Wow, I wish I had a dollar for every time someone said they were overwhelmed about tasks to action, or to do list, or simply the number of emails in their inbox. It’s a real common dilemma for every business owner, regardless of your industry, trade or profession.
Here are my top tips to help when you are overwhelmed about tasks to action or emails to clear:
Do you have a task list?
Often people feel overwhelmed simply because they have so much rattling around in their heads. They have “to do lists” and ideas and things they absolutely must not forget. If this is all sitting in your head, get it down on paper, or digitally, in order to clear your head.
To Do List or Wish List?
Firstly, be clear these are two different things. The things you absolutely must do are the To Do List, whereas the “wouldn’t it be nice to …” are on the wish list. These are not critical, not highly important, but simply bonus activities which would improve your business in some way. You may even (like me) have a third list which is your Ideas List. You get lots of brilliant ideas (I do for writing) which you don’t want to forget, so put them in an ideas list or folder.
Limit the ‘To Do List’.
Personally I have a weekly “action list” which has space for no more than 5 items a day (Monday to Friday). I try to actually limit to 3 or 4 a day and as I do those items I cross them off. This is really satisfying and achievable. Every day (and several times a day) I look at my list and ensure by Friday afternoon the list is done. Good news, 95% of the time it actually is, or perhaps one item to knock off Saturday and then I am done. The trick of success is to limit what goes on this list; only the critical and most important things.
Now, onto the emails …
Adopt the Do, Delete or Delegate principle.
Do not revisit emails. You either get them out of the way, delete them or forward them to someone else to action. You may say “I might like to read that later” but be honest, if you will, then move to a ‘read later file’ but otherwise, just delete.
Don’t keep revisiting something.
This concept applies in everything you do; touch it once and only once. Don’t open an email, stow it in ‘read tomorrow’ area, then tomorrow read it again, then delay it another few days and come back to it again a few days later. Every time you open it, you re-read it, refocus on it, then procrastinate and then delay it. Delaying is not an option. Do, delete or delegate.
Use your team.
If you have staff, have them look after your public and main email, and only important things get forwarded to your secondary email. For example, you might have donna@abc as your ‘internal’ email, but stone@abc as your public email. Have your PA or VA scan your public email, and only forward to you the important and required items.
Use your email program.
Rules are a great tool in Outlook. Perhaps you get a newsletter you definitely want to read (like mine) but know you only read on weekends, then setup a rule to put into a ‘Reading folder’ so you don’t have to take any action until it’s time to open that folder to read. The rule can automatically move that item from your inbox, to your ‘read’ box with complete automation.
Rather than unsubscribing, which can be time consuming, or perhaps you’re not wanting to offend someone, instead, customise your ‘Ribbon’ in Outlook to have a “Block Sender” button, which you can use. The sender won’t know you are blocking them, but you won’t see the item coming into your inbox all the time. If you want to find something, then it will be in your spam box, but be aware, that it is not wise to do this for someone you work with … everything they send will get blocked; which is where ‘rules’ is a more defined way of controlling things.
At the end of the day, to remove that overwhelm, you need to get organised, have a system, use that system and be disciplined. If you are working on client work or an important proposal, then absolutely do not be responding to the ‘ding’ of a new email (in fact turn that off altogether) nor should you even be answering your phone. Just focus on what’s important now and don’t allow yourself to get distracted by other things. Even as I was writing this blog, I saw a “Contact Us Form Completed” email come into my email. Yaaa, a prospective new client. Did I jump over to that email? No! I finished this blog and then will look at that. Discipline will very much help remove overwhelm.
Want to work smarter? Get some business coaching tips. Call me on 0411 622 666.