Working in politics is like being in a war.
Your political fortune depends on daily news and events often outside your control. You could walk into the office on any given workday, as I often did in my previous life as a campaign staffer, to get a call from a reporter inquiring about a sensitive subject.
Within minutes, a relatively quiet workday has become nightmarish. You furiously start multitasking between high priority tasks, political life-or-death interruptions and emergencies that threaten to topple the campaign.
Suddenly you’ve spent the whole day responding to a barrage of negative and often untrue attacks. And you haven’t gotten any real work done.
What do you do when you’ve lost control of your day?
If you’re in the business of putting out fires, work in a high-stress workplace or simply feel overwhelmed on the job, use these nine strategies to help manage the chaos:
1. Prioritize tasks based on your goals and objectives
Not all tasks are created the same. You must determine what your ultimate goal and objective is for the day. Is your job to advocate for a policy, improve turnout for a community event or sell a product or service?
Once you identify the objective of your work that day, it should be easier to identify what should come first.
2. Start with the most important tasks
Determine what’s important and what can wait. Make sure the tasks that you’ve selected for the day are in line with your goals for the day.
Let’s say you’re trying to get the word out for an event in the community. You need to call leaders in the community, craft a flyer to inform people and promote the event through local media. If event logistics aren’t your goal for the day, there’s no reason to coordinate with the center where the event will take place. All you have to do is focus on turnout for today. Nothing else.
3. Say “no” more often
Set a goal of saying “no” three times each day. Say no to tasks that are irrelevant, unimportant or distractions. Sometimes the most difficult person you have to say no to you is yourself.
You have to discipline yourself not to do the first thing that jumps in front of you. Many problems aren’t a crisis; they can wait.
4. Ask for help
You work with a team. People will likely help you, especially if you can show them the project is in their best interests as well.
Sometimes, we tend to be so focused on our projects that we fail to look around to see who’s available, who’s an expert and who can lend a hand to help complete a project. All it may take is asking.
5. Restrict your email access to an allotted time period
It’s easy to spend your entire day emailing. If you leave your email inbox open indefinitely, your whole day will be reactionary.
Each email will introduce a problem or present a new question. Instead of attacking emails as they come in, allot a time period each day to answer them. When finished, close your email for the day. And take email off your phone so you don’t become a professional email replier!
6. Make a game plan for each day, and cross things off
Similar to planning your communication time, spend a few minutes each day to jot down your to-do list. Go over your goals for the day, prioritize your activities and determine what needs to be done.
A to-do list is an effective way to keep track of your tasks for the day. Many basic paper and online tools can help. Find one that works for you. This will help you prioritize the tasks you need to complete that day so you can tackle them one by one.
The process of recording what needs to be completed helps you feel less overwhelmed because you know everything that needs to be done. Crossing these items off will bring you a much-needed sense of joy and celebration.
7. Use the right tools to stay organized
Taking the time to learn to use a couple of productivity tools can help you get your work done quicker and be more efficient.
8. Visualize the consequences of incompletion
To evaluate the importance of a task that needs to be completed, think about the end result.
What would happen if you don’t complete a particular job today? Will you get fired? Will you miss the deadline? Are others depending on you completing the task? Consider what will happen if you don’t get the job done to weigh the importance of each task.
9. Pause and take a deep breath
Sometimes, you just have to step back and take a deep breath when you feel like you’re drowning in deadlines, to-do lists and uncompleted tasks.
Take a breath and step away from it all momentarily to regroup, rest and get re-energized. Take your rest and lunch breaks to step back from your work for a few minutes.
Do you use any of these above strategies to manage stress when work piles up? What works for you?
Vishnu Subramaniam writes about career, life and spirituality tips for his community of world-changers. For inspiration, sign up to receive weekly posts at www.vishnusvirtues.com.