#086: What to Do When You Feel Overwhelmed [Podcast]

Today, I was thinking back to perhaps the busiest time in my career: the first few months right after I left Thomas Nelson, almost three years ago. At that time, I was spending all day, every day buried in administrative detail—responding to emails, making travel plans, and filling out expense reports.

Finally, I decided 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.

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I took seven specific steps. My hope is that by sharing what I did, it will give you the inspiration and practical steps you need to take in dealing with being overwhelmed.

  1. I decided I had to make a change. This sounds almost trivial, but it is essential. The first question to ask is, “Are you ready for a change?”
  2. I spent time reviewing the productivity basics. I concluded that:
    • Some stuff is no longer worth doing. That’s the stuff that can be eliminated.
    • Other stuff can be put on auto-pilot. This is the stuff that can be automated.
    • Most of the rest can be handed off. This is the stuff that can be delegated.

    Do you know which activities in your life fall into which category?

    I suggest you download my Productivity Assessment Worksheet. It has four columns: Eliminate, Automate, Delegate, and Do. Print it out and keep it at your work station.

    Now, go through your typical workweek and each time you do something—anything—write it down in one of these four columns. Don’t put anything in column four that you can put elsewhere.

  3. I identified my three high payoff activities. You have probably heard me quote Dawson Trotman before on this. He said, “Never do anything of importance that others can or will do when there is so much of importance to be done that others cannot or will not do.”That’s the key: what are the important things that you and only you can do? What are your high payoff activities?
  4. I identified my three biggest productivity sinkholes. I decided I had to eliminate—or at least dramatically reduce—these activities in my life.
  5. I did the math. If I can bill my time at $50.00 an hour (hypothetically speaking), is it a good investment for me to do tasks that I can hire done for $12.00 an hour? I don’t think so. This is not only bad math, it is bad stewardship.
  6. I hired a virtual executive assistant. With the exception of my daughter Megan who works in the business with me, my entire team is virtual. I have fourteen different people who work with me on a regular basis:
    • two assistants
    • a bookkeeper
    • a web developer
    • a graphic designer
    • an automated marketing manager
    • a customer service rep
    • a booking agent
    • a copyright and trademark attorney
    • a videographer
    • a podcast and audio producer
    • a transcriptionist
    • an overall business consultant

    Have you ever considered a VA? I highly recommend BELAY. This is the company I personally use.

  7. I schedule the important tasks. What gets “calendared” gets done. If something important doesn’t make it onto your calendar, you’re unlikely to do it.I used to use my calendar only for appointments. Now I schedule appointments with myself. I have appointments for research, writing, and speaking.

    How much of your calendar this week is dedicated to high payoff activities?

Listener Questions

  1. Levi Pierpont, a thirteen-year-old listener, asked “In your opinion, should I build up a collection of already written articles before I start blogging? Or should I just start writing when I start blogging?”
  2. Fr. Anthony Perkins, from St. Michael Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Woonsocket, RI asked, “I am the priest and rector of a medium-sized parish (90 families). I am a ‘late-vocation’ pastor and have a lot of leadership experience and training in other settings, but not leading and managing volunteers. How is it different? How is it the same? What is the best way to hold volunteers accountable (if at all)? The leadership challenges are large and I could use your help (and I am sure I am not alone!).”
  3. John Sibert asked about the difference between managing and coaching employees. He said, “I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on this area, as I would like to shift from being a manager to a coach with my employees. I have some vague notions on this, but need to flesh out exactly what this means, so I can become a better leader.”
  4. Marshall Huffman asked, “Do you have any favorite books or suggested reading on ‘Becoming a Better Communicator’; not necessarily in the public speaking sense but the one on one / small group meeting environment?”
  5. Jeff Woolstenhulme asked, “In my desire to start blogging I know the biggest difficulty will be my domain name. My hopes would be to use my FirstnameLastname.com, but my name is Jeff Woolstenhulme. That is the exact reason why my email is [email protected] I have thought about using that, but it has always felt uninspiring. I want to be taken seriously from the start. Would you suggest I try and use a niche name as you suggested in one of your posts? Or should I just go for it JeffWoolstenhulme.com and hope it sticks? Thanks ahead of time for the thoughts!”

Tip of the Week

Recently, I started using a little app called TaskClone to automatically move tasks from my meeting notes to my task management program.

I take all my meeting notes in Evernote. I always identify tasks with a little checkmark box just to the left of it. (Evernote calls these a “to-do.”) In the past, I would then have to go through an manually cut and paste these to Nozbe, my task management software. It was tedious but necessary.

Now, I just add a special tag to the note when I am done. Then when I sync the note to the cloud, TaskClone scans that note and automatically adds any item with a to-do (or checkmark box) in front of it to Nozbe. It will even process Nozbe email subject line syntax (which I know sounds a little Geeky), so I can tag the task with the appropriate project, content, due date, etc.

TaskClone supports about twenty task managers—OmniFocus, Remember the Milk, Basecamp, Asana, etc.—so even if you use another task manager, you can use it.

Special Announcement

  1. People often write in to ask, “Can I pick your brain on something?” I finally decided to address this head-on. If you are interested in picking my brain on something, let me encourage you to go to MichaelHyatt.com/pickmybrain
  2. If you have a question, comment, thought or concern, please leave me a voicemail:

    This is a terrific way to cross-promote your blog or website, because, if I use your question on the show, I will link to it.

Episode Resources

In this episode I mentioned several resources, including:

Show Transcript

You can download a complete, word-for-word transcript of this episode here, courtesy of Ginger Schell, a professional transcriptionist, who handles all my transcription needs.

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Question: If you hired a productivity consultant, what would they advise you to do with your workflow?

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