Too Many Balls in the Air?
14 August 2019

Time management – self-care – Productivity

Sometimes it feels that we’re just trying to juggle too many balls at the same time. Everyone goes through periods when we are incredibly busy at work. For many of us that sense of being full-on all the time is a way of life. This year is especially busy for me with nine extra-curricular projects on top of a busy HR business. I’m used to having lots on the go, but even I wilt a bit when I look at my to do list for the next 12 months.

When you’re going through a busy patch and the idea of having full weekend off seems like a remote fantasy, people telling you to “slow down and take it easy” or lecturing you on the importance of maintaining work-life balance, reducing the stress, and getting enough sleep can feel a mite irritating. My husband gave up saying “helpful” things like that long ago in the interests of marital harmony. It just made me grind my teeth. Crossly.

How do you get through life’s manic patches without going crazy?
Here are some of my ways of keeping calm, carrying on and working efficiently during busy times.

Use task tunnel vision. If I think about all the things I have to do at any given time, I feel firstly overwhelmed, then paralysed into inactivity/ indecisiveness by the sheer volume of work, neither of which are helpful. So, once I have made my initial sifts and decisions, I don’t think about it too much. The first step is to capture everything, then “dice and slice” in terms of what needs to be done and when. Then I park everything except what I’m doing now, and I focus on doing just one thing at a time. I must accept that things won’t all get done at once. Better they’re done properly once than badly several times over.

Use the best time to do things.

Do difficult things in the morning when your brain is clearest. Do the tasks that don’t require concentration later in the day.
Focus intensely on work for 50 minutes then take a break. Taking short breaks throughout the workday helps you stay focussed and productive. Get up and move. Get oxygen into your body. Drink water. I usually play some favourite music at some point during the day – it’s a sort of low-calorie relaxing treat. Even a five-minute break can help you clear your mind. Get away from your desk during lunch time. This can help you relax and recharge for a more productive afternoon.

Accept you’ll have to compromise.

When you're in the middle of your busy season, the last thing you need to worry about is your unpainted spare room or starting a new project. Allow yourself the capacity to focus on your work by simplifying other aspects of your life.

If you can afford it, outsource what you can – ironing or cleaning, for example.

Put other commitments on hold or ask someone else to cover your tasks during your busy season.

Limit your screen time. Although certain online activities can help reduce stress, heavy technology use is linked to higher stress levels, so you might consider alternative forms of stress relief.

Do not compromise on self-care.

Look after yourself. No one else will. Make healthy food choices. If you’ve got a Rolls Royce, you wouldn’t put chip fat into it. It’s the same with your body. You cannot work well if you’re eating rubbish. With small, frequent meals throughout the day, you will maintain an even blood sugar to help keep you focused and energised while avoiding irritability. Stick to a routine and aim for seven-eight hours of sleep per night. Get exercise. I am walking 1000 miles this year – that’s an average of three miles a day. It’s become an essential (and easy) way for me to get exercise, air and de-stress and spend some time with my husband.

Build in some opportunities for pleasure. People often put off enjoyable activities when they feel too busy or undeserving because they haven’t done enough. Link simple sources of pleasure with activities you’re don’t especially enjoy. For instance, if you love podcasts, catch up with favourite shows on your commute home each night.
Take steps to avoid being a permanent workaholic. But, during those times when working flat out makes sense (or is a necessity),take steps to limit the risk of harm.

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Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this blog, nothing herein should be construed as giving advice and no responsibility will be taken for inaccuracies or errors.

Copyright © 2023 all rights reserved. You may copy or distribute this blog as long as this copyright notice and full information about contacting the author are attached. The author is Kate Russell of Russell HR Consulting Ltd.