As leaders, many times we take on way more than we can handle. We intuitively know it's not healthy or the best solution, but we feel like it's "our duty." Anyone with me on this? We feel the responsibility, so therefore we are willing to roll up our sleeves and take on more. This ends up affecting our families, our own personal life, our team, and organizations.
Now don't get me wrong.... there are seasons for carrying the weight and burning the midnight oil. But if this becomes the "norm," then it's not healthy. But many times we still don't know how to manage and juggle all of the things on our plate, especially if we are leading a smaller organization, a start up, or several major projects/initiatives at one time. You may feel you have no options.
I've felt this same tension, and had to deal with the process of figuring this out.
This is not an exhaustive list, but here are a few practical thoughts from my perspective on how to deal with feeling overwhelmed:
1. Hire a great assistant- I've found this one to be crucial. A great assistant can really make all the difference in the world. Not in the old school fashion of getting coffee and picking up your laundry. Please. But as a project manager, a taskmaster, and ultimately an extension of who you are who helps you get things done.
2. Make progress daily- if you are trying to tackle a big project, or multiple projects at once, this is always my approach. Many times a project is so big it just overwhelms you. But if you can see progress being made, even if it's small, it creates momentum and keeps things moving forward. Figure out what a win looks like on a daily basis, and then shoot for that.
3. Find interns/volunteers- Interns can be a great addition to your team. Not only can they relieve capacity issues you might have, but it's a great way to "test" out new hires before making them official. You'll be surprised how many students or recent graduates there are who are willing to work for free or for relatively free just to gain some experience. Put them in the game!
4. Delegate- this is the one most often we forget. And not just delegating things we don't want to do. Or just handing over everything and wiping your hands clean, but then quickly jumping back in because it's not going the way you envisioned. Strategic delegation is the key- look at your project list and determine what can divided up among your team in three areas- 1. total handoff and no involvement from me needed; 2. handoff of project but I'll still be involved at certain points; 3. I'm leading the project but need help on certain tasks.
5. Change environments. Many times changing our surroundings or getting out of the "normal" routine will give us new perspective, new energy, and new insights on how to move a project towards the finish line. And will provide a fresh lens through which to view your current realities- may not be as bad as you think it is!
6. Learn from others. Find mentors, other organizations that are doing great work, and leaders who you respect that you can learn and gain insight from. Dig into why and how they are successful, and even ask them to be an advisor to you and your organization.
7. Ultimately, less is more. If you are overwhelmed, it might be time to cut some projects or new ideas from the list. Better to be great at a few things than to be average at several.