How much of your stress comes from trying to juggle too many roles, goals, and projects simultaneously? If you’re like many people, you expect a lot – of self and others – on the job.
While you may have a dozen or more items on your project list, remember that the maximum most people can juggle well is five to seven priorities. Sure, you can pretend to carry more, but the reality is that the more complexity you hold the less effective you become.
Productivity Tip: From your long list, identify the top three to four and focus all your energy on those. When one is complete, pull another up to the top, but hold no more than four at a time. You will find that you get more done (and at a higher quality) by working on only four priorities at a time than you did when you tried to juggle ten or twelve.
Why is this true? It’s a lesson from basic physics: When you eliminate the friction – i.e. resistance, discontinuity, resource and schedule conflicts – between multiple simultaneous priorities, the energy that used to go into unproductive juggling now goes intodoing.
An Exercise for the Workplace
Reach out to an associate (peer or direct report) who appears overwhelmed. Put yourself in the place of a coach, and ask: “What would you be able to accomplish tomorrow if you only had to worry about ONE THING?” Draw out an answer, then help them structure the next day around that single focus and protect them from distractions.
This may not be a drill you can do often; yet you will be amazed at the payback from your efforts. For people who feel stuck and overwhelmed, even a single day of feeling productive can help them renew hope and reconnect to their work.
Remember: Leadership is not about a title. The most effective leaders are those who can cut through the clutter to focus on what is most important. Anyone is a leader who can help others Simplify and focus so that more of what matters is what gets done!
Jim Smith, PCC, is The Executive Happiness Coach®. He is an international speaker, executive and life coach, and author. He provides his clients with inspiration and practical tools to live a happier life and build more positive work cultures. He is the author of Happiness At The Speed of Life: 13 Powerful Strategies for Finding Happiness at Home and On The Job, and has touched the lives of over 10,000 people worldwide through his work on Positive Emotion and Leadership. You can connect with Jim at theexecutivehappinesscoach.com.