Is your brain overwhelming you? If you’re struggling with too many ideas and too much to do, it may be time to clear that mental clutter so you can be more productive. You’ll probably find it helps you become more successful and confident, too.
Successful people are confident. They know their strengths, how they uniquely contribute to the organization, are decisive, and as a result, they radiate an aura of self-assurance.
But where does this confidence come from? Confidence is the purity of action produced by a mind free of doubt. People who are confident are clear, productive, and not weighed down by clutter.
You know clutter. It’s the to-do lists that run through your head day and night. Over packed, overscheduled calendars with no room to breathe. Forgetting to follow up. Saying yes too frequently and no too infrequently.
Clutter is undermining your confidence, and thereby your career. Fight the clutter with these simple, yet powerful strategies. (Click here to tweet these strategies.)
Clear the mental decks
Your brain is a terrible to-do list. If you don’t believe me, how often have you remembered to call someone when you were in the shower, or remembered the bread as you were pulling out of the grocery store parking lot?
Your brain was not designed to be your to-do list. By asking it to do something it was not designed to do, you are introducing doubt and anxiety into your workday, not the hallmarks of confidence. All of this remembering and reminding of your to dos creates a lot of mental static undermining your performance.
Clear the mental decks with a brain dump. On a piece of paper, a whiteboard, in a computer program or app of your choice. Write down everything, and I mean everything, that you need to do personally and professionally. This could take you a few minutes or it might take you a few hours over the course of a few days.
The objective is to get everything that’s in your head out into the physical world so you can prioritize, plan and execute. Stop asking your brain to be your to-do list. Get clear and watch your confidence soar.
Never be late again
Over-packed and overscheduled calendars not only leave you with no room to breathe, but they also ensure that you’re chronically late. If one of your meetings runs even five minutes over, it sets off a chain reaction, and you’re late for the rest of the day.
The by-product of being late is not just an irritated colleague, but also potentially career limiting implications. Early in my career, a senior executive told me that when you show up late, you are giving away your power.
So, how do you guard against being late?
- Question every meeting request you receive. Look at your calendar for the next two weeks. How many meetings or conference calls are you attending? Do you really need to attend each of these meetings? Are you providing required information, context or serving as the decision maker? Would spending your time on one of your projects produce a higher return on your time investment? Guard against automatically saying yes to each meeting request to create additional time in your day.
- Schedule buffer time. Remember when you learned in chemistry class how gases expand to fill the spaces they are in? The same thing applies to your calendar. If you don’t block or fill the space, something or someone else will fill it. Buffer time ensures that there’s room on your calendar to shift or reschedule a meeting or call reducing the possibility of back to back meetings.
- Add at least 50 percent to your time estimate. Think about the last time you woke up late. You started your day in a full-on sprint, frantically trying to cram your normal morning routine into a narrow window of time. Something was overlooked, missed or not done well, right? (The last time this happened to me, I showed up to the office wearing one black shoe and one brown shoe).
When you underestimate how long a task will take, the chances of you completing your work late or poorly almost triple. Avoid this by simply adding a 50 percent buffer to the amount of time you estimate to complete a task, walk to the meeting in the next building or commute to work. If you complete the task more quickly or arrive earlier, the extra time feels like a bonus.
Automate your follow up
When was the last time you had that sinking feeling in your stomach that you forgot something? You forgot to follow up with a colleague on the final notes for the presentation or check in with a prospect when you said you would.
Keeping track of all our open loops is challenging, especially considering the different methods we use to communicate. And the less you have to remember, the more your mind is free of doubt and worry.
Automate all of your email follow ups by setting up what I call the “waiting for rule.” The rule works by automatically moving messages that you have cc’ed yourself on to a specific folder in your email program. As a result, you no longer wonder if you have followed up on an email and have one dedicated place to track all of your pending requests.
Just say no
Confident people are decisive. They use the word no and use it frequently.
What enables them to say no? They are clear on their unique strengths and their contributions to the organization. They focus their time and attention on leveraging these strengths, and they know that every time they say yes to something, they are saying no to something else.
What are your unique strengths? This week, notice what your colleagues, manager and friends compliment you on. These compliments are probably pointing to one of your strengths. Review your last performance review. Where did you exceed expectations? This is where you are adding significant value to the organization.
By focusing on your strengths, you are able to confidentiality say no and focus on getting the most important things done for your career and the profitability of the organization.
Clutter undermines your confidence and can derail your career. Eliminate the clutter and watch your confidence and career soar.
Carson Tate is a nationally renowned expert on workplace productivity and the author of WORK SIMPLY: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style. For additional resources visit www.carsontate.com.