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Dealing with Overwhelm
By Brian Tracy

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© 2009 Nightingale-Conant Corporation

Do you have too much to do and too little time? Of course! The most common form of stress that professional people experience is the feeling of being overwhelmed with far too much to do and having too little time to do it in. In fact, "time poverty" is the biggest single problem facing most people today. We simply do not have enough time to fulfill all our responsibilities. Because of budget limitations, staff cutbacks, downsizing, and competitive pressures, individuals are forced to take on more and more work, all of which appears to be indispensable to the smooth functioning of our company or department.

Become An Expert! The solution to this problem of work overload is for you to become an expert on time management. There is probably no other skill that you can learn that will give you a "bigger bang for the buck" than to become extremely knowledgeable and experienced in using time management practices.

Be open to new ideas. The most foolish person of all is either the project manager who feels he or she has no time to learn about time management or, even worse, the manager who, while being overwhelmed with work, feels that he or she already knows all that he or she needs to know about the subject.

The solution to this is to never stop learning. The fact is that you can study time management and take time management courses for your entire career, and you will still never learn everything you need to know to get the most out of yourself while doing your job in the most efficient way.

The two indispensable keys to time management are 1) the ability to set priorities; and 2) the ability to concentrate single-mindedly on one thing at a time.

Since there is never enough time to do everything that needs to be done, you must be continually setting priorities on your activities. Perhaps the very best question that you can memorize and repeat, over and over, is, "What is the most valuable use of my time right now?"

So, here's the best question of all—this question, "What is the most valuable use of my time right now?," will do more to keep you on track, hour by hour, than any other single question in the list of time management strategies. Start with your top tasks. The natural tendency for all of us is to major in minors and to give in to the temptation to clear up small things first. After all, small things are easier and they are often more fun than the big, important things that represent the most valuable use of your time. However, the self-discipline of organizing your work and focusing on your highest-value tasks is the starting point of getting your time under control and lowering your stress levels.

Here are two things you can do immediately to get your time under control. First, make a decision today to become an expert on time management. Read the books, listen to the audio programs, and take a time management course. Then, practice, practice, practice every day until you master time management skills.

Second, set clear priorities on your work each day, before you begin. Then, discipline yourself to start on your most important task and stay at that until it is complete. This will relieve much of your stress immediately.

Break Away from Old Ideas

Highly creative people tend to have fluid, flexible, adaptive minds. Here are three statements that creative people can make easily and which you can learn by regular practice:

1. Admit It When You Are Wrong
The first is simply, "I was wrong." Many people are so concerned with being right that all their mental energy is consumed by stonewalling, bluffing, blaming, and denying. If you're wrong, admit it and get on to the solution or the next step.

2. Face Up to Mistakes
Second, non-creative people think that it is a sign of weakness to say, "I made a mistake." On the contrary, it is actually a sign of mental maturity, personal strength, and individual character. Remember, everybody makes mistakes every single day.

3. Be Flexible with New Information
The third statement that creative people use easily is, "I changed my mind." It is amazing how many uncomfortable situations people get into and stay in because they are unwilling or afraid to admit that they've changed their minds.

You also need to be willing to cut your losses. If you get new information or if you find that you feel differently about a previous decision, accept that you have changed your mind and don't let anyone or anything back you into a corner. If a decision does not serve your best interests as you see them now, have the ego-strength and the courage to "cut your losses," to change your mind, and then get on to better things.

So, here are two ways you can break out of narrow thinking patterns and become more creative:


First, be willing to admit that you are not perfect and you do make mistakes. This is a mark of intelligence and courage.

Second, with new information, be willing to change your mind. Most of what you know about your business today will change completely in the coming years, so be the first to recognize it.

Success Leaves Tracks

When I began searching for the secrets of success many years ago, I discovered an interesting principle: Success leaves tracks. A wise man who had studied success for more than 50 years concluded that the greatest success principle of all was "learn from the experts."

If you want to be a big success in any area, find out what other successful people in that area are doing, and do the same things until you get the same results. When I studied the interviews, speeches, biographies, and autobiographies of successful men and women, I found that they all had one quality in common. They were all described as being "extremely well organized." They used their time very, very well. They were highly productive, and they got vastly more done in the same period of time than the average person.

The next idea is to be both effective and efficient. High-performing men and women were both effective and efficient. They did the right things, and they did them in the right way. They were constantly looking for ways to improve the quality and quantity of their output. As a result, their contribution to their organizations was vastly higher, and therefore much better paid, than the contributions of the average person.

Here are two things you can do immediately to put these ideas into action:

First, develop a study plan today to learn from the experts in your field. This can save you years of hard work.

Second, decide what is the most important thing to do, and then decide how to do it.
Here's to your continued success!

If you do only ONE thing today, watch this!

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- Brian Tracy

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