What to Do When You're Overwhelmed

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Have you ever had a day when you feel that you haven't accomplished anything, yet, the requests keep pouring into your e-mail, cell phone, voice mail, office door, and every other gateway you have? It's incredible how much life has changed in the past decade. Ten years ago, it was common for even mid-managers to have an administrative assistant. Now, even many executives no longer have this support.

One of the most productive times that I experienced in my career was when I had a gatekeeper named Jerry. He was a Golden Gloves boxing champion, and he was intimidating. His title was administrative assistant, but his role was gatekeeper. No one got by Jerry. Whether it was through the front door or the telephone, Jerry ran interference. When Jerry was working for me, I was able to focus on the task at hand and concentrate fully to achieve my objectives.

"Jerry" is what many of us are missing today. In the past, if you were in a certain position, your interruptions were limited to people you who had a relevant purpose for being in your life. The only "SPAM" that you had to contend with was Junk mail, which required little attention and not much time. Now, almost regardless of your position, anyone has the ability to grab your attention, including hundreds of low-life SPAMMERS every day.

We all recognize the cause of our feeling overwhelmed. What is less clear is how to solve the problem. Here are some strategies that you can implement right away to bring back some control:

  1. Write things down. I use a paper planner so that I'm not drawn off of my agenda every time I receive a new e-mail. On the computer, slacking is just a click away. It is dangerous to your productivity to sit down at the computer without a very clear objective. Paper allows you to focus and define before you click.

  2. Get SPAM Protection for all of your inboxes. In addition to SPAM Guard, get a disposable e-mail address. Use this address for any form that you complete on the internet. This will keep some of the unwanted messages from even coming to your inbox.

  3. Control your telephone. If you are completing an important project, don't answer your phone. Unless you have a boss with a high need for contact, don't even look at the caller ID. If you are available to answer your phone, do so. If you are busy, don't. If you have people that you talk regularly, consider setting an appointment with them. This will be more productive for both of you as you will be more likely to stay on task.

  4. Close your door when you really need to focus. In some offices, this isn't possible, however, if it is possible, this is a great way to concentrate. Be careful, though, not to do this too frequently as those who interrupt will start knocking, which is even worse than standing at your doorway.

If you will implement the techniques above, you will have your own personal "Jerry", and "Jerry" will give you back control.
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