A guide to digging yourself out of a hole in 7 simple steps!

Blog Post created by alyssa.snider Champion on Feb 3, 2016

I wrote this little gem about a year ago, but I've shared it with a few mentees over the past few days, and they've really encouraged me to share it more broadly, so here goes! I hope you enjoy my first blog post, friends...


Check out this “sammich”. It’s one of my favorites.  Thick bread, plenty of meat, French Fries, Cold slaw, tomato….. DEELISH!


sammich.pngIt’s not for the weak, nor do you want it on a weekly basis… that would be totally overwhelming, right?


Can you imagine eating it in one bite?
Do you think you could finish it within 2 minutes?   Of course not – you’ll choke on it!  So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed….
Think of my sammich…. Grab a knife, cut it in ½, and start enjoying, one bite at a time.  This is what I call…“Killing it!”


This is a simple guide to help you think about how to get started when you’re feeling overwhelmed.


With any of these steps - It may be helpful to do the step with your supervisor, which helps to create buy-in and alignment. Remember that there is NO SHAME in asking for help! A big piece of your supervisors’ job is to help you prioritize and to grow your skills. If you don’t tell him/her with what you need help with, you aren't helping them!


Step 1: Make time to focus

  • Open your calendar.
  • Look at each meeting in the next 5 days. (engage your supervisor in this activity)
    • Decline unnecessary meetings.
    • Decide if there are any meetings that someone else could attend on your behalf. Ask them to update you after the meeting.
    • Determine if you’ve given any one person too much of your time (they scheduled an hour for what should be a 20 minute discussion) – reduce the meeting time, and tell them if more time is needed, it will need to be “next week”.
  • Create Blocks of time (1-2 hours) to work on “killing stuff”.  Start completing each step in your first blocks of time.


Step 2:  Make a list of what you’re buried under

  • List the large and small urgent deliverables and due dates
  • Break the list into manageable steps


Step 3:  Prioritize

  • Engage your supervisor in this activity
  • Review the list and determine for the imminent actions:
    • What needs to be done, by you?
    • What can be done by someone else? 
    • What can be turned off?
    • What can be delayed?


Step 4: Create a Task List

  • Review the manageable steps; identify what you need to do immediately to progress the action.
  • Write down each task on its own line Note:  if “clean email inbox” is one of your tasks…. make it the last one, and ask me for my advice on Goal Zero email.


Step 5:  “Kill Stuff”

  • In your next block of time to kill stuff, get at it!
  • Go to a place where you can focus.
  • Turn off your IM or set to do not disturb.
  • Commit to NOT answering and/or opening new emails during this time (unless they’re on the task list as something that needs to be “killed”).
  • Pick an item on your list you can accomplish very quickly (i.e. schedule a meeting). Do it.
  • Cross it off the list. I’m serious, do it! Draw a line all the way through the action.  Make a noise if it makes you feel better (Booyah! Take that! Wheee! Yahoo!)
  • Pick another one.  Do it again.
  • Take a break after an hour.
  • Get back at it.
  • Repeat during your “kill stuff” time until you’ve crossed it all off.
  • Didn’t that feel good!?!?


Step 6: Celebrate small victories!

Now, getting back to that sammich - there’s only one thing to wash it down with….. an ice cold beer (not at work of course)!  Time to celebrate your success!  If you know me, you know I love beer, so that’s the reward I choose. 


Now that you’re initially dug out –take time to do something you enjoy.  You may not have “killed” everything, but you have made a dent, at the very least.  Reward yourself.   If you can’t think of something to do, give  me a call and tell me where to meet you for that cold beer.  Cheers!


Step 7: Proactively avoid it happening again

When you stop feeling overwhelmed, take some time to identify the things that seem to pile up.   What is making that happen?   Is there anything you can do to prevent it?  Are you saying yes too often?  Are you saying yes to the wrong things?  Are you utilizing the people and resources around you?  Are you doing the managers’ job for them?   Could you be more efficient at a particular process?  Pay attention to what you’re crossing off in Step 3.  How did these things make the list to begin with?


I like to block at least 1 hour each day to “kill stuff”.  This helps me ensure that I have time to accomplish the things that hit my list. Hint: make it at your most productive time of day.


If you’re ever stuck, give me a call. I’m happy to talk it through with you.