Managers are often squeezed between the needs and expectations of their team and leadership. This isn’t anything new, but the squeeze seems tighter post-pandemic. You’re exhausted from the challenges of leading a team during very uncertain times and trying to meet the needs of your own family. It’s likely you’ve been at the bottom of all your to-do lists for over a year — assuming you even on a list. I understand.
In case they might help you, here are two strategies that help me manage overwhelm.
#1: Action Precedes Clarity
The Problem: When you’re involved in a new project at work or at home it can be hard to see all of the steps at once. The project might have a lot of moving parts making it challenging to know how to sequence them. Which should you do first? Which steps are absolutely dependent on other steps being taken? The confusion can be paralyzing as your mind spins to figure out the whole process.
The Solution: Choose one step and complete it. Watch as the next several steps become clear. Rinse and repeat until you can map out the rest of the steps needed to complete the project.
Example: Finishing my new website would act as a domino and trigger other new systems and email series that I was preparing to launch. I couldn’t figure out how to bring all of the pieces together and sequence them. I was definitely confused and overwhelmed!
To help inform my decision making I called the company that hosts my website to find out the steps for making my new website live. Next thing I knew the representative was offering to make my site live immediately. I quickly thought of all of the unfinished tasks and decided to let him proceed any way.
Once the site was live, the next 3-4 steps immediately became clear. After I completed those tasks, the next set became clear. I rinsed and repeated until all of the tasks in the project were successfully completed. Action preceded clarity.
You don’t have to see the entire journey before starting.
#2: Look for the Last Place of Success
The Problem: You know there is a problem with the project but you don’t know how to fix it. You’re not getting the results you expect, which causes frustration and panic to set in. If you’re like me, you feel in over your head and like you’re losing control quickly.
The Solution: Find the last task before the problem emerged. When everything was operating as you intended. Double-check that step for accuracy to remind yourself of your ability to get things right.
Next, answer these questions:
- Who can help you troubleshoot the current problem?
- What additional knowledge do you need to better problem solve?
- What past evidence of success can you reconnect with that’ll encourage you to be successful this time?
Example: For the first time, I set up a store on my website and all systems seemed ready. But I soon discovered a piece of the process was disabled and I didn’t know how to fix it. Feelings of frustration and panic emerged — again.
I knew I had to quiet these emotions to find the solution. I thought back to the last place in the sequence operating properly and double-checked my work to confirm it was working. I remembered that I was the one to make it work. The frustration and panic started to subside as my faith in my abilities rose.
Next, I identified who to call for help and what additional information I could learn from YouTube. I also reminded myself that I was the one who built the website with the store so surely I could troubleshoot this challenge too.
Wrapping It Up
My examples of managing overwhelm above are tech-related, but they’re generalizable to most challenges. Which of them can help you move forward from feeling overwhelmed and stuck at work?
Taking the quiz What Is Your Work-Life Power Level? can give you greater insight into your challenges and 10 must-have skills all managers should have to rebalance work + life.