It’s Tuesday morning after a long weekend, and as you turn on your computer you are met with a series of demands – a slew of new emails chronicling a problem that seemed to be solved when you left on Friday, a member of your team will not have their part of a presentation completed because of a death in the family, a series of meetings you need to be present for throughout the week, and the district manager arriving tomorrow to evaluate your team’s progress for the rest of the week.
Where do you begin?
My current role oversees several areas (Finance, Customer Success and Operations), so it is natural that at times with looming deadlines and client needs to fulfill, I can become overwhelmed. From week to week, my varied and conflicting ‘to do list’ can be crazy. By the time I realize I have too much on my plate, I oftentimes feel stuck… or better yet, I am fearful that I cannot get it all done, because I have no idea where to even start. In those circumstances, I used to freeze and get nothing accomplished.
But many years ago, I found a solution: CHERRY PICKING!
Cherry picking might seem counterintuitive, but it works. It begins with finding the smallest, simplest thing one can do. Sometimes it means making an easy phone call to give good news, organizing desk clutter into piles, putting something in the mail or clearing out the junk mailbox (by hitting ‘delete all’). It has to be something that doesn’t trigger excessive thought… or stress. Something that can be considered… easy! After accomplishing that one task, things start to loosen up and you become ready to tackle increasingly bigger things. I find that if I’m not ready yet, I just keep doing small things until I feel “unstuck” and back in my core. If I have a huge deadline, I find it best to determine the simplest thing I can accomplish within the project.
Why does this work?
There is a bit of science behind it. A great description can be found in Robert Maurer’s book One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way. I’m sure most of you would have heard of the fight or flight response. In many circles, the response has been expanded to include fight, flight, or freeze. The idea is that when an animal is faced with a dangerous or challenging situation, they will either prepare to defend themselves (fight), run away (flight) or stay as still as possible until the threat dissipates (freeze). The analogy of the “deer in the headlights” is the perfect example of freeze. The fight, flight or freeze response is regulated by the amygdalae (within the temporal lobes of the brain) – areas that predate speech and the higher executive processes of the brain. If a situation becomes overwhelming, the amygdalae can trigger a response of freezing, just like we see in a surprised deer.
The Kaizen Theory states that if you take baby steps as you face a problem or make changes in your life, you won’t wake up the amygdalae and potentially freeze your progress. Although it seems as if baby steps will get you to your goal more slowly, they actually get you there quicker.
I have used this little trick for years and it rarely fails me!
What can you do right now to manage overwhelm, get to your goal, and feel accomplished in the process?
START CHERRY PICKING!
My passion is helping others succeed. Read More on my blog, Remodeling Your Life?