When was the last time you felt like you had everything completely under control? If you are like most people who attend my classes, you probably feel out of control more often than feeling in control. And that’s normal, but only because most of us haven’t been exposed to great tools to help us feel less overwhelmed. When you think about it for only a few seconds, you realize many things are working against your ability to feel in control:
- Too much to do. This generally causes us to begin multi-tasking, which is an awful way to work. Click here for more on this topic.
- Changing priorities. When priorities are continually shifting, it is impossible to dig in and feel productive.
- Unrealistic deadlines. Goals that are impossible cause incredible stress. Stress leads to errors and a feeling of being overwhelmed.
So far, I haven’t told you anything you don’t already know. Life is hard, and it makes us feel out of control. Yup that sounds about right, so how do you fix the issues? Unfortunately, I can’t help you completely fix the problems, but I can help you feel less out of control. My recommendation is to start with how you manage your time. For most people, time management consists of going from one emergency to another, which by definition means you aren’t in control. Let me give you two techniques I use successfully:
- Pomodoro Technique At its core, the Pomodoro Technique feels a bit like a mini version of agile. You focus on one thing for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break to recharge. After 4 increments of 25 minutes, you take a longer 20 or 30-minute break. The key is making sure you focus on only one thing during each 25 minute working period. Most people set a timer so they stop each time period properly. The word “pomodoro” means “tomato” in Italian and the developer of this technique originally used an Italian timer shaped like a tomato!
- Eisenhower Matrix Rather than describe the Eisenhower Matrix, here’s a recent #AgileDailyDose video on the topic.
I use both of these techniques in different ways. The Pomodoro Technique is very useful as a base technique for getting work done. I use it to just work through my backlog one item at a time.
The Eisenhower Matrix is useful for creating my backlog. I also use it when I am processing email. Do I delete, delegate, defer or do something with each email? This is a constructive way to get through a lot of emails quickly. I use SaneBox for deferring email. I also use it when I respond to email and need to potentially followup at a future time.
You can try these techniques if you want to feel more in control at work. Both give you ways to make choices about what you work on and when you do that work. A Scrum Team can also use the Eisenhower Matrix to evaluate the order of the product backlog.
I’ve written how I use these techniques, but you aren’t limited to using them the same way. Feel free to experiment. The key is to focus on being strategic rather than reactive. Being strategic allows you to be in control. By definition, being reactive will mean you are not in control!
Use the comments to let me know how you use these techniques. You can also ask me questions. I’m happy to engage on this topic!