Friday, July 17, 2009

Overload! When it has to be Done and You Have to do it.

I frequently work with leaders who are experiencing overload.

I define overload as "too much." They are stretched to the limit. They haven't hit burnout, but if the present trend continues on for long, they might.

This is particularly prevalent amongst leaders of smaller companies and nonprofits who carry out multiple tasks. They don't yet have the employees to delegate to or they work with a volunteer or transient staff.

I know the territory well and have looked for some answers to one particular question. "When it has to be done, and you have to do it, and it's just too much, what can you do?" There are no easy answers, but I think there is help.

First, let's get a taste of the criticism leveled by others who mean well, but don't always understand.

He must not be able to delegate.

  • There are some things that are sensitive enough that they can't be delegated.

  • Sometimes the people who could make themselves available, don't.

  • If it needs to be done now and in the midst of a tight schedule, sometimes showing someone how can take longer than just doing it yourself.

She must not be able to manage her time very well.

  • Even the best time manager hits periods of "too much" when volume is the challenge, not efficiency.

He must be a workaholic.

  • The work does have to get done.

  • Deadlines are important.

  • Others may leave but some work can't wait until Monday.

She did that for years, and we never heard a complaint from her.

  • But she was a different person who lived a different life in a different time.

  • Maybe she did fit one or more of the categories already mentioned.

  • Our emotional energy levels are different.

So what CAN you do? For those of you who know what I am talking about, you know the answers don't come easy. What follows is not an attempt at trite, pat answers.

View your situation spiritually. When it has to be done, God will give what you need to get it done. God will give strength commensurate with the need. If it is a problematic situation, concentrate on God's presence and support being with you through it.

Break it down into as small of pieces as you can. Emotionally you can handle something smaller easier than a large overburdening "must." Writing it down can often change the nature of anxiety and ease the pressure. Mentally handle the steps versus the whole.

Take conscious breaks, even if they are short. Be conscious of renewal however short it might be. Focus on enjoying something totally unrelated to the task. Celebrate completion and success at each and every stage.

Tell the truth. Be very clear about what is going on. Cut through any emotional layers and state objectively what is happening or not happening. Look at it from other people's points of view also. Solving something that doesn't really exist won't work. Solving the symptom rather than the cause doesn't work long term either. But if you can name the real problem, you can be intentional about addressing it.

Start planning for the long term. If there is a problem, you can't solve it today. But you can begin to develop a strategy that will address the problem down the road.

Consider your future. Extend the present conditions out another 5 years. Can you see yourself there? If you can then stay put and work on solutions. If you can't, then radical changes may be in order. This isn't easy. Our lives are complex. There may be a whole number of indicators coming together showing it is time to move on.

Share with others. Find those who care and understand. They may not be able to change the situation, but they can listen.

Consider working with a Coach. Make the investment to work with a personal Coach to see yourself and your situation clearly and know what to do next. Uncover potential blind spots. Think through new strategies and approaches to moving forward.

Get some good laughs. Find some happy, positive, funny people to be with. Be intentional about creating the time to do it and have some good fun.

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