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Graham Allcott

Think Productive


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Five tips if you’re feeling overwhelmed


Is your workload getting to you? Graham Allcott has some great tips to help you keep on top of everything. Read on to recapture your zen.

Get control

We all have times where it feels as if there is far too much to do, and far too little time to complete it all. When these overwhelming feelings occur, it is important to take control. Arrange time with your boss to go over your current workload and renegotiate commitments, whether that is extending deadlines or finding out what needs to be prioritised. Always remember that you can say no. Being much choosier about what we say ‘Yes’ to is an important skill – and learning to say ‘No’ to ourselves means not biting off more than we can chew.

If you do get into situations where you’ve taken on too much, you need to realise that renegotiating your commitments to yourself and others is better than burning yourself out trying to meet them all. Make it your mission to perfect the art of saying ‘No’ to yourself and to others. It goes a long way.

Get perspective

Once you’ve taken control of your workload, it’s time to get perspective. Get out of the office for half an hour or use a meeting room to give yourself some space to see the whole picture. Get outside and go for a quick walk. The fresh air in your lungs, the movement, the changes in sights, sounds, smells and thought patterns will awaken you again for the next little while. If you can’t get outside, simply open a window and take some deep breaths of fresh air, with five minutes just to admire the view and notice your surroundings. Such time to ‘just be’ is precious and again, it’ll awaken the senses and switch your attention back into gear.

Daily morning routine

Routines can distract resistance for just long enough to get you into momentum. Following a particular pattern at the start of your day, where the fifth of six elements happens to be doing a piece of work that your resistance would usually shout and scream about is a clever way of nipping in with the work before your resistance notices. For a long time when I worked from home, my morning routine was deliberately regimented:

  • Drink water
  • Ten minute run
  • Shower
  • Breakfast
  • Worst task of the day
  • Daily Checklist

Hidden inside so many positive, comfortable tasks was doing something truly dreadful. With the endorphins from my run still pumping around my body, the resistance didn’t know where to look. These days, every morning is different but those that start with good routines tend to continue on into more productive days.

When there’s work to be done, it is a great idea to switch off your email. Most people turn on their email as soon as they arrive in the morning, and turning it off is the last thing they do each evening before heading home. This means that you’re constantly prone to interruptions that are easily avoided. Turning off your emails, even for just a couple of hours a day or half an hour in each hour, will give a clearer head, reduce the noise threatening to distract you, and will help you pay attention more easily to the things that really matter.

Worst first

Hand in hand with the daily morning ritual is the concept of ‘worst first’. Ensure that the first task you do is the worst on your list. It could be the biggest of your ‘big rocks’ or the thing you’re least looking forward to. The sense of relief in having polished that one off before 10am is palpable. And everything else that day is of course, easier. It avoids all the resistance that can build and build if you continue to delay and procrastinate, finding yourself over-thinking that one big task throughout the day.

Have fun

Much like turning off our computers in the evening, switching off our brains and allowing silence, space and rest to permeate them is so important not only to our mental health but to our ability to produce proactive attention and stay on top form. Give yourself permission to switch off at night and at weekends – don’t give in to the pressure to constantly work late and burn yourself out. Remember that you’re switching off to boost your productivity. Have fun and do what you enjoy doing.

Graham Allcott is the founder of Think Productive, which provides productivity workshops to some of the UK's leading companies. He's also the author of "How to be a Productivity Ninja".

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Graham Allcott


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