Sitting in the leadership chair can quickly lead to feeling overwhelmed at work. Emails stack up, employee questions and customer issues can come at you hard and fast. Ineffective leaders can soon find themselves working longer and longer hours, ignoring self-care and risking burnout. You promised yourself that this year was the year things will be different. But if you’re just working harder, you missed the point. To reduce the feeling overwhelmed, you need a plan. Successful leaders identify and practice techniques to delegate effectively, manage their workload efficiently, and learn to say “no” more often.
For many leaders, this is their biggest challenge. They either don’t want to give up control or struggle to delegate because they have not made goals, priorities, and decision-making processes clear to their team. These two issues may seem separate, but they are tied together. To give up control, you need to have certainty that your team will act in alignment with you. If you haven’t made clear to the staff what it means to align with you, you can’t trust them and give up control.
For business owners and executives, the first step in delegating is clarifying your goals, priorities, and processes. Once you’re clear, the next step is communication to get your team aligned with you. I recommend getting all this written down in a One Page Plan, so it’s clear and a source to refer to your organization. From there, you talk about it and talk about it some more. Ensure your communication reinforces how you want the business run, how you define success, and your priorities.
Clarification and Communication
This relentless process of clarification and communication will engrain your focus on the business in your team. And this is what will allow you to delegate effectively. When your team understands how you measure success, they know what efforts they need to focus on to drive those results. When your team understands your priorities, they don’t have to ask you what to do first. They know.
Finally, to ensure you can feel in control of what is going on in your business while delegating, create a system that allows you to stay on top of everything. This includes weekly focused one-to-ones with your direct reports, monthly reviews of your One Page Plan performance, and intentional time spent communicating with your employees across the organization.
Manage Your Workload
Building efficiency into your workday will help you stop feeling overwhelmed at work. I work with my clients to develop prioritization, focus, and schedule effectiveness to accomplish this.
The first step is to get clear on your weekly priorities. Before your week starts, write down your top three priorities for the week. (These should align to move forward on some aspects of your big goals for the quarter and year.) And, each day, set your three priorities to achieve on that day. Build time into your schedule every week to work on these Big 3. Hold yourself accountable to get them completed by the end of the week. Indeed, you will be working on other things throughout the week but make sure you finish the Big 3. Schedule time for the Big Three and schedule time to work on your job’s different tasks. What gets scheduled gets done.
The second step is to work on focus. I recommend to my clients that they start to focus on using the Pomodoro method. It’s a surprisingly effective practice. And it’s easy to do! First, pick the task you are working on. Then set a timer for 25 minutes. Commit to work only on that task for 25 minutes. Take a 5-minute break at the end. Then set your timer for another 25 minutes. After you have done this four times, take a 15-30 minute break. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish!
The final piece I counsel my clients on is to create a disciplined schedule. Be intentional about your calendar. Start by creating your ideal week. If everything was perfect, what would your week look like? That becomes your template and your goal. Of course, other things will impact your schedule, and you have to schedule them but always keep the ideal in mind.
So, what do you schedule? Block out times for must-do meetings, project time, break time, and even just walking around the office to check in time. What is your ideal arrival and departure time for work? Schedule in your startup and shut down activities every day. The more you set down these blocks of time, the better you will get at living by them. You’ll find yourself more freedom to get things done and a lot less stress!
Learn to Say “No”
Saying “no” may be the most challenging thing for you to do as a leader. There are always valuable things you can do with your time. There are multiple requests for your time. So first, you must recognize that. Second, commit to assessing your decisions regarding how they align with your Weekly Big 3 and your quarterly and annual goals. Leverage those to decide if the request is made of you is worth investing your time and effort. And consider not only the time committed for the meeting or activity but any pre and post-work it could create for you. Does it fit into your schedule for that week? And, can you delegate the task to a direct report or someone else in your organization?
Another time to think about saying “no” is when you are asked to do something in the future. If someone asks you to do something now, you know if you have the time or not. But, if it’s weeks or months, it may seem much more realistic to “fit it in.” So, to avoid that trap, consider the following when someone asks to make a future commitment. If you had to do it the next day, would it make sense to say “yes?” If not, make sure your answer is “no.”
It is possible to stop feeling overwhelmed at work. Success requires delegation, practicing efficiency, and making hard decisions on your commitments. It’s not always easy to do. I can help you get started. Schedule a consulting call today!