Last week I lost it. I wasn’t keeping up with my emails or my messages coming in from facebook, text, what’s app, basecamp, slack etc, etc. I wasn’t paying my bills on time and the emails multiplied as I got reminder messages! I was having phone calls, video calls, face to face meetings. My to-do’s were accumulating faster than I could write them down and that was putting my mind in overdrive. I had taken on a new responsibility in March and thought I could handle it! I still believe I can but my old systems can not!
I spent several days in that “I can’t keep up” state. I tried to fix things by sitting at my desk for more hours. I tried going through my emails in many different ways – I started with the oldest, I started with the newest, I started going through alphabetically. I didn’t seem to reduce their number. They were coming in as fast as I was dealing with them. I tried not going to all the meetings I was invited too but that was just unsatisfying.
Then I got to the next stage – I started laughing at myself and sharing my situation with a few people (including FB so that was quite a few people). At last I felt outside the situation rather than right in it. I teach people to manage their attention and prioritize their tasks but it was the time for the teacher to take her own medicine. I took the night off and went to see Wonder Woman and then I was ready for the next stage.
I woke up the following morning resolved to take a look at what was going on. After my morning getting up routine and daily Avatar® practice I realized I wasn’t having a breakdown but my system couldn’t cope. I had a system malfunction! The system had been fine for the past 3 years and I was proud of it – a calendar, a notebook, written lists and my email inbox as another to do list. It could cope with the number of projects I had and the technology I was using. Or at least I had the illusion I was coping. Then the new responsibility and the projects that came with it showed all the weaknesses and broke the system!
So with a quiet mind I started building a new system that relies less on paper and pen. I’m using some apps to help me. The first is an app that is a huge to-do list with priorities and due dates. It gives me a to do list each day with priorities. I love lists and checking off tasks so tool seems to be working well. The second is to help me keep my meeting notes electronically so they are more searchable. That feels better, we’ll see how it works for me. I’m still carrying my paper notebook because I haven’t got used to typing during meetings yet. In fact I’m not sure that I want to. I want to see how writing notes electronically affects my listening and participation.
I’m wondering if I need to schedule time after each meeting/phone call to get my to do list and meeting notes up to date.
I’d love to get to a place where I do everything the same day that I agree to a task but until I reach that I will go for keeping my email inbox down to 10 messages and my to do list up to date!
How do you handle your potential overload? I’ll let you know how I’m progressing with my system.