Avoid the email black hole syndrome…

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Time It. Tame It.

That Dreaded Task May Not Take as Long as You Think

timers too

Every month, I have a task that I want to get done, but don’t enjoy doing. I prepare a statistical and financial report on a project for which there are ongoing sales and other people involved. The others involved are very understanding and never nag me for the information, but they do appreciate that it is being kept up with.

One day, toward the end of my work day, that task remained on my list and I decided to defer it to the next week. So I changed the due date and closed up shop for the day. The next morning, when I had limited time, I decided to see how long it would take to actually do the task and get the report out.

I timed it.

I was in for a pleasant surprise.

That dreaded task? It only took about 10 minutes, if that. I simply had to focus, transfer the numbers, prepare the email and send it out.

Now that I realize how little time it actually takes, I hope I be less likely to dread it popping up on my monthly recurring tasks.

This gets me to thinking that there are several other work tasks that really don’t take that long and can be knocked out in the time it takes to gear up to do them or complain about them. Things like:

 

5 Minute Tasks: cleaning out one file, cleaning off my desktop, deleting or moving a few electronic files, cleaning up/deleting emails I don’t really need, doing a quick review of my calendar for the next week

10 Minute Tasks: returning a couple of phone calls or emails that take just a few sentences; doing a more detailed review of my calendar, researching a product, cleaning out a desk drawer

15 Minute Tasks: conducting a call with a client, reading a chapter of a professional development book, taking a walk, cleaning out a good number of emails.

Next time you are facing a task you dread, tame it. Here are a few tips to help you get past it.

  1. Do it while running a timer. When done, note the time it took. Add that time onto your task description (if it is a recurring task) to remind you that it doesn’t take that long.
  2. Schedule it. If you can’t do it now, schedule a time in your calendar for “miscellaneous tasks” (I call it “TIE” for tasks, in-box, email) and make sure you stick with that appointment.
  3. Postpone it–carefully. If you must postpone the task, only allow yourself to postpone it once. If you don’t, you may postpone it so much that you’ll push it into a time when it comes up again, and now the work is doubled (i.e. if you don’t do September’s report until October, you’ll then have two reports to do.)

Sometimes our mind makes things harder then they are. Be realistic about the time a task will take. In some cases, you may be surprised that it won’t take as long as you think! Time it and tame it for less stress!

What would they say?

if i asked

10 Tips for Planning a Low Stress Event

Events don't have to be stressful to be meaningful

GOS

OPP: You are already busy, and you’ve been asked to organize/host an event for clients/customers.

Several months ago, I was invited to an event hosted by Greenville Office Supply. They were having a lunch and learn opportunity at their office/warehouse and invited their customers to come by and enjoy a free lunch, tour, and other fun.

I had developed a relationship with this company while I was filling a part-time office administration position for a full service marketing firm. I was impressed with how they treated us and the event only added to that positive impression.

What also appealed to me was the relative simplicity of the event, which (I hope!) made it easier on their employees to host, yet made the guests feel well cared for. So here are some tips for hosting an engaging event without getting overwhelmed!

  1. Keep it simple. GOS offered a straightforward lunch and tour of the facilities in their invitations, and from what I understand, they do similar events throughout the year, which means tried and tested elements can be carried over. Events don’t have to be elaborate or stress-producing to be meaningful.
  2. Set up wisely. The event took place in the large lobby area as well as a conference room. Having served as a receptionist myself, it makes sense to me that the check-in area was the reception desk, allowing the receptionist to do double duty during the event and not have to be away from the phones.
  3. Keep presentations short. If you are going to speak during a networking or social event keep your thoughts concise. A couple of GOS staff spoke but they did not go on and on. Instead, they had a scrolling slide presentation quietly running in the conference room where most of us ate.  That was a reasonable amount of promotion.
  4. Share the load. A number of employees helped with the event, from checking people in, to giving tours, to pouring iced tea. Each person had their job to do, keeping any one person from being overloaded.  Many hands make light work.
  5. Keep people guessing. I was surprised and delighted at the lunch spread. I expected a boxed lunch and instead we got a Thanksgiving meal! We also each received a tote bag filled with a collection of usable supplies.  Lunch was catered, making it easier on the staff. The bags were the type that could be used for a variety of events or customer service initiatives. It would not surprise me if they just keep a supply of these filled bags on hand and fill them during routine/quieter times.
  6. Streamline. GOS was very respectful that this was a lunchtime commitment for most guests. It was kept to an hour, benefiting both the guests and the employees involved in running it.
  7. Keep things moving. While we never felt rushed, we did keep moving along between the tours, getting lunch, and then listening to brief presentations and having the door prize drawings. (I won one!)
  8. Serve and smile. All involved seemed happy to help and we were waited on, making us feel special. Involve some of your quieter employees in the serving and clean up aspect to help ease everyone’s load while involving your team.
  9. Keep improving. I imagine that the GOS staff debriefs in some ways after their events, so that they can make improvements for the future.
  10. Stop and celebrate. At the end of the event, give yourself and your team a pat on the back for a job well done. Take a short break before debriefing (especially if everyone is tired) but make sure to stop and think about it within a week while the event is still fresh.

I don’t know how stressed any of the GOS staff were for this event–maybe they were, but if so, I didn’t sense any major “hurry-scurry” atmosphere, which is what you want when hosting an event. I truly enjoyed the event and my connection with them. Now go plan a great event for your clients and customers–without getting stressed out!

Your turn: What event do you have coming up? What tip would you offer?

Time with Yourself

It's okay to make

Manage Your Transition Times, 2

A resend to make it easier to see the video

Looks like the video didn’t come through easily in last week’s email so here’s another attempt. If you still can’t see it, go here to view it.

One of the most critical times in your day is a “transition time.” These can occur several times a day, and need to be managed well to avoid stress. (I’m still working on it!)

Here’s a video with more.

 

Always Plan a “Cushion”

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We all need a bit of cushion–or “white space” in our lives throughout the day. This gives margin in case an appointment runs late, or a task takes longer than you expect. When planning your day, always assume you have to add a cushion to commutes and meetings. This will help relieve your stress, or even simply give you time to go to the rest room!

 

20 Symptoms of Overwhelmed Professional Syndrome

hope and henry 1

 

Feeling overwhelmed regularly? You may be suffering from OPS – Overwhelmed Professional Syndrome. But there’s hope! (See what I did there?)

First, consider the following symptoms and answer “yes” or “no” to each:  

  1. I often run late, arriving a few minutes after the time I planned to be at work or need to be at a meeting.
  2. I have more than 20 emails sitting in my in-box.
  3. People aren’t sure if they ever will get a response to the email they sent me, or the voce mail they left.
  4. I’ve let my voice mail box get to the point where the recording says, “Users mailbox is full.”
  5. I can only see about 3 square inches of my desk surface.
  6. I have a pile of papers in my in-box that haven’t been looked at in over a month.
  7. I tend to forget small tasks I meant to do.
  8. I don’t have a centralized place to keep reminders and lists.
  9. My desk is covered with sticky notes.
  10. I have very little margin for reflection or professional development.
  11. I tend to multi-task, a lot.
  12. I underestimate the amount of time a task is going to take.
  13. My “soul pace” is always set on “fast.”
  14. I have, or make, little time for fun with friends.
  15. My calendar is so tight that if one appointment takes longer than I planned, the whole day becomes a mess.
  16. I’m afraid I’ve developed a reputation for being scattered and unreliable.
  17. I find it hard to sit still.
  18. Caffeinated coffee is one of my four major food groups.
  19. I sleep less than 7 hours per night.
  20. I find myself to be irritable or moody a lot of the time.

As you read through those symptoms, did you answer “yes” to any of them? I can.

So what do we do about it?

Moving from overwhelmed professional to one that excels in each of our life roles is not an overnight process. In fact, we may gain ground in one area and fall back in another. At the risk of using a cliche word, it’s a journey.

I’m an overwhelmed professional from time to time. That’s why I write and work to help other overwhelmed professionals. Most of us have a good heart, solid intentions, and innate professional skill. We just need to understand that we can’t be perfect nor do it all, and rein in our drive from time to time. So I hope you’ll stick with me and read every Monday, interact on various social media channels, and purchase resources that will help!

Today I’m introducing Hope, another overwhelmed professional. She and her buddies–Henry (her dog) and RC-various “random colleagues” – will appear from time to time in the blog, sharing in our collective journey to excel despite being sometimes overwhelmed.

Hope may or may not be somewhat based on someone you know. I’ll never tell.

Here’s to a year of excelling!