Does your “to do” list overwhelm you because you need to get things done urgently? In those moments your stress feels like it’s rising inside of you. But you can stop yourself from getting on the survival cycle. Tell yourself that you will find a way to complete the important matters, then picture yourself in a state of satisfaction after the crisis is resolved. Next, get all the items out of your head by making two lists, one of substantive work matters (organized by project) and the other of quick, administrative items. Get started accomplishing the first of your “to-do” items right away, without dwelling on your long list. Put all of your attention on one task at a time and use the “5 Ms” to get things done on time:
- Minutes—How much time do you have right now to devote to your to-do list? If only a few minutes, then knock off as many of the quick items as you can. If you won’t have time to complete an entire item soon, try to finish any remaining pieces of a substantive item first.
- Metrics—What is the bottom line metric that defines your success? If it’s making money, do the single most important activity that will accelerate income. If your bottom line metric is delivering a project or result, consult your project management outline to determine which items are the next to be delivered or which you must problem solve to move toward completion of that phase of the project.
- Mojo—If appropriate, tackle the item that might not be the most urgent but will take the biggest weight off your shoulders and give you confidence and momentum to do other items.
- Misfortune—Which task, if not done, will cause significant risk or misfortune? Do that one!
- Missing Communication—If you have too many priorities because you’ve received conflicting requests or you’ve taken on an excessive workload, then make a plan to solve the problem at its cause (for example, lack of communication between two managers) before you proceed to perform tasks that only perpetuate it.
Adapted with permission from Success Under Stress by Sharon Melnick (AMACOM).
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