Take back control of time

With so many changes over the last few months, it is no wonder we are all aware of the current stresses and demands we hold.

But there’s a difference between being genuinely overwhelmed and just feeling out of control. Once you take control of your time, that feeling of overwhelm starts to disappear.

We wanted to share three simple actions that will change your mindset and put you back in charge.

Clear your mind

The feeling of being overwhelmed happens when your brain cannot trust that everything is in hand. Instead of focusing on what you should be doing, whether it’s working on an important project, taking some time out with family, or even sleeping, it will keep going over and reminding you of all the things you have to do.

We are all aware of the feeling: I must remember this, I mustn’t forget that and so on, it is clear that we don’t ever switch off, simply because there is too much to remember.

With this in mind, it is important to have a trusted system in place to ensure all of those things are being dealt with. It can be as simple as a pen and paper by your bedside or a message recording function on your phone.

Log everything that comes into your head as it happens and create a system to put it into your diary in the morning or when you are back at your desk. Keep on top of this and your mind will start to clear straightaway.

Structure your day

When you have a genuine plan each morning, you will find you do more of the things that really count and waste less time on the small stuff.

In a typical day, there will usually be some small tasks to do, some of medium importance and some really big, important jobs. Most of us are at our best in the morning, when we have clearer minds and more energy, so schedule your most important jobs for the morning.

If something is likely to take longer than that, finish it over a few days. In the early afternoon, work on your medium tasks and then in the late afternoon do the small things that will not take you long to complete.

Towards the end of the day, as you tick off all those little jobs you will really feel you are making progress.

Be more productive

Did you know that when you start a task it takes an average of 11 minutes to reach your peak productivity level? And that an interruption of just 2.5 seconds sets you right back to zero?

That is one of the reasons it is so hard to get things done. We get interruptions all the time: phone calls, emails, colleagues all disrupt our focus and lower our productivity.

It’s really important to find a way to work undisturbed. You will no doubt say that you are too busy to set aside hours at a time without any interruptions, but you do not have to do that.

In fact, we cannot maintain our focus for that long anyway. We can only properly focus for short periods; after that our concentration wavers and we get distracted by other things.

But you can still achieve a huge amount in short bursts. The Pomodoro Technique is a very effective way to manage this and it is simple to follow. You focus on one task for 25 minutes, without being distracted or moving between different jobs.

At the end of the 25 minutes, you have a five-minute break – you can use it to make a drink or do any small tasks that will not take up more than a few minutes. Then it is back to another 25 minutes fully focused on your work, repeating as often as you want. It is amazing how much you can get done by following this system.

Feeling overwhelmed may be a natural response to the turbulent times we are in, but remaining that way is ultimately bad for your mental health. Making these changes will not stop you from being busy, but they will help you prioritise and put you in control of what you do each day.