Last week, following the publication of her brand new book “How to be Really Productive: Achieving clarity and getting results in a world where work never ends”, I interviewed Grace Marshall for Psychologies Magazine’s Life Labs blog. I wanted to drill Grace for her BEST tips on how to feel more in control and how to avoid overwhelm in the run up to Christmas.
Grace is brilliant at helping people how to feel more productive and more in control, teaching them ways on how to get everything done without expecting them to become super-humans.
Here are the 5 top tips key points from my interview with Grace to stop you from ’going under’ with stress and feeling overwhelmed at this very busy time of the year!
When we talk about productivity, people think the question is, “How do I get everything done?” That’s the wrong question.
The everything myth is that we have to do everything. We have to be all things to all people. We have to get everything done. We can’t let anything slip. It’s a myth because we can’t do that. As human beings we can’t get everything done. The problem with the everything myth is, actually, when we try and do everything, all we end up doing is spreading ourselves thin and diluting our impact and missing out on the things that matter to us.
Not everything that we worry about is within our control. If you made a list right now of all the things that are worrying you and that you think you need to sort out, stop and reflect: How much of that can you actually do something about? How much of it is a genuine action that you can actual complete now and how much of it is just a vague nagging worry?
Taking Christmas for example. Christmas is not an action. Christmas is a worry! We worry about things like who’s coming to Christmas dinner, about family tensions or how we’re going to do all the present buying and card writing. So start to distil that worry: Ask yourself “What’s the thing that I could do something about here? There’s a difference between the concern, the stuff that worries us, and where we can actually do something about it, our influence.
Being busy is not hard. We live in a world where work and “stuff” never ends. There is always more work and stuff we can do. There are always more presents we can buy, more trimmings we can add to the turkey. But we need to remember they are just ideas. Sometimes we take those ideas and we think, “Oh, I’ve got to do something about that.” Last year’s meal plan wasn’t good enough.
The problem with that is sometimes we can set ourselves up with such high standards that we just forget to enjoy it along the way and all we feel is exhausted. Fake work is the work that keeps you busy and gives you very little in return. Real work is the stuff that actually gives you meaning and purpose and joy. It takes you forward. It gives you a sense of progress, a sense of achievement, a sense of satisfaction.
If you apply that kind of thinking to your work, your projects that you’re trying to get done before Christmas at work, the question there is, “Okay, what here is fake work? What’s actually not going to give us much return? What’s the real work here that’s going to give us the most return in terms of what we’re trying to achieve?”If you apply that to Christmas, home life and stuff, you need to think in terms of shat’s the stuff that actually doesn’t matter? What can you let go of and what will you focus on? Productivity is as much about saying no to things so that you can truly commit to what you really want.
Sometimes when things are really busy, the default position is to just get on and do it. JFDI is a good motto to have, but sometimes we can get so caught up with doing that we forget to think. However, when there’s a lot going on, actually what we need to do is give ourselves space to think, because thinking can make the difference between a really productive, satisfying day and a day when you just feel like you’ve been so busy but you’ve no idea what you’ve actually achieved. Giving ourselves the power of the pause, but actually permission to stop and think as well. It’s almost like a guilty pleasure.
Often, the most productive thing you can do to take a break, go for a walk, or stop what you’re doing, turn your emails off, your phone off, and get some clear thinking – “what is it that I need to do here?” On a bigger scale as well, that power of the pause in terms of our recharge time, our recovery, is really important. Our ability to make good decisions and do good thinking is a depleting resource. It’s like a muscle. The more decisions we make throughout the day, the more that muscle will get tired. Yes, we can train our muscles to handle more, but at the end of the day, it’s still going to get fatigued.
The same thing happens with our minds. We get decision fatigue. That’s why at the end of the day, you can go home and think, and get to the point where somebody asking you, “What’s for tea,” is like the question that breaks the camel’s back. It’s like, “I can’t deal with that anymore.”Ask yourself: “How can I give myself a break? or “How can I give myself one less thing to think about?”
One of the chapters in Grace’s book is about our mind monkeys and our lizard brain. It’s about what goes on in our head that causes overwhelm, procrastination and exhaustion. Overwhelm often comes from that conversation that’s going on inside your head. Quite often it’s our mind monkeys saying, “Who do you think you are? How are you going to get this done?”
More often than not, we play the conflict or the situation or the problem up to be bigger than it is, or maybe playing ourselves to be smaller than we are. If you find yourself thinking, “I HAVE to do this. I HAVE to do that.”, start playing with those words and maybe change them to, “I get to.”
So instead of, “I have all these things I HAVE to do.” it’s actually, “I GET to do this.” So, from “I have to organise Christmas presents for my family” to “I get to organise Christmas presents for my family” orfrom “I have to finish this report before next week” to “I get to finish this report before next week”If nothing else, it will make you smile!
If these 5 tips are freeing you up to think more constructively about “having to get everything done” in the run up to Christmas, then you’ll love Grace Marshall’s book. It’s a goldmine of strategies and common sense.
You can get the first chapter of How to be Really Productive FREE here: http://howtobereallyproductive.com
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