If looking at your to-do list feels like a long walk in the weeds, it could be time to trim it back. Sometimes, we carry a burden of old habits that won’t serve new goals. Wishing these to-dos would fall away isn’t a helpful approach, but changing how you filter the items on your list can give you a place to start thriving. When everything becomes priority, nothing is a priority, so how can you stop being so overwhelmed and start getting the right things done? It begins with separating the meaningless from the meaningful.
Separate the meaningless from the meaningful.
To set boundaries and filter your list in a meaningful way, remind yourself of your overarching goal. Is your goal to generate revenue? Increase client engagement? Launch a new product, etc? Once you know what you’re aiming for, it will be easier to spot actions that don’t contribute to your purpose and are zap your energy and confidence. Next, ask three questions from what I call the 3D exercise - what can you dump, delegate or develop?
What can I dump?
The first question is taking a look at your calendar and to-do list over a period of time – two days, two weeks or a month. Ask yourself honestly, “What can I dump?” Do you still attend meetings that no longer require your presence? Is your input no longer as relevant as it was one year ago? What habits do you keep that cost energy, but no longer contribute value? What email lists can you remove yourself from?
Break old habits that won’t serve new goals.
What can I delegate?
Sometimes, things can’t simply be dropped. So, focus next on what you can delegate. Find a team member who may enjoy learning a new skill to take on a task or project that is no longer a development item for you. What meetings could be attended by your team members, including the decision-making rights? Sometimes you don't have folks to delegate to and that’s where outsourcing could be helpful. Cleaning, administrative tasks, and creative work could all be outsourced for less than the cost of salary plus benefits. There are many great service providers happy to help you take a load off.
What can I develop?
If you can't dump it or delegate it, another question to ask is, “How can I develop it? How could I make this the funnest thing I never wanted to do?” I have been in that situation where I was delegated projects that didn’t always match my skill set. I dreaded them. And when I dread things, I procrastinate and I started to use hope is my strategy that maybe leadership would have this dawning that I wasn't the right person for the job and they’d take it away. It never went away, but I certainly was miserable because I was resisting what needed to be done. So, how can I get into it if I can’t get out of it? Who can I get to know better so we can make this project fun?
There is a part two to this question. One thing that helped me change my mindset was to ask, “How could this is project be developing me even though I don't want to do it?” How could this be developing me to work with new types of people in new types of systems? Like you, I had some career aspirations, so I could focus on what I didn’t like or I could shift to asking how this could be preparing me for future promotions? Changing that perspective has given me, and other leaders I coach, a new burst of energy to put toward a successful project.
Revealing confidence in overwhelming circumstances begins by removing what is no longer meaningful. Take a look at your week, or your month, and filter it first against your goals. Then, take it for a spin with the three Ds.
Try this exercise in your personal life, how could it bring you more peace and sanity at work and home?