As the spokesperson for the FBI in Northern California, I was in a constant race to meet reporters’ deadlines. Each day started with a new crisis, whether it was a bombing, kidnapping, or arrest—the flow of information into my office was overwhelming.
I discovered that 60 seconds is long enough to give a radio interview chocked full of information, and that five minutes is sufficient to prepare for a live TV interview. But, by the time I had replied to 40 emails, another 120 had appeared in my inbox!
I was under constant pressure from national and local reporters to comment on pending cases, yet if I inadvertently provided details of a case sealed by the U.S. Attorney’s office to the media it would be grounds for dismissal and possible prosecution.
Lunch was optional, as were bathroom breaks. One of my assistants came into my office one day and said, “I can actually feel the stress in this room.” I like adrenaline rushes, but the job was wearing on both my mind and body.
Many people feel the pressure of responsibilities, getting tasks done, and the constant overwhelming volume of work that is placed on their desk.
Feeling overwhelmed can leave us feeling so paralyzed that we become less and less productive, not only risking our job but also our health as well. We need mental toughness to put mental disciplines into place so we can move forward when we’re feeling too much pressure.
Here are 6 suggestions:
1. MAKE PRIORITIZING A PRIORITY
Your brain uses energy like every other part of your body: a typical person’s brain uses approximately 10.8 calories every hour.
Since your brain is drained of power as you use it, this explains why it’s easy to get distracted when you’re tired or hungry.
Your best thinking lasts for a limited time. It’s good for a sprint but it cannot take you through the day at the same pace.
Knowing this, start your day differently: since prioritizing your priorities takes energy, make this your first task. Otherwise, you will end feeling overwhelmed when you cannot see a way to get through your day’s work.
2. USE YOUR MIND’S EYE
Visuals are a great way to activate the mind. That’s why storytelling, pictures, and metaphors work so well—they generate an image.
Visuals are laden with information. They provide color, shape, size, context, etc. Since they take less energy than words, they are efficient ways for the brain to process information.
Use visuals to represent each priority so you can see how it will look as you approach your goal and again as you tick it off your list.
3. MOVE IT OUT OF YOUR HEAD
Grab a pen and paper and write down your prioritized projects for the day. This saves your brain from the need to recall and review each one. Save your energy for getting those task done!
4. FIND YOUR OPTIMAL TIME
The idea is to schedule the tasks that take the most energy for when your brain is fresh and alert. Not everyone is a morning person, so perhaps you’re most alert after you’ve exercised or taken a nap.
Understand the rhythm of your own body so you are aware of your own mental energy needs and schedule your priorities around them.
Most people respond to issues as they arise; instead, divide your day into blocks so you can schedule projects that require an agile mind during those times when your mind is freshest. Block out other times for routine tasks.
5. LET GO OF NON-URGENT TASKS
Most non-urgent tasks can wait until you have time to do them. These tasks might be good ones to delegate to others. Learn to say “no” to projects that are not among your priorities.
6. SIMPLIFY COMPLEX IDEAS
Most successful leaders have learned how to simplify complicated ideas into a few core elements. It’s the best way to make complex decisions. The elevator pitch was created to encourage entrepreneurs to succinctly summarize their business idea to investors into no more than 3 simple sentences.
This is incredibly difficult to do, but when you reduce complex ideas into a few simple concepts, it’s far easier to access those ideas in your mind.
Salient, succinct, and specific points take less energy for the brain to process and provide effective visuals for the mind.
By following these steps, you can use mental toughness to learn how to discipline your mind and prevent it from feeling overwhelmed.
What tips do you have to keep from becoming overwhelmed?
© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.
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