6 Ways to Stay Productive When You're Completely Overwhelmed

Have you ever looked at your to do list and just laughed? You think, “Oh right, that’s not happening,” and then moments later, you realize that none of the tasks on your list are really an option. Perhaps that’s the point that your nervous laughter turns to tears.

That’s the wall I hit this week. I’ve had a number of serious personal challenges that require an intense investment of emotion and time, some stuff I wouldn’t have chosen, and certainly not at a time like this, and other remarkable surprises filled with joy and hope.

And, I’m neck-deep in the throes of the most intense and exciting time of my entire career.  We’re starting our tour for Winning Well, and response has been tremendous. There’s a constant flurry of speeches and media interviews to prepare for, and we head to Oregon next week to film for our forthcoming Winning Well online course.

Sure I took out Eisenhower’s good old urgent and important matrix and mapped my priorities. The truth is, the urgent AND important box would make your hair curl. My closest friends and family are all saying “You have every right to feel this way… even half of the list would feel impossible.” Although that may feel strangely comforting, it doesn’t actually make the list smaller.

So if you’re reading this because you’re feeling overwhelmed, know that I’m right there with you.

Here’s what I’ve been doing to cope. And it’s helping. I hope it can help you too.

6 Ways to Stay Productive When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

  1. Identify Your Most Important Thing (MIT)
    In Winning Well, we write about the importance of identifying your MIT each day, “At the start of each day look over your projects, tasks, and to-dos and identify the one item that is the MIT for that day.”
  2. Follow the “Rule of One”
    The Rule of One means that you give one thing at a time your full attention. When you need to change focus do so fully and intentionally. If you spend much time with C-level executives, you’ll see that they do not multi-task. They focus. They’re all in. Concentrating. They’re confident their focus will make an impact. There’s a reason they focus on one important task at a time. Give it a shot.
  3. Breathe
    Yes, that sounds cliché, and it is…if you keep breathing as a metaphor. But if you find yourself holding your breath as you’re working your way down the list, I encourage you to stop, close your eyes and take five slow breaths in and out.
  4. Take a Walk
    Before you scream at your computer, “Yeah, lady, I told you I don’t have time already and now you want me to go for a walk?” stay with me. This week I was feeling really blocked on the structure for an important speech I’m doing. I’m committed to adding real value for the audience, and we’re filming it, so I need to nail it to preserve the value for others as well. I was making myself insane staring at my computer writing and rewriting, and I just couldn’t get the stories to flow to align with my message. I got in the car and drove to a trailhead with a blank piece of paper and a pencil. I walked without consciously thinking, and whenever I got a surge of inspiration, I wrote it down. At one point, I just stopped and sat on a rock and sketched out a brand new model that’s perfect for this speech and others. Plus, I got to check off exercise from the list.  BAM!
  5. Ask For and Receive Help
    Look around, my guess is there are people offering to help. If not think about who you can ask. This can be tough for so many reasons… perhaps you think you can do it better, perhaps you want to be doing your fair share, or maybe you just don’t want to feel out of control. I get it. I also know when you receive help, tasks go away. Our Winning Well toolkit is done and the Frontline Festival will run as scheduled, all without much intervention from me because I said “yes” to help from my co-author, David and my assistant, Beth, when they said “Just let me do this.”
  6. Decide What Must Go
    After three years, of religiously writing a blog post three times a week, the last few weeks, I’ve gone down to one. Yes, I felt guilty. Sure I worried about letting folks down. But the truth is, bringing you strong, fresh content three times a week just isn’t feasible right now. Better to take a step back and decide how to keep the blog adding value AND focusing on the rest of the list.

    People who are making an impact all feel overwhelmed from time to time. If you’re in that season, don’t spend time feeling frustrated and guilty. Take a deep breath, break it down, ask for help and work on what you know will make the biggest difference for your work and the people you care about.

Leaders Share about Worklife Balance Integration – A Frontline Festival

 

Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. Our November Festival is all about Worklife Balance Integration.  Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors!

What is Worklife Balance?

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” – Thomas Merton

Michelle Cubas of Positive Potentials shares that Work-Life Balance is a Gender Based Myth. Follow Michelle.

Balancing will not suffice in today’s fast paced world. According to Jon Mertz of Thin Difference, we instead we need to find a work-life tempo and change it whenever the need arises. Follow Jon.

Are you striving to find work-life balance? Forget it, says Skip Prichard of Leadership Insights. Successful people understand that being OFF balance is what matters. Learn from an acrobat and see how to use these concepts to power your goals. Follow Skip.

Work-life balance is about setting the right priorities for work and lifestyle. Get it wrong and your health may suffer. Follow the advice of Tristan Wember of Leadership Thoughts and restore balance in a day. Follow Tristan.

The Badge of Busy-ness

“Beware the barreness of a busy life.” – Socrates

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership observes that we keep trying to cram more and more into the day. What are the consequences?  Follow Wally. 

The world is primarily results-driven. According to Tom Eakin of  Boomlife to create the perfect blend between life and work we need to challenge the status quo and become values-driven thinkers. Follow Tom.

Lisa Kohn of Thoughtful Leaders Blog presents “Are you a workaholic?” where she shares that a bit of Thoughtful Leadership and intentional living can be a great first step towards awareness of workaholic tendencies and willingness to call them out and do something about them. Follow Lisa.

Matt McWilliams of MattMcWilliams.com shares that this workload-as-status-symbol syndrome is usually not about working hard, chasing a dream, or being integral to an organization’s success. We’re overworked because of our desire to feel important. Follow Matt.

Tracy Shroyer of Beyond the Stone Wall asks, “Are you sick and tired of hearing people drone on about how busy they are? I call it the ‘busy syndrome’ and believe it can be prevented. It has to do with the choices we make.” Follow Tracy.

Strategy

“Balance, peace and joy are the fruit of a successful life. It starts with recognizing your talents and finding ways to serve others by using them.” – Thomas Kinkade

To achieve life balance, you have to learn how to say “No.” Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited gives us some tips on using that word graciously. Follow Beth.

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog  shares that vacation time in the USA is much less than most other rich countries, which he think is a mistake.  John opted out and is trying the digital nomad lifestyle. Follow John.

Jeff Miller of Essenhaus, Inc. explores the idea of treating our home life similar to our work life, with goals, mission statements and more.  Follow Jeff.

Michelle Pallas of MichellePallas.com shares that you can only manage what you can measure, whether it is at work or home. Follow Michelle.

For leaders and small business owners, holidays rarely mean a full disconnect. Alli Polin of Break the Frame suggests that the answer to: “Do I work or turn off completely?” is a personal one and it’s often hard to make. Follow Alli.

Have you ever felt like you needed a little help in the work life balance juggling act? Leadership Coach Julie Pierce of Empowered by Pierce offers four practical helps to keep the balls in the air. Follow Julie.

Just because technology makes it possible to be always available, doesn’t mean you should be, advises Jesse Lyn Stoner of Seapoint Center for Collaborative Leadership. The reality is that it’s not healthy, and over the long run you will be less productive. These 7 habits can help you turn off technology and tune into life. Follow Jesse.

Julie Winkle Giulioni of Juliewinklegiulioni.com suggests that focus–a top strategy for achieving purpose, goals and success–may be the most misconstrued human capacity. Is it possible that how we’ve come to think about and approach focus might actually impede the very progress and results we’re hoping it will drive? Follow Julie. 

frontlinefestival-300x300-300x300Call for Submissions. December’s Frontline Festival is about Dreams and Callings. Please send your submissions no later than December 12th. New participants welcome.  Click here to join in!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Being an Entrepreneur Mom: The Inside Story

There’s no better picture to sum up this year’s entrepreneur mom journey. My kids are in it with me and I with them. Seb (8) is the self-declared Chief Marketing Officer (he loves to say CMO)….he tells everyone he meets about how I can help them become better leaders. Ben (19) is a bit more subtle, but is kicking beneath the surface getting it done as the LGL Summer Intern (be sure to tune in on Friday for the Frontline Festival for which he’s an integral part).  I don’t normally dedicate a whole post to a podcast Interview, but my interview with Mary Kathryn Johnson of Parent Entrepreneur summed up the story so well, I felt it would be useful for any working parent… not just entrepreneurs. Listen Here

Why the Pic Describes the Entrepreneurial Mom Journey.

This pic was taken just before the 3 of us sang a customized-lyrics-changed rendition of Sunrise Sunset for my parents 50th anniversary party this weekend. Here’s how the pic’s a metaphor for the journey.

  • It’s not easy (Seb’s broken arm)
  • Ben’s always helping.
  • It’s not elegant (I realized the new dress shirt didn’t fit over the cast, and in the mode of just about to give a party… hacked off the sleeve).  Real Simple had a solution if I had more than 3 minutes to Google.  Plus notice the stains on his face (lovely, I know… don’t tell Martha).
  • We didn’t have enough rehearsals.
  • Thank God for clutch players.
  • We worked as a team.
  • We made important and meaningful connection.
  • We listened and blended.
  • There was joy in the song, for the singers and for those we were hoping to touch.

Thanks for being on this journey as we work together to make a joyful noise.

Namaste. P.S. If you’re interested in leadership and parenting, you can also download our FREE ebook, A Parent’s Guide to Leadership from the sidebar. For more of our family’s extended shenanigans. hr-0487-519-762--0487519762016

5 Ways to Support Your Boss (Without Kissing Up)

I don’t know your boss.

She may be great. He may be a pain in the neck. He may be supportive. She may be a real witch.

I’ve been that boss. I’ve had all those bosses. All leaders have “bosses” of one sort or another. Sometimes you are the boss of you. Most of the times, someone else also enters the boss scene. Regardless of what breed of boss you have today.

My guess is your boss also…

  • wants you to succeed
  • is dealing with pressures you don’t fully understand
  • sometimes feels overwhelmed
  • is trying to please a boss too
  • is working to balance work and family
  • is doing the best s/he can
  • could use your help
  • ?

There’s the age-old advice “always make your boss look good.” I find it also useful to make them feel good– reduce the stress by making their job a bit easier.

5 Ways To Support Your Boss

  1. Sweat the small stuff. Do what you say you will, without reminding. Get ahead of deadlines. Administrative stuff is a drag, you boss has better things to do than to chase down your paper work.
  2. Communicate frequently in bulleted summaries— leaders often suffer from information overload. They are often called upon to summarize complex issues on the fly, that’s not when they want to go digging through emails. Resist the urge to cc and forward emails without a summary attached.
  3. Uncover issues & address them — your boss knows there are problems, shielding her from them will only make her nervous. Lift up the issues you are finding, along with the solutions to address them. She will sleep better knowing you are paying attention and are all over it.
  4. Thank him for his help. Be honest and specific. Done well and privately this is not brown-nosing– it’s feedback that can help him help you. A side benefit he will grow as a leader.
  5. Document your accomplishments. This is not bragging, it’s useful. Well timed, detailed summaries helps to support the performance management process.

Who's Your Leadership Pit Crew? A Saturday Salutation

Who most serves as your leadership pit crew? How have they made a difference in your leadership? When is the last time you really thanked them?

Support Makes A Difference

Last weekend, my friend Julie and I (along with our three, 6 year olds) had an opportunity to serve as cheering squad and pit crew for our husbands competing in the Wisconsin Ironman, 140.6 mile swim, bike and run.

It’s impressive to watch the endurance and perseverance of these athletes on this important day, after so many long hours of training. I have deep respect and salute all the finishers. Equally impressive was the long line of limping athletes waiting to sign up for next year’s competition.

What was also fascinating to watch were the serious hordes of volunteers and supporters for the race. There were over 3000 volunteers for this race, nearly one for every athlete. Many competitors had large fan clubs of friends and family members with matching tee-shirts, hand-made signs, silly hats, noise makers and carefully mapped out strategies for catching their athletes at strategic points along the race.

These supporters had as much energy after 12-15 hours as they did at the beginning, and there were still plenty of cheers when the last finisher crossed the line at midnight. I also know that preparing for a race like that requires additional behind-the-scenes help not celebrated with glitter and face paint.

I must admit, I don’t have much experience on that side of the racing bib. I am grateful for all the water handed to me one the years, and for my cheering children and those who have watched with them as they have grown up in the racing scene.

All these invested supporting players got me thinking about how vital it is for the leaders to have a strong pit crew. Leadership is emotionally, physically, and logistically challenging. Two career families make choices as they carefully balance the needs of all journeys.

Kids learn the importance of making the most of time we have together. Families make sacrifices, big brothers grow strong, relatives pitch in, friends offer support. I have had tremendous help over the years for which I am truly grateful. I have been handed lots of water from my crew.

As today’s Saturday Salutation I encourage you to reflect on, and thank those who have served on your leadership pit crew.

Your Leadership Pit Crew

Who has…

  • Listened intently as you struggled with leadership decisions
  • Encouraged you after disappointments and setbacks
  • Sacrificed something in their career to support yours
  • Learned to cook while you were on the road
  • Watched and influenced your children
  • Been available in an emergency
  • Understood when you were tired
  • Supported your risk taking
  • Given you perspective
  • Made you laugh
  • Understood

To all those in my life who have, and continue to, inspire and support my leadership journey. I thank you. Namaste.

Who’s Your Leadership Pit Crew? A Saturday Salutation

Who most serves as your leadership pit crew? How have they made a difference in your leadership? When is the last time you really thanked them?

Support Makes A Difference

Last weekend, my friend Julie and I (along with our three, 6 year olds) had an opportunity to serve as cheering squad and pit crew for our husbands competing in the Wisconsin Ironman, 140.6 mile swim, bike and run.

It’s impressive to watch the endurance and perseverance of these athletes on this important day, after so many long hours of training. I have deep respect and salute all the finishers. Equally impressive was the long line of limping athletes waiting to sign up for next year’s competition.

What was also fascinating to watch were the serious hordes of volunteers and supporters for the race. There were over 3000 volunteers for this race, nearly one for every athlete. Many competitors had large fan clubs of friends and family members with matching tee-shirts, hand-made signs, silly hats, noise makers and carefully mapped out strategies for catching their athletes at strategic points along the race.

These supporters had as much energy after 12-15 hours as they did at the beginning, and there were still plenty of cheers when the last finisher crossed the line at midnight. I also know that preparing for a race like that requires additional behind-the-scenes help not celebrated with glitter and face paint.

I must admit, I don’t have much experience on that side of the racing bib. I am grateful for all the water handed to me one the years, and for my cheering children and those who have watched with them as they have grown up in the racing scene.

All these invested supporting players got me thinking about how vital it is for the leaders to have a strong pit crew. Leadership is emotionally, physically, and logistically challenging. Two career families make choices as they carefully balance the needs of all journeys.

Kids learn the importance of making the most of time we have together. Families make sacrifices, big brothers grow strong, relatives pitch in, friends offer support. I have had tremendous help over the years for which I am truly grateful. I have been handed lots of water from my crew.

As today’s Saturday Salutation I encourage you to reflect on, and thank those who have served on your leadership pit crew.

Your Leadership Pit Crew

Who has…

  • Listened intently as you struggled with leadership decisions
  • Encouraged you after disappointments and setbacks
  • Sacrificed something in their career to support yours
  • Learned to cook while you were on the road
  • Watched and influenced your children
  • Been available in an emergency
  • Understood when you were tired
  • Supported your risk taking
  • Given you perspective
  • Made you laugh
  • Understood

To all those in my life who have, and continue to, inspire and support my leadership journey. I thank you. Namaste.

Missy Franklin: The Cincinnatus of the Olympics (a guest post from Greg Marcus)

My favorite character from Latin class was Cincinnatus – he was a farmer who became Dictator to lead the Roman army against invaders, and then returned to his farming life after the war. The fame and glory did not prevent him from continuing to be who he wanted to be, and he willingly gave up almost absolute power to return to a simple life. Cincinnatus was revered as an exemplar of civic virtue, someone willing to work for the greater good without accumulating personal wealth and power.

“I am pleased to present a guest post from Greg Marcus.

After ten years as a scientist, and ten years as a marketer, Greg Marcus, Ph.D. is a stay-at-home dad and author. If you are interested in more of his writing you can find it by clicking here, or you can find him on linked in.  Greg reminds us of the constant choices we make as we pursue our dreams, and balance them with the rest of our lives”

Missy Franklin is not a general, but a swimmer on the US Olympic team. Unlike many Olympians, she elected not to leave home and move to a training center to work with a high-powered coach. She stayed with her childhood coach, and in fact turned down endorsement deals to maintain eligibility for her high school swim team.

I think its safe to say along the way, some thought her crazy for not making the most of her talent by moving to California, swimming full-time, and getting the best coach available. But Franklin showed that a move to the next level of achievement does not require sacrificing who we are, or the people in our life. And I strongly suspect that without her family, Franklin could not have achieved what she achieved.

Franklin won four gold medals and one bronze, in London, second only to Michael Phelps in total medals. Now, Franklin is faced with a choice – does she go back to the life she had, swimming for her high school team and then on to college, or does she take advantage of the millions of dollars in endorsement deals that she could get as an Olympic Champion? For now, she is leaning towards college because she says that is what will make her a happy girl, but she will consider all the options. It’s a real dilemma.

One of these choices represents a once in a lifetime opportunity.