Are You Tired of Feeling Overwhelmed?

Over the last few months, people have asked how I am doing since leaving my CEO post at Thomas Nelson. For the most part, great. I am really enjoying this new phase of my life.

A Frustrated, Over-worked Manager - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/OtmarW, Image #15900242

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/OtmarW

But last week, I was feeling overwhelmed. It seemed that I was spending all day, every day mired in administrative detail—responding to emails, making travel plans, and filling out expense reports. Ugh.

This the first time in more than a decade that I have been without an executive assistant. I had clearly taken this role for granted, not realizing how much it had freed me up to do what I do best.

So what to do?

At first, I decided to power through it. But that didn’t work. The tennis balls have been coming over the net faster than I can hit them. My volume of email alone has doubled in the last 90 days.

Next, I tried to enlist my wife, Gail, to help. Bad idea. She already has a full-time job as a homemaker, mom, and counselor to countless women. (After watching her in action for the last few months, I have a whole new appreciation for her!)

Finally, I decided that I had had enough. Something had to give. I needed to take a different approach if I was going to get my head above water.

I took the following seven steps:

  1. I decided I had to make a change. This sounds almost trivial, but it is essential. Evidently, some people like being overwhelmed. They wouldn’t admit this, of course. But they thrive on stress in a perverse way. Perhaps it makes them feel important or indispensable. They may complain about their workload, but they are unwilling to do things differently. Are you ready for a change?
  2. I identified my three high payoff activities. I asked myself, What is it that only I can do? Where do I add the most value? What is really important as opposed to merely urgent? For me, that is writing, speaking, and networking—in that order. Anything else is a waste of what I have been given. What are your high payoff activities?
  3. I identified my three biggest productivity sinkholes. This was easy. For me, it is responding to email, booking my own travel, and meeting with acquaintances who want my advice. (As much as I’d like to do this, I am drowning in requests.) I decided I had to eliminate—or at least dramatically reduce—these activities in my life. What are your productivity sinkholes?
  4. I spent time reviewing the productivity basics. In his book, The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss, says that the key to productivity is elimination, automation, and delegation. Some stuff is just no longer worth doing. Other stuff can be put on auto-pilot. Most of the rest can be delegated. Have you made a list of which activities fall into which category?
  5. I decided to do the math. Unfortunately, I had fallen into a common paradigm: I was thinking that if I could do something I should do it—myself. Balderdash! If you can make $50.00 an hour, is it a good investment for you to do tasks that you can hire done for $12.00 an hour? I don’t think so. This is not only bad math, it is bad stewardship. What do you make an hour? Could you be more financially productive if you delegated?
  6. I hired a virtual executive assistant. I realized that I wasn’t ready for a full-time one. I wanted to take this one step at a time. Thankfully, there are scores of companies (offshore and domestic) that specialize in providing virtual assistants for as many hours as you need. I did this several years ago, and it was a positive experience. I decided to go with Miles Advisory Group. I am very impressed with their responsiveness. Have you ever considered a VA?
  7. I am scheduling the important tasks. I know, I know, I teach this stuff. You’d think I would already have this nailed. Well, I did. More or less. But it was a completely different context, namely, CorporateWorld. Now I am having to implement the same thing in a different context. I am now scheduling my important tasks first and forcing my productivity sinkholes into small blocks of time. How much of your calendar this week is dedicated to high payoff activities?

Just going through this process has had a huge, positive impact on my attitude. Nothing has really changed yet, but I am already feeling less overwhelmed and more in control. I am ready for a change. Are you?

Question: If you hired a productivity consultant, what would they advise you to do with your workflow? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Trina

    So… what does the overwhelmed Executive Assistant do?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Same thing. Read Ferriss’ book. It will give you LOTS of ideas.

      • http://tonychung.ca tonychung

        Sorry Michael, but Trina’s right. The overwhelmed EA pretty much gets shafted in the whole delegation deal. It’s kind of like I tell people who want to recruit me for their MLM system. No matter the amount of potential or the legitimacy of the system, at the end of the chain is always someone with a good old fashioned J-O-B.

        Tim Ferris’ book is a good primer on teaching us to focus on generating the amount of cash flow so we can live our dreams now, rather than wait for the goose to save us with its golden eggs. In that way we learn how to break our work and obtain the work life balance we so desperately need.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          I’m sorry, but I disagree. I think some EAs will feel overwhelmed, as people do in any job. But I know plenty of EAs who are very busy but (a) operating in their strength zone and (b) highly efficient.

          • http://tonychung.ca tonychung

            I guess the difference then are those who are gifted EAs and others who perform the role for other reasons. I worked with someone who was a born EA. When the role was posted I strongly encouraged her to apply, even though she questioned her own credentials. I had seen her in operation over five years and just knew she was built for the role. She must be one of the people you talk about as living in her strength zone. Thanks Michael!

    • Jmhardy97

      very good point.

      jim

  • http://www.frymonkeys.com Alan Kay

    Great advice. I’m sure you started out with a vision and some goals for the outcomes you wanted.  

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    Unfortunately, building a successful platform takes time and when you get it built it takes additional time to keep it up. So many small business entrepreneurs face the same problem. They start a business by themselves and one day face the big E word… employees. At least now there are companies offering virtual assistants for things like e-mail, travel arrangements, and office paperwork.

    For me, the biggest challenge is making my daily 90 minute commute (45 min each way) more productive. Audio books are a help, but they don’t really help with on-going projects. If I can find a dictation device that actually works and is accurate, that would be a huge first step.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Have you tried Dragon Dictation? I haven’t used it much, but some friends of mine swear by it.

      • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

        I’ve tried several versions in the past, but the accuracy and training time made them impractical. I’ve never achieved more than 85-90% accuracy, so I was always trying to figure out what words I actually used when I went back to edit. 

        Rumors are the new iOS 5 along with the new iPhone may take voice recognition to a new level. If they can get it to actually work in an easy to use manner, it would revolutionize travel time by car. If anyone can make it work… Apple can.

        • http://tonychung.ca tonychung

          Silly rabbit. I wouldn’t wait for Apple to get it working. Other companies that specialize in voice transcription already have great products. MS OneNote took that voice thing to a new level. It indexes handwritten and audio notes. I use Dragon Dictation on my iPhone. It’s quite accurate. Google also integrates voice recognition on the Android platform.

          For me, the problem with voice diction is that I mumble because I think faster than I can speak. Typing is easy. Speaking is hard. I need a seminar on getting the words out–or a transcription program that could capture my thoughts before I express them!

          • Jmhardy97

            Thank you Tony and Mike. I had not heard of Dragon Dictation.

            Jim

    • Jmhardy97

      Great point John, having an effective system is the key to being successful.

      Jim

  • http://www.leahadams.org Leah Adams

    I am guessing a productivity consultant would recommend two things for me: 1) Less time on Social Media–namely Facebook. I don’t spend a lot of time on FB but probably more than I should just perusing other folk’s status updates. I know this and now I have taken the first step that recovery programs say must be taken….to admit the problem. Time to move FB to the ‘sinkhole’ catagory;  2) Get an office that is not in my home. There are so many things that pull at me as I work from home…laundry, cooking, canning (this time of year), etc. I am just not one of those people who work from home well.  

    • http://cynthiaherron.wordpress.com Cynthia Herron

      Leah, you just echoed what I was thinking…

    • http://www.sundijo.com Sundi Jo Graham

      I’m learning too I have to make some changes in working from home. Though it does allow more flexibility, it’s harder to set boundaries with people. 

    • http://tonychung.ca tonychung

      Leah I’m with you on Facebook. I would also add any email lists that overwhelm your inbox. A known problem with FB is that people all to often get sucked into the status that’s greener on the other side. Have you ever felt that people on FB are living more exciting lives than you? I have. The truth is that when you analyze the status updates, you’ll find they represent a number of different people. Occasionally, certain specific individuals post once per hour. Chances are those people have a social media team–or at least an executive assistant.

  • http://cjstott.com Chris Stott

    Hey Michael, it’s refreshing to see you needing to take you own advice. I suffer form that syndrome too. “Do as I say, not as I do”. Good that you have identified it and are taking steps to improve.

    I’ve been trying more to focus on the high pay off activities myself. It’s amazing when you let the little things go how little difference it actually makes.

    Thanks,

    Chris

  • Nathan Chitty

    This is going to sound trivial. What email client do you use? If it is anything other than gmail or google apps (the same really) then you are missing a tremendous productivity pickup in this aspect of your inbound. Why? Gmail first implemented the “Priority” inbox which gives you the most important unread emails but there are also a total of 4 views that allow the processing of email in different ways. 

    Additionally, since you are using an assistant, utilize the delegate function of gmail
    http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=138350

    If you are an outlook person, get someone to set up your gmail with an imap sinc to immediately have the benefits of gmail without having to change your email address.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I use GoogleApps (GMail) with my own domain. However, I wasn’t aware of the Delegate function. VERY cool. I had something similar in Outlook, back when I was in CorporateWorld.

      • Shawn Gorham

        Have you switched from Apple mail to Gmail for your mail client now?

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          Nope, I still use Mac Mail. Love it.

    • Jmhardy97

      Nathan,

      I was not aware of this. Thank you for sharing. A great resources

      jim

  • http://www.tonyjalicea.com Tony Alicea

    In regards to your #2, I solved this by making a distinction between my commitments and my participation. I wrote a blog about it today where I said: “Commitment always trumps participation”. Be sure to commit to things that ONLY you can do. Participate in anything else but always keep your commitments first.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Excellent distinction, Tony.

    • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

      Good thought, Tony!

      • Joe Lalonde

        I liked how you did that Tony!

    • Conway Suzette

      That’s a great way to put it.  Thanks Tony! 

    • http://LookingForPurpose.com Dylan Dodson

      I like this separation. We are the only ones who can fulfill our commitments!

  • http://danbutcher.com Dan Butcher

    For me, #2 is the BIG IDEA on this list. I have to get clear–in writing–what I’m about so that I can then decide where everything else fits. 

  • http://twitter.com/RookieWriter David Barry DeLozier

    This post resonates with me.  I spent 25 years in a corporate world – certainly not at the level of CEO but as a Senior V.P. I have been in my own entrepreneurial one-man-show mode (my choice) for 3 years now.  Before I sat down at the computer this morning to read devotionals and your blog, I prayed to feel less overwhelmed.  I had great executive assistants during my corporate career.  I’ve also tried engaging my wife but she has a full life as mother, homemaker,  involved in the community, a master gardener (and not necessarily a passion for being my assistant!) I will explore a virtual assistant.  I’m grateful for your resources, a very immediate answer to prayer for me today.

    I think a productivity consultant would advise me to outsource some of the less important tasks I keep on my plate.

    • Jmhardy97

      Great point David. It is a challenge to make the best use of your time.

      jim

  • http://emuelle1.blogspot.com Eric S. Mueller

    Great points, Michael. It’s interesting how you can have your productivity tweaked in one position or stage of life, and have it all fall apart as you transition into another. I’ve never been important enough to hire a VA, but I’ve thought about it a few times. A year and a half ago, I tried to talk my wife into letting me hire a VA to tweak my resume and conduct a job search for me. I thought it was a great idea, but we didn’t think we could justify the expense.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Read Ferriss’s book. It will give you a completely different perspective.

      • http://emuelle1.blogspot.com Eric S. Mueller

        It’s a great book. I was stuck in a bad job a year and a half ago, and couldn’t seem to get out of it. I made it through the day listening to “The 4 Hour Work Week” over and over and over again.

  • http://chriscornwell.org Chris Cornwell

    No. 3 resonates with me. I sit down and know there are 47 different tasks associated with I need to get done on a weekly basis with my Student Ministry. Some of those tasks, I know, are bottomless pits and I get sucked into them. This keeps me from working on other things. In some cases, simple tasks that I could batch together and get done right away. This would allow me to spend more productive time on the bigger tasks later.

  • http://Busyness.com Dr. Brad Semp

    Hi Mike – great job with this post….especially with your transparency and sharing some of the challenges that you’ve experienced outside of the corporate world.  You’re implementing pieces of what I call “unLOAD your plate”.  LOAD ==> Leverage, Outsource, Automation & Delegation.  I can’t wait to hear an update on how it all works (and what doesn’t work) for you!

    Also, FYI – I’m starting a free, asynchronous (on your own time) coaching program today delivered exclusively via Google+.  The training is called “How To Combat Busyness & Live An Unbusy Lifestyle”.  :)  For any folks interested, they can join in 2 ways:

    (1)  Simply reply to this comment and let me know your Google ID
    (2) Contact me on Google+ and let me know you are interested (my Google ID: bradsemp)

    Once you do….I’ll add you to my Google+ circle for “Busy People” and you’ll receive the free training.  We’re going to be covering in detail your points #3, 4, 5, 6 & 7.  :)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Brad. I like the acronym. Also, your coaching program sounds great!

      • Debbie Skinner

        I have a G+ and would appreciate being added to the circle @dskinner01.  I tried to use bradsemp but it didn’t “find” you (I tried gmail, googlemail…)  Anyway, as a tech director for a school district I am in dire need of change.  I used to LOVE my job and want most of all to love it again, but I have to stop and figure out a way to articulate to a board of directors the need to add personnel.  Otherewise, my “change” is going to be to a different employer before I implode.  I’m always amazed how timely Michael’s posts are and relevant the resources that come from them are.  But then again, grace and timing have been the only things that have saved me many times.

    • Amy Levos

      I’m very interested in your coaching program.  My Google ID is singingwriterchick.  Thanks so much!

      • http://Busyness.com Dr. Brad Semp

        You’re IN, @google-d4aac19283f429ec88ceb9692d60ddf9:disqus  – looking forward to it!

    • Chrisjohnstoncoaching

      Interested in the training.  chrisjohnstoncoaching

      • http://Busyness.com Dr. Brad Semp

        Just added you, @e0472600f7ba0daff114fd80ae4cdf5f:disqus – at some point you’ll receive a G+ invite from Google.  :)  Timing has been sketchy on the invites.  :(

    • Sue Miley

      I’m interested.  Suemiley is my google id.  Thanks.

      • http://Busyness.com Dr. Brad Semp

        Awesome, @google-0905e7ffa0faaf4b5a9562e6db58cd39:disqus – you’re IN!  :)

    • Joe Lalonde

      Just added you on Google+. Interested in seeing this. Thanks!

      • http://Busyness.com Dr. Brad Semp

        Thanks, @slumbersix:disqus – added you to the ‘Busy People’ circle!  :)  Are you from MI?

        • Joe Lalonde

          Thanks @bradsemp:disqus. Yes, I’m from Michigan. Over on the west coast right along the lake. Beautiful area to live in.

          • http://Busyness.com Dr. Brad Semp

            Ahhh @slumbersix:disqus – yes, the west side is great.  :)  I’m born and raised in Michigan (Thumb area =>> Michigan State =>> Macomb Twp).  Moved the fam down to Orlando just 2 years ago.

          • Joe Lalonde

            Brad, we have some great beaches over here, that’s for sure. Sadly, my city, Muskegon, is in a bit of a downturn. However, I think the scenery more than makes up for it.

            I don’t believe I’ve ever been to Macomb but I was near there the other day. Made a trip to Livonia for some training.

    • http://tonychung.ca tonychung

      I guess this is a good excuse for me to use my tonychung.ca Google+ account. I signed up with it, but wanted to wait until Google-Apps accounts could get G+ So please Brad, add me to your circle. Thanks.

    • Jmhardy97

      Thank you for the resource.

      Jim.

    • Brad Wong

      I’m interested.  My google id is:  abusablad

  • http://www.ryanhaack.com Ryan Haack

    Funny, I just posted about feeling overwhelmed this morning.  To a much lesser degree, though.  I certainly don’t need a VA, but identifying my three high payoff activities and sinkholes is extremely applicable.  And I’ve always seen Ferriss’ book, but thought, “Nah…not for me.”  I’ll have to check it out!  Thanks, Mike.

  • http://jasonfountain.blogspot.com Jason Fountain

    I like your first step, Michael. A decision proceeds any action.

  • Ron Lane88

    Michael, you make good points here. If requests and email were/are taking up a lot of you time, how much time does reading and responding to posts? How do you view this in your questions?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I am counting comments as email messages, because they are sent to my email inbox were I can reply. (A huge time-saver, by the way.) I view this as part of networking. But I have to be careful it doesn’t suck up too much time.

      • Ron Lane

        Wow, so you got 91 (okay 92) emails on this blog post alone.   No wonder you are using an assistant.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          I’m getting about 300+ blog comments a day. That doesn’t even include Google+ and Twitter. Crazy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tina-Pelletier-Soucie/1208560967 Tina Pelletier Soucie

    Michael,
    You have just described me to a T…. There are many days that I just want to put everything on the “bookshelf”  to leave for another day.  When I begin to take things piece by piece and not feel that I have to complete everything in one day.. the vision becomes brighter.  Thank you for sharing that you are human just like me. 

  • Anonymous

    As always, I appreciate your transparency in letting us learn-as-you-go. Thanks for sharing. 

    I need to focus on my overarching goals and priorities so I can use them as a template for my daily/weekly activities; then I must improve in the discipline of sticking with it. My work environment (and home, for that matter) is very interrupt-driven. At the end of the day/week, it’s hard to account for all of the non-goal tasks and activities that peppered (and distracted me from) my planned activities. My consultant would constantly be reminding me to “stay focused.” 

    • Jmhardy97

      I agree. The sharing of inforamtion has help me in many ways. Thank you.

      Jim

  • Mmodesti

    Its so ironic to me that when I am feeling overwhelmed, adding the task of prioritising and planning feels like adding to the list of things I’m overwhelmed by, but its really the only way  out of the mess. I love what Bonhoeffer said along these lines:

    “If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction”

  • Beth West

    I’m reading through David Allen’s books “Get Things Done” and “Making it all Work”.  Somehow just reading great time and productivity management books inspires me to feel more productive.  I wish there was a video so that I could actually SEE Allen’s system as I’m having trouble visualizing it.  I just ordered “The Four Hour Work Week”. 

    Michael, since you made the switch from corporate to self employment, how have you found your goal setting to be different?  Thank you for this post.  It fit in well with my other reading.

    • Mmodesti

      Beth,

      You can get a free trial of GTDConnect and see a webinar of how David’s does his lists. I think the free trial lasts 2 weeks. I hope you have better luck with GTD than I did!

    • Joe Lalonde

      Great to hear that those books are helping out in feeling more productive. I’m adding them to my book wishlist as soon as I finish typing this out.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      The goal setting hasn’t really changed, other than I am less dependent on others to make them happen. Thanks.

  • http://www.theselfempoweredinvestor.com Tim Butt

    Thanks Michael! This blog’s message was right on time for myself. Since recently launching The Self Empowered Investor the beginning of the year, I recently found myself in overwhelm mode. Last week, I decided to prioritize those things critical to moving my business toward my vision and for monetizaation purposes. What a difference eliminating the “noise’ throughout my day. I now focus on my daily blog to help the DIY investor, networking and marketing. Thanks again. Be blessed always.

  • Lynda

    As a former administrative professional (executive secretary, paralegal, manager over multiple offices), I would recommend that you consider assigning tasks that consume your time without producing new clients or income to the virtual assistant. I have considered becoming a virtual assistant and have thought about this subject.

    An advantage to having a virtual assistant in your own city is that the VA can run errands for you.  If you have a VA working for you that you cannot meet, I would recommend Skyping with the individual, performing an interview that would give you an idea of who you are dealing with before you make assignments. Each individual has areas of expertise over another individual and an individual’s expertise does impact time management and the cost of having a VA.

    Preparing documents, researching details, checking on airline or hotel details and details that do not need disclosure of details that could be used in identity theft could be assigned to a VA.  I personally am very good at researching the best deals on purchases and that is something that could be helpful to any individual.

    Sometimes a VA can come up with workflow suggestions that could save you time. You might consider mind mapping as a way to organize your thoughts. There are a number of computer sites (some are free) that could help you get more organized.  Highrise (http://highrisehq.com) is one site that I am particularly fond of and though it does have a cost, it would be extremely helpful to organizing any executive’s life. Some executives do not take advantage of smart phones.

    I’m sorry this is lengthy, but I hope something will help.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Lynda. This is very helpful.

    • Jmhardy97

      Great thoughts Lynda. I will check out the site.

      Jim

  • http://toppup.com Russ Pond

    Great stuff, Michael! I’m the only employee of my company. Usually, things aren’t too busy, but there are times when it can get quite hectic. I’ve used overseas virtual assistants to pick up some of the smaller tasks, and it has helped greatly!

    Number 5 is key for me. I bill clients $100 an hour and when I find myself bogged down with paying invoices and doing basic accounting stuff, I have to ask “Why am I doing this?”

    Thanks for the excellent information!

  • http://cynthiaherron.wordpress.com Cynthia Herron

    Oh, it’s too early to think about this on a Monday morning! (But that’s why I absolutely love this blog–You teach us so much!)

    I can’t believe how much time I’m spending just building my platform…AND doing what I’m supposed to be doing, which is writing. While I love all aspects of my career, I’m finding that there truly aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done. I wish there were. I’m relying on Him to renew my strength, but you just made me realize, we have to be intentional about helping ourselves, too.

    Thank you! This was fabulous!

  • http://myunorderedthoughts.wordpress.com/ Katarina

    Great advice !

    The only problem i have with doing things am most productive at is i tend to be bored with it 
    One qn : How do u incorporate learning new things often and being productive ?

  • http://safeharbornewlife.wordpress.com Jim Smith

    Michael, very helpful blog.  What a great concept, a Virtual Assistant.  I’m at the beginning stages of planting a church in the North Dallas area.  Our launch date is Easter Sunday 2012.  This will be the third in my nearly 40 year career.  But I’m doing almost everything differently.  Though I’m not at the place where I can afford anything, I definitely want to keep this suggestion at the forfront for tools to help me organize.

  • Joe Tye

    I’d add “accelerate” to Ferriss’ list.  I mean this emotionally as well as physically.  Galvanizing yourself with a sense of enthusiastic urgency and then sparking yourself with physical momentum can both increase your productivity and keep you mentally positive for dealing with the challenges of your day.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Great addition to Tim’s list. Thanks.

  • http://joshuamhood.com Josh Hood

    I felt a sharp pain of conviction when you mentioned those of us who, in essence, NEED TO BE STRESSED OUT. I think more of us fall into this category than we would care to admit. 

    Stress/busyness can become a way of life, and even a comfort zone. When our schedule is overloaded, we feel needed and important. The end result is poor stewardship of our time, health, and resources.

  • http://www.bretmavrich.com Bret Mavrich

    “Bad Math” hit home.

    Allowing my time and energy to be siphoned away by tasks someone else could/should be doing is not just a math problem; it’s a stewardship issue. 

    I bet the guy in Jesus’ story who buried his talent instead of investing it was a pretty busy guy. 

  • http://joeandancy.com Joe Abraham

    Thanks for the timely article! My wife and I have been considering hiring a personal assistant because of our substantial work load. And here comes this post! I think a productive consultant will strongly advise us to go for it so that we could focus on our high payoff areas. Even when going for an assistant, I think we must go for the right qualified person or else it will end up in an increased workload!

  • http://somewiseguy.com ThatGuyKC

    Bless you, Michael. I had to laugh at myself reading this post for 2 reasons:

    1. I worked as an executive assistant for 2 years.
    2. I recently completed an MBA and am struggling with prioritizing and driving productivity in my personal life w/out the structure and discipline of academics.

    Thank you for the tips and hope you continue to have a good experience w/ a VA.

  • http://www.sundijo.com Sundi Jo Graham

    They would definitely advise me to be more organized and do better with my time management. I must admit I struggle with my focus and I can feel it wearing me down. 

    • Joe Lalonde

      I’m in the same boat Sundi.

      • http://www.sundijo.com Sundi Jo Graham

        So, what steps are you going to take? I’m ready to swim out of the drowning lake of unorganization!

        • Joe Lalonde

          Sundi, that’s a great question that I don’t have an answer for yet. The question is motivational for me though. I’m going to have to lay out a plan, maybe read a couple of books(anyone have any suggestions on books about organization?), and try to get things under control.

          Have you taken any steps to get out of the lake?

          • http://www.sundijo.com Sundi Jo Graham

            Making a to-do list has been very beneficial. Prayer has been numero uno. And turning the Facebook world off. I use Facebook for work since I do Social Media Marketing, but I’m learning to find the balance and trying to only allow certain times to be on. Still a work in progress in that area. 

            I want to read the 4 Hour Work Week. Need to get on that. 

            Would love to hear your ideas. 

  • http://LookingForPurpose.com Dylan Dodson

    As a college student, I would love to hire a productivity consultant to study and write papers for me!

    • http://www.sundijo.com Sundi Jo Graham

      Great plan!

  • http://www.jeubfamily.com Chris Jeub

    I really appreciate this post. Willfully transparent. I love the line, “I know, I know, I teach this stuff”. You’re learning along with your students, a trait of a great teacher, especially a teacher who teaches the demanding complexities of leadership and productivity.

    Another post of great advice to share. Thanks Michael!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Chris.

  • Doug Fields

    After working in the church for 29 years, you’ve just described the last 2 years of my life. Really needed this today. Appreciate your excellent posts.

  • http://roborr.net Rob Orr

    “What is it that only I can do? Where do I add the most value? What is really important as opposed to merely urgent?”  

    This is the best piece of advice I’ve heard in a long time. Quantifying just these things should make an enormous difference in what one is able to get done. I’m also investigating a VA. 

    And GREAT point about stewardship – talk about hitting home! Just because you can do it doesn’t mean that you should do it! 

    Great stuff today Michael!

  • http://twitter.com/rkinnick59 Randy Kinnick

    Great tips for managing the overwhelming tasks that can inundate us.  I am intrigued by the idea of the virtual assistant and the one you have chosen is specifically geared to churches.  I hope you find more and more release from the “flood” soon.

  • Conway Suzette

    Great article Michael! A really nice summary of a path for dealing with being overwhelmed.  As someone who often too many balls in the air, this was very valuable for me.  Thanks! 

  • Joe Lalonde

    I’d be scared to hire a productivity consultant. If I hired a consultant, they’d most likely tell me that I need to organize my time better. That I would need to write out a calendar of events that are important and ones that need to get done. My time is not well spent at this time.

  • http://29lincolnaveue.com

    “The Tyranny of the Urgent” booklet is fabulous. Not sure if it is still in print, but this post reminds me of it.

    Thank!

  • Denise Alberts

    I started my own Exec Asst business over 5 years ago, after leaving Corporate America. I help business owners manage their offices, so they can actually run their businesses. The sales people need to SELL, not focus on files, buying office supplies, doing internet research. This was a great article. And just so you know…this is the process most of my clients go through before they contact me!  :)  
    all the best,
    Denise Alberts
    deniselalberts@gmail.com

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Awesome, Denise. You are exactly right.

    • http://tonychung.ca tonychung

      Denise, I’m curious as to how you work virtually, when most of the time consuming busywork I’d like to offload tends to deal with paper: bills, filing, etc.

      Also, how does one prepare to work with a VA?

  • Ron Jenson

    Amen friend, I totally relate. I love your consistent advice. Always practical and helpful!

  • Francarona

    Good advice, Michael.  I’m trying to figure out how to extrapolate that advice to the housework, mothering, grandmothering tasks that surround my work week  That is where I am really feeling overwhelmed!  

  • http://www.danieldecker.net Daniel Decker

    I’m about due for a Productivity Tune-Up myself. As an entrepreneur running my own business, with mostly virtual staff (for 10 years now), I’ve learned it’s important to stay self-aware to everything you listed above and do so with constant reevaluation.

    It’s easy to find a good stride but then subtly drift out of balance (hence where there Productivity Tune-Up comes in). I think I might blog about that myself this week! Thanks for the inspiration (and reminder).

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I am finding that I am having to take time to recalibrate more frequently. It is a never-ending struggle.

  • http://www.timemanagementninja.com Craig Jarrow

    Michael, great list with many pointers. 

    My favorite is #2. When I find myself overwhelmed, I usually focus on the highest impact activities. 

    Sometimes you can’t do it all.

    Love your humble attitude here… even the best sometimes need to regroup.

    Since I write about time management on my site, you can imagine the comments I get when I am behind on something. Especially from my wife… :) 

  • http://seekthecity.wordpress.com Chad M. Smith

    Michael,

    Do you use any voice recognition programs? I’m thinking of software like Naturally Dragon. I have been thinking about trying it out, but have wondered if I am fooling myself into another technological silver bullet, that I think will make me more productive, but ends up wasting more of my time.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      No, I don’t.

  • Rjofficejob

    You have identified 2 undervalued roles, oh ya, the homemaker & mom and the admin assistant. 

    Many of them would rather do the fun stuff like write, teach and speak, but are left with the must-do jobs instead.

    Signed,

    Been There

  • http://www.facebook.com/mark.carver1 Mark Carver

    One of your best articles and the one I needed the most.  THANKS!

  • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

    Thanks for your honesty and practicality. I hear you. I feel your pain. I’m walking there now. Someday I’ll figure out the logarithm to what exactly is the tipping point between too much work and not enough money to sacrificing money for a virtual assistant.

  • dpyle

    It’s a fine balancing act to disciple myself to devote specific blocks of time to spiritual growth, prayer, writing, speaking, and intentional leadership learning. That alone fosters feelings of being overwhelmed, but strictly adhering to those disciples generates growth by leaps and bounds. I’m attempting to get down the Podmoro method. It’s a whole different animal, but I’m determined to stay the course because believe it will help tremendously. Thanks for this great reminder about intentionality!

  • http://sheliamullican.com Shelia

    Sage advice, as usual, good sir. And thank you for leaving Gail free to do what only SHE can do. I am one of the many who benefits greatly from that. :)

    Love you both.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Shelia. I enjoy nothing more than seeing her exercise her gifts!

      • http://tonychung.ca tonychung

        I might add that Gail feels liberated to do the work she does because you do such a fine job leading the home. One of the ladies in our church recently completed her ordination and is proving to be an excellent preacher. I watched her husband (a lay leader in helps and not into public speaking) study his wife from the front row. I mean, truly study her. He found so much joy in seeing his wife take up the mantle of ministry. That’s when it hit me: He leads his home and his wife felt secure that she could go out and accomplish what only she can do in the Lord. REALLY caused me to suck it up and tighten my bootstraps!

  • http://www.thegiftofmondays.com/ colleen laquay urbaniuk

    as always, your advice is not only spot on but also very timely.  thanks!!!

  • http://beckfarfromhome.blogspot.com/ Beck Gambill

    It always surprises me how your posts have application to a stay at home mom! But they do. It’s a huge help to evaluate where I’m spending my time, what’s important to me, what’s necessary and what’s just business eating up energy. I wonder if my husband would agree that making dinner is a sinkhole in my life…

  • Anonymous

    I can’t wait to hear the followup posts (I’m assuming) about the VA.  

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    Two weeks out of the country and just catching up on emails wears me out as much as jet lag. I felt overwhelmed the 1st time I pushed “publish” on my website. You’ve increased your influence exponentially on the web.

    I hope you’ve got time for a handshake in Indianapolis. I’d love to at least look you in the eye and say, “Thank you.”

  • Kevin

    I enjoy your blog ver much. The overall theme is one of deliberateness in all we do. The simple awareness that each thing we do presents us with a choice is itself a powerful catalyst for better, more deliberate choices. I do not agree that anything we do that does not fall into our “most valuable” buckets is necessarily a waste. To be sure, we want to maximize our value and minimize time spent on stuff that is less valuable. But characterizing the less valuable work as a waste may diminish its importance if we do not have a balanced perspective.

  • http://www.irunurun.com Travis Dommert

    Fact is that there is more stuff to read, plan, think about, or do than we could ever possibly keep up with these days.  We have to decide, in the absence of a massive inbox, what handful of things are most aligned first with who we want to be (our “BE GOALS”) and then with what we want to accomplish (our “DO GOALS”).

    It’s still a challenge to consistently deliver on even just 4-5 priorities/week.  But without that explicit framework and some measure of accountability to give it teeth, it’s like deja vu all over again next Monday.

  • http://www.andrebor.nl Andre J.C. Bor

    Thank you for this insightful steps.

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  • Jmhardy97

    Good post. This is exactly why I use your calendar to schedule my three years out plan in order to take time off to refil my energy.

    Jim

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  • http://www.irunurun.com Travis Dommert

    Pleased to see choice of Miles Advisory Group…great folks here in Atlanta making a kingdom impact!

  • http://www.shopmychurch.com Jason Stambaugh

    I’m pretty sure they would tell me to make a list of things that are NECESSARY to do everyday. There are many things that I find myself doing throughout the day that have little to do with my goals, but I’ve managed to convince myself they are all necessary. Kinda like budgeting. Spend my time on paper before the week ever happens. 

  • http://www.arock4him.blogspot.com Amy Hunt

    I need to get back to the basics of what I’ve already learned in previous positions. The one I’m in now requires more self-discipline with structured times focusing on the high payoff activities, as you suggested, versus what seems like a must-do, but really isn’t a payoff. Also, using the productivity sinkholes as “rewards” would make sense for me–would keep me energized and give me a break when it’s natural. I also think I need to literally set a clock and place a schedule of what I’ll do in a day on my calendar…truly getting back to the disciplined approach.

    Also, a coach once suggested that I “close out my day” with a notebook at the end of each day. What did I get accomplished. Who do I need to talk with. What’s next. Thoughts. Conversations.

    I keep a running notebook (that I’ve just gotten back to doing) of random thoughts during the day or during meetings, and conversations I have with folks, and this helps tremendously.

  • Hannah

    Hi there! I am wondering if you can recommend any other Virtual EA companies? It seems as though there are so many to choose from. We are looking for a company who supports other types of businesses aside from churches.
    Thanks!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      You might check this link on Tim Ferriss’s blog.

  • Reader

    Dear Mr. Hyatt,

    Your blog is a helpful resource!  Thank you!

    I was recently reminded of a couple of things
    #1 There are activities and people who drain and fill my energy just like a gas tank
    #2 The time management illustration of filling the empty glass jar with rocks,pebbles,sand and water.  Amazingly, so much can get done if “first things are first”  (from Stephen Covey’s book)

  • Bbhouse

    Your post was a big help to me as I feel very overwhelmed at this time. So by being able to sit down and write out the top things that are most important to me and just do those things is just what I needed to see in print.

    Your posts are very helpful as I am a new writer and want to start out doing the right things.

    Thank you,
    Bonnie

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Futrell/100000383065042 Robert Futrell

    Be honest about your short comings, the assistant is there to help you not inflate your ego.  How can they know how to help you unless you are capable of indentifying areas or tasks that either wiast you time or it’s not your bag.  An Assistant donot need to know why you aviod tasks they can usally see why if you did a good hire.  

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  • Anthony Dina

    Great stuff Michael!  I just now re-read this post.  It seems that no matter what the level, what the experience, there are always trade-offs to make.  The hardest for me are the ones that silently bite the ankles.  When you work from home then travel, it’s easy to forget to schedule time with the family.  Despite being fully conscious of this dilemma, I continue to flub this one up.  Wouldn’t it be grand if the virtual price tag came with every decision?  You know, if you choose this, then you’ve just gave up on that?

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  • Tim

    Good stuff Michael!  I just posted the link to this for 4726 friends on Facebook. I am sure that at least 4725 of them could use your wise counsel in this area. You know, there’s always one who…

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for posting this to your Facebook page, Tim. Much appreciated.

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  • Sean

    I really appreciate this post and most all of the things I read on your blog. Organization and intentionality have been seriously lacking in my life and this past year has been a rude awakening. Whenever I read your blog I am helped in becoming a better more effective version of myself. Thank you.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=719995367 Marisa Wikramanayake

  • http://twitter.com/mwikramanayake Marisa Wikramanayake

    I did this recently, identifying my work, my Masters and certain other personal goals as the most important. I fall off the plan regularly though. 

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