Last Monday, I was feeling completely overwhelmed.
I was close to being spent.
I was at a breaking point and on the brink of giving up.
I was 98% done with a project that I’d been working on for two months.
I had been working on the project for six weeks and then got stuck.
I took a break from the project and told myself I was only a week away from finishing the project.
I was talking with a business coach of mine.
I commented to her, “I’m only a week away from finishing this project. However, I’ve been a week away from finishing the project for three weeks now.”
She then asked me what was keeping me from progressing.
I listed out my obstacles and then explained to her what I had done to remove the obstacles.
Recently, a friend of mine posted the following quote from Thomas A Edison on Facebook.
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
This quote at this time was exactly what I needed to read.
I determined I would not give up.
If all I could do was take one tiny baby step today, it would get me closer to completing my project.
At times I set a big objective for myself, and I make a lot of progress at the very beginning.
I get to 40% completion on the project because of the novelty and my excitement for this new project.
Then I get to the point of what some people call the messy middle.
The messy middle is where all the hard work begins.
Most likely, all the work from the project is hard work.
However, when I reach the messy middle, the project is no longer as fun as it was when I first started the project.
There I was with just two percent left on my project last Monday, and I had given myself a deadline to finish the project on Wednesday.
The pressure was starting to mount up, which is part of the reason why I was feeling overwhelmed.
I had been working more hours than I care to admit in this article.
I’d waken up many early mornings to get the project to completion.
I just wanted to be done with this project so I could put it to bed and move on with my life.
As I was thinking about the current status of my life, I knew I had become obsessed with my project.
I was working more hours than made sense.
My current work schedule was not sustainable. I knew I had to figure out a way to make some changes.
I didn’t know what the changes would be.
I placed asked myself the following question.
What can I do to reduce the overwhelm?
Here are steps I’ve taken to make the adjustments
Identify What is Happening
The way I feel is often the first indicator that something is amiss. Many times the feelings creep up on me without any warning.
Everyone is different and has different signals when something is broken.
Here are some of the indicators I’ve identified as my signals that I need to make changes:
- My patience runs thin.
- I become irritable over minute details.
- I feel anxiety.
- I feel overwhelmed.
- I sleep most of the day on Saturday.
- I feel inadequate.
- I feel like I have to learn more before I can start.
- I feel like I can’t get started.
- I feel paralyzed.
- I want to procrastinate until I have everything perfect.
These are all cues that something is not quite right in my life.
Become a Reporter
Next, I start to gather data about what is going on.
I’m not sure what the solution to my problem is, so I want to start gathering data about the current situation.
In my case, I started tracking all of my time. I have a timekeeping software. I made notes in the timekeeping software of how I was using my time.
My plan was to track my time for two weeks and then create a game plan to improve how I was using my time.
I felt like I was working too much. However, I wanted to be objective about how much I was actually working.
I created six categories for my time as follows:
- Marketing – this is the time I was devoted to developing my message or marketing engine to create and nurture a relationship with prospects who would become leads
- Sales – this is the time I was interacting with a person to educate them on my services and move them further down my sales funnel.
- Production – this is the time when I was doing work for which I could bill my clients.
- Management – This is the time where I was working on systems to make my business run more smoothly
- Training – This is the time where I was with a business mentor or learning how to do something in my business.
- Admin – This is time devoted to items that didn’t fit into any of the above categories.
When I got to the end of two weeks, I printed off a report that showed me how much time was being spent in each of the six categories.
The information was insightful.
Create a Measurement System
I concluded that the current tracking system was not going to give me enough information to be useful at making the necessary improvements.
I wanted a simple system that would only capture a few data points that I found useful.
My system had to be simple.
I used my six time categories as the basis of my new Measurement System.
The next step I made was to create an Excel spreadsheet with a few tabs.
The first tab is called Rocks.
Rocks is a term that I’m using from the book Traction by Gino Wickman.
Rocks are the objectives I want to create in the next 90 days.
I’m halfway through the third quarter. I wanted to establish a system that I could use repeatedly.
The Rocks I chose were objectives that I want to complete by the end of September.
Once I get to October, I’ll be in the fourth quarter. Then I’ll be operating on a full 90 schedule.
The second tab in my Excel sheet is my Perfect week.
The first thing I listed are my daily non-negotiable task that I’m currently working on.
My nonnegotiable are tasks that are key to my long-term tasks.
Come hell or high water; I am committed to completing my non-negotiable tasks.
Here are my current non-negotiable tasks:
- Blog post – 1 hour
- Podcast – 30 minutes
- Training – 1 hour
- Marketing – 1 hour
Every day it will take me three and a half hours to complete my non-negotiable tasks.
The next thing on my Perfect Week tab is a listing of my six time categories.
I give each of my time categories a separate color. This way, I know instantly how I’m using my time.
I created columns for each day of the week.
Next, I create a row for half hour increments of my time. I begin with my targeted start time of the day and then progress to the ending time of my day.
Now I create time blocks for how I intend to use my time.
I decided to keep things simple in the beginning, and every day looks the same.
As I get more experience using this system, I’ll adjust my perfect week based on what I learn.
The next tab is my tracking for the next week.
I copy my perfect week from the Perfect Week tab and place it in a new tab named Week 1.
Now I’ve got a time plan for how I will use all my time this week.
The individual items I work on during those time slots may vary, but I have to work on tasks related to the time I’ve predetermined.
For instance, if the time is blocked out to work on marketing, I work on a task related to marketing.
I also put some time slots for buffer. For me, those time slots are my Management time and my Admin time.
Record My New Actions
Now when I’m actually working each day, I change the time in my Week 1 tab. There could be a legitimate reason why I must adjust my schedule.
There are no judgments from me. I am just recording things as they occur.
At the end of each day, I review how I’ve used my time. I tally how many hours were spent in each time category.
Review My Week and Adjust
Now that I have objective data about how I’m using my time, I can start to make adjustments.
At the end of each week, I total my hours as they were spent in each of my six time categories.
I review my actual time with the target of how I wanted to spend my time.
Then I decide on one change to make for the upcoming week.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in the last year is the value of my time.
My time is my most precious asset.
I must be the master of my time, or it will fade away. I will have wasted my time.
By creating a simple system to measure how I’m using my time, I’ve started the process of mastering my time.
Anytime I start tracking something, I make improvements. Improvement is a natural result of measurement because it makes me aware of what is actually happening.
Here are the wise words of Jim Rohn.
“Don’t start your day until you have first finished it on paper.”