7. Buy friend birthday present
  8. Look into hotels for holiday this summer
  9. Go grocery shopping
  10. Go through closet and discard old clothes

Step two:

Grab 3 markers (or coloured pencils, crayons, etc.) and colour code the tasks on your list in terms of urgency.

Red tasks are the priority. These tasks cannot wait and must be done today.

Yellow tasks need to be done within the next three days. You may want to get them done today, because they are important, but it’s vital to be realistic about the deadline. Could you delay this to a few days from now if you had to? If yes, it’s a yellow.

Green tasks do not need to be done within the next couple of days. Maybe these need to be done next week, the week after, or next month, but they don’t have a real urgency at this moment.

  1. Walk the dog
  2. Call mom back
  3. Finish first edit of research paper
  4. Finish passport renewal application
  5. Mail passport renewal application
  6. Fold laundry
  7. Buy friend birthday present
  8. Look into hotels for holiday this summer
  9. Go grocery shopping
  10. Go through closet and discard old clothes

Step three:

Rate each of your tasks in terms of the effort it’s going to take you to complete them. I like to think of effort as a combination of time and concentration.

5/4 stars are the hard ones. These are likely to ones you procrastinate the most. It’s the stuff that will take at least a couple of hours of your time and your concentration.

3 stars will take either less time or less concentration, but will be heavy on the other. (For example, going to the store to get get some food probably doesn’t need a lot of concentration, but may take a fair amount of time.)

2/1 stars are the things you could do in your sleep. For me this looks like mindless activities that are boring: folding laundry, doing dishes, etc. (If I can do it while watching tv, it’s probably a 1 or 2 star. If it will take me less that 5 mintues to do, it’s probably at 1/2 star.)

  1. Walk the dog (* * * 2 Stars)
  2. Call mom back (* * 2 Stars)
  3. Finish first edit of research paper (* * * * 5 Stars)
  4. Finish passport renewal application (* * * * 4 Stars)
  5. Mail passport renewal application (* * * 3 Stars)
  6. Fold laundry (* 1 Star)
  7. Buy friend birthday present (* * * 3 Stars)
  8. Look into hotels for holiday this summer (* * * * 4 Stars)
  9. Go grocery shopping (* * * 3 Stars)
  10. Go through closet and discard old clothes (* * * * 4 Stars)

Step four:

Now that you’ve got some more information on what you need to do, how urgent each task is and how much effort is required for each task, you can decide on a plan of action.

There’s no right or wrong way to tackle this. If you have a lot of red items on your list, then you know you need to do these things today, so it might be easiest to start with the one that’s going to require the least amount of effort to start building momentum. Or maybe you want to start with the task that’s going to take the most amount of effort to get it out of the way, and then you’ll know everything gets easier from there.

The point of this is to clarify what you need to do, acknowledge the urgency of each of the tasks, and being reasonable with your efforts. I’ve used this exercise through periods of depression when it can be really difficult to do even the smallest things, like taking a shower or calling someone back. It also helps me to be realistic about the timelines of tasks I might be worried about. As soon as I write it down and color code it, I realise that actually none of the things I was worried about were urgent, and the anxiety lifts allows me to be present in the day. This is also how I keep the small, mindless tasks at bay and not allow them to overload us by consistently checking in.

Whatever you think will work best for you, probably will, as long as you decide on a plan and then take action.

I’m Courtney and I write about Leadership and Self-Awareness. Thank you for taking the time to read post.

If you would like to connect, please don’t hesitate to reach out via instagram or email.

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hello@smartstyleleadership.com

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Your Priorities vs. Your Actions

Your Priorities vs. Your Actions

During lockdown, I feel like I’ve gone through every emotion under the sun. Every feeling, every thought, and ambition has washed over me as I continue to ride this roller coaster that is “the world being paused for who knows how long”. During the first lockdown, I was determined to use this time to my benefit. I’ll finally be able to do all of the things I want to do, but don’t have time to do. Very quickly I realised that no matter how much time was available to me, I did not want to clean, or do life admin, or be productive every second of every day. 

Now, on my third lockdown, it is still tempting to plunge myself into a pool of expectations. My brain goes there naturally, especially when I’m feeling out of control, but I’m learning how to balance this. I’m learning how to be kind to myself, and realistic with what I am going to be capable of, regardless of the amount of time I have available to me. 

This time has also allowed for a lot of reflection.  I’ve been contemplating my priorities recently, and not only is it interesting to observe what I instinctively say is a priority, but then how I act because of or despite these ideas. 

There’s an exercise I’ve tried recently which has helped me to make more sense of my priorities vs. my actions. 

To start, name the top 5 priorities in your life right now

These should be as specific as possible. Instead of saying “family”, for example, you might say “to nurture my relationship with my children” or “to contribute to my family by being a supportive wife”. You might say “to be able to do 50 pushups in a row” or “to stop drinking soda” instead of saying “to get healthier”. The more specific you make your priorities, the better. 

If you’re having trouble pinpointing what your priorities are, think about what goals you currently have, what you want to accomplish in the future, or what is good in your life right now that is important for you to maintain. 

An example would look like this:

My Priorities:

  1. To save money in order to move house
  2. To run a marathon in 2022
  3. Spend more quality time with my husband
  4. Finish my L & D qualification
  5. Spend less time on devices and more time being creative

Now, think about how you spent your day yesterday. 

What did you do for the first hour after you opened your eyes? What did you do after that? And after that?

Start from the beginning and write down exactly or as much as you can remember of how you spent your day. 

An example:

My Actions:

08:00 – 09:00 woke up, made coffee, watched the news

10:00 – 11:00 scrolled through instagram, called a friend, made breakfast

11:00 – 12:00 worked out, took a shower, answered emails

12:00 – 13:00 got dressed, went to the post office, picked up groceries 

13:00 – 18:00 did some work, made and ate lunch

18:00 – 19:00 watched tv, spent time with my husband

19:00 – 20:00 cooked and ate dinner, watched more tv

20:00 – 21:00 finished up more work, cleaned the kitchen

21:00 – 23:00 got ready for bed, scrolled through my phone, went to bed

Now compare the two. 

How much of your time yesterday was put towards the things you say are a priority in your life? 

In the examples above, “spending less time on my devices and being more creative” was a priority, but what is reflected is there are no actions backing that up. “Run a marathon in 2022” is also listed as a priority, but there aren’t any actions showing that is more important than watching tv, for example. 

If you have found an inconsistency with your priorities and actions, what needs to be questioned is whether or not the things you wrote down are actually a priority. What I love about this exercise is that our actions do not lie and ultimately, how we spend our time will show us what our futures look like.

If your priorities and actions are not aligned, you have two choices: You can either get realistic about your priorities, maybe dropping or swapping a few, or you can start putting more action in towards them.

Let it go or make it work.

Maybe you really want to make something a priority, but you’re struggling with making time for it. I get it, but what I would suggest is finding 15 minutes a day to put towards it. If something is actually a priority in your life, surely you can find 15 minutes per day to focus on it. If you can’t find 15 minutes, I’m sorry to say, you need to take it off your priority list until you have time to focus on it consistently.

(Don’t think 15 minutes per day is enough time? After one year, that’s 5, 475 minutes – which adds up to about 91 hours, almost four whole days of focus on a single priority!) 

Allow this exercise to give you room for some gentle, honest, adjustment and reflection. 

If you are consistently in a place where your time is spent in alignment to your priorities, you will undoubtedly be making progress on them or maintaining them. With discipline, there is freedom.

I do want to stress that the point of this exercise is not to berate yourself but instead to open yourself up to your truth. It may require a frankness with yourself that you are not used to, but alignment between your thoughts, beliefs and actions are an important step for living an authentic and successful life. 

Try this exercise, and let me know how it goes in the comments below! 

Did you find any inconsistencies between your priorities and your actions? 

What adjustments do you need to make and what will you continue to work towards?

x

Speak To Yourself Like This

Speak To Yourself Like This

How often do you speak negatively to yourself or about yourself? 

How often do you speak positively to yourself or about yourself? 

Which question was easier to answer? 

My sister used to say something whenever I said anything mean about myself. It usually went like this:

Me, “I look ugly in this shirt”. 

Her, “Don’t talk shit about my sister like that.” 

The first time she said it, I had to pause and think about what she had said. Then I laughed. Whether she realised she was doing it or not, very subtly she was bringing my attention to the words that were coming out of my mouth. I was “talking shit” about myself without even realising. Would I let someone call my sister ugly right in front of me? Hell no – but look how casually it could creep out my mouth about myself. 

We live in a world where #selfcare is translated to lush bath bombs and face masks (and not that there’s anything wrong with that), but there’s more we should be doing to take care of ourselves

Speaking kindly to ourselves and about ourselves will make more of an impact on our mental health (plus it’s free)!

Why do we let those words slip out of our mouths in the first place? 

Is it a defence mechanism? I’ll say it before they do. 

Is it fear? I’ll say it because they’re probably thinking about it anyways. 

It is just familiar territory? I’ll say it because it’s comfortable to believe it

Most of us probably don’t even notice it. It’s likely just the reaction born out of an interpretation our brain has created of an event that has happened.

Or more simply put, Event —> Interpretation —> Emotion —> Response.

Using this framework, you could see how this would happen:

Event – You completed a work assignment and submitted it to your boss who then asked you to redo it because it wasn’t done correctly.

Interpretation – All of your hard work was for nothing because you have had to redo it. Your boss doesn’t think your work is good enough, so you must not be capable of your job.

Emotion – You’re frustrated with yourself because you now have to revisit something you thought was finished. You don’t feel confident in your ability to do the task because you tried and were rejected.

Response – You say, “I’m horrible at this, I’ll never be able to get it right.”

Whether you believe it or not, it all stems from low self worth. And the way to change it starts with the voice in your head. Start paying attention to this voice, and work to change the message to something more kind, and more realistic. 

Using the example above, just because your boss has asked you to redo something does not mean that you’ll never be able to learn how to do it. In fact, studies show you will learn more from failing than from succeeding.

So what should you say instead in this scenario? What about, “I’m upset that I have to redo it but I’m still learning.” 

You can also work to change your negative self-talk by viewing it from another perspective. 

“I’m grateful my boss is giving me a chance to redo this. If it’s not correct, I want to learn how to do it properly.” 

Change your negative self-talk by being more objective. 

Below are some examples of how to flip the script in your head from negative to objective. 

“I’m never going to be able to do this.” -> “I’m struggling to do this and could use some help.”

“I’m so stupid.” -> “I do struggle with math, but will try my best.” 

“I’ll look disgusting in that shirt.” -> “That style usually doesn’t suit me as well as others.”

It is a process to notice and start correcting these patterns, but awareness is the first step towards change. If you’re struggling to see it in yourself, start with paying attention to the way other people talk about themselves. You’re likely to see a pattern with those who are confident and self assured vs. those who are not – the more fragile their state is, the more likely they are to have negative self-talk happening.

Remember, if you wouldn’t let others say it about your best friend – don’t say it about yourself.

Self care = self esteem.

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Why self-awareness will make you a better leader.

Why self-awareness will make you a better leader.

Why is self-awareness important in leadership?

To understand this, let’s first understand leadership – what is it and what is its purpose? This could vary in complexity depending on who you ask, but the answer should always come down to getting results. A leader’s job is to guide a group of people to a final destination – or to achieve a final goal.

The Results / Final Destination / Goal

This part is really important, because if you’re a leader, you should know where it is you’re leading your team. If you work in the private sector, then the final destination would probably look like making sure your team or department is contributing to the bottom line of the business, however, in a non-profit sector, your final destination might look like a more service based goal. 

Example: The final destination (goal or results) of someone who runs a kitchen in a restaurant might look like a safe kitchen that turns out delicious food in a reasonable amount of time, which also makes a profit for the restaurant. 

Regardless of what the final destination is, there is always going to be a leader who is helping those around them to get there. 

But Then There’s Bad Leadership

Have you ever had a boss that you couldn’t stand? You probably know what Bad Leadership looks like then. It may look like someone who does get the results – they will get their team to the final destination – but what did they exchange for it on the way? What have they lost as the result of their expedition? It’s usually either one of two things. 

The first would be the respect of the people they are leading. A leader must ask themselves this question – are people following you because they want to or because they have to? If it’s the ladder, there is some work that needs to be done to improve your relationships with the people you are leading. It’s also important to recognise that once you reach your final destination, you then have to stay there. If you’re using bad leadership, you won’t be there for long. There’s now multiple studies proving a healthy working environment (aka how happy and safe do your teams feel) is conducive to production. 

The second thing that could have been sacrificed to get to the final destination using bad leadership was their own sanity, and health. If you play the martyr role and are constantly sacrificing in order to get your team to where they need to be, you’re running the risk of burnout and exhaustion. You shouldn’t have to forgo your own happiness in order to get the results, and if you do, there’s work that should be done around pleasing people and boundaries with work. This will ultimately pay off for you and your team in the long run.

So, how do you create a positive, safe environment for you and the people you’re leading? This is where self-awareness comes in. 

Once upon a time, there was a woman who was leading her team to their final destination. The journey was long, and the path was narrow, but she was certain she could get her team to where they needed to be. She was motivated, confident, and had walked this path before with a different team, so she had no doubts in her mind about where she was going. There was a problem, however, because this leader had really poor eyesight, and as a result, she would misstep and run into her team a lot. She would step on their toes, run into them, or stop along the way and trip on things on the path, holding everyone up even if it was very cold. 

After a while, her team started to get frustrated with her. They begged and pleaded with their leader, “We want to follow you, but you keep stepping on us, and it’s starting to hurt. You keep tripping and holding us up in the cold, and we don’t think we can keep walking with you if you’re going to keep stepping on us like this.” 

The woman listened to her team’s pleas with empathy, and she promised she would watch out for these things. Very quickly, she realised, though, how difficult it was to watch out for her team’s feet. It wasn’t that she wanted to step on their toes, it was that she couldn’t see in order to not. The longer they walked, the more she stepped on them, and eventually she resigned to the fact that this is just what it would have to be. The woman decided that it was the team who would have to watch out for her. This added extra pressure on her team. Not only were they trying to get to their destination, but now they now had to watch out for their leader so they wouldn’t get stepped on and held up. 

It was a stressful journey, and many people decided it wasn’t worth the trek any longer. 

Hopefully you can see where I’m going with this – all our leader needed was glasses to see, and all of this would have been avoided. Because she couldn’t see what was in front of her, her and her team suffered.

Self-awareness is your glasses, and developing self-awareness is not only important for your own confidence and resilience, but is vital to understanding how you are contributing to the world around you in order to build stronger, healthier relationships. 

Self-awareness is our ability to notice and monitor our inner-world – our thoughts, feelings, emotions – but also how others are receiving us. Both parts are critical for effective leadership. 

If you’re aware of the negative emotions you may have in regards to a task you have to complete, but aren’t aware of how this affects those around you, that’s a blindspot. You may be stepping on someone’s toes, making it difficult for them to journey with you, and not even know it. On the other hand, if you’re overly sensitive to how you are affecting those around you, you may be tuning out your own feelings and emotions. It’s been said that only 10 – 15 % of people are actually self-aware, which leads us to believe that it’s a lot harder than it seems to strike the balance. 

Luckily, like any skill, it’s something that can be practiced and improved on. If you’re reading this, it’s like because you’ve taken an interest in developing self-awareness. Being honest with yourself about what you need to improve on is always the first step towards change. 

Two things you can do to start improving your self-awareness today:

  1. Seek feedback about what your blindspots are from those who would have your best interest at heart. Be mindful of those you chose to get your feedback from. Ensure they are people you can trust, but also that they themselves have good values which are aligned with yours. 
  2. Start reflecting. If you notice you’re having an off day – ask yourself what happened. (avoid asking yourself “why”, as research shows that too much introspection, and this question specifically, can actually be counterproductive, instead ask yourself “what”). Be specific, and be honest. You will start to notice patterns in your emotions in correlation to circumstances and incidents happening in your life and throughout your day. You can then dive deeper into how to manage these triggers, and your emotions which follow. 

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