Treading water

Photo courtesy of Catherine (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Catherine (Creative Commons)

Getting behind in your work, life or even email can feel like you are underwater with lungs burning and arms getting tired as you swim hard toward the surface. As your body gets more exhausted, panic can set in making the surface seem even farther away. You feel completely out of control.

Isn’t it a better feeling to tread water? It’s less work, breathing is easy, your arms and legs don’t get as tired. You can stay calm and in control.

One of the things I’m focused on lately is putting things in place so that I can tread water more often than sink underwater. In my work, my email, even my personal life, I’m seeking practices that help keep me updated instead of falling so far behind.

Some of the things I’m doing are simple. Keeping my email clear is one example. I get hundreds of emails each day, many of which do not require any action on my part other than deleting them, but when my inbox overflows, I can’t even find the ones I do need to pay attention to, and end up missing or delaying responses.

I have set up rules in Outlook on my laptop so that many of them are shuttled to different folders, making it easier to find what I need to pay attention to. I also take advantage of small windows of time to clear those on my phone – time like while I’m waiting on my lunch to heat in the microwave, or standing in line at the coffee shop. It is so much less overwhelming to deal with fewer than 100 emails instead of seeing that number rise to 250+!

Using my tools to keep lists updated helps also – because as I plan my day or next block of time, I have a more complete inventory of what needs to be done, and can make better choices. I use Trello.com as my app of choice, and can set up “boards” for new tasks, as well as one for “non-urgent” things I need to do but that don’t have to be done right now. As I slide the cards or items between boards, it streamlines the process of determining what to tackle, and is much easier than having a massive list that makes my eyes glaze over!

Just little things like these can help you tread water and not be so overwhelmed.

What can you put in place to help you tread water?