In the world of personal resilience, one of the toughest nuts to crack is beating the OBE syndrome. Yes, when you’re chronically overwhelmed by everything, you simply won’t see the EXIT signs that are right in front of you.
It’s surprising how many people can take positive action to take back their health, their fitness and other areas of their lives, while still remaining run off their feet from day to day. In fact, lots of high performers in all walks of life are very unhappy workaholics.
So listen: if you need to get a grip on your time and energy, there is hope. Just follow these infallible steps to building your exit strategy:
1. Drill this Into Your Skull:
You cannot beat overwhelm by doing more stuff. You can only beat overwhelm by a) doing less, and b) doing what you do more efficiently.
2. Identify Your Key Results:
What results are you actually responsible for? In every area of your life, what are the top 1-3 results that you are primarily on the hook for? What does your employer really need you to do? If you’re not quite sure – and that’s distressingly common in the business world – go and ask! What do your spouse and kids need most from you? What 1-3 results do you need to see with respect to your health? Write all this down. Then distill it down further until you have a list of not more than 5 things that, if you were to accomplish them in the next 12 months, would give you an outstanding life.
3. Identify the Activities that Will Produce Those Results:
For each of those key results, identify the 1-3 activities that will contribute most to bringing them into reality. Now you know what to focus on. Of course, you should always get a sanity check from several people whose judgment you trust. But once you’re sure what they are, you’re light years ahead of 99% of the population.
4. Identify the Activities that Contribute Least to Your Key Results:
What are the time wasters in your life? Does your job have you stuck in endless meetings that go nowhere and contribute little to the results your employer really needs? Then you need to stop attending (yes, there are creative strategies for handling this, but there’s no time to go over them here ;-). Are you buried under a mountain of admin you hate and, for that matter, aren’t very good at? Do constant interruptions plague you? Once you know what’s in the way, you can take measures to eliminate these time-sucking energy vampires. This alone could save you up to 3 hours per day!
5. Block Off Time to Work on Your Top Priorities:
Open an Excel spreadsheet. Don’t worry if you’re new to Excel; you’ll figure it out. Personally, I suck at Excel, but I won’t live without my weekly spreadsheet. So label the sheet Monday to Friday across the top and put the hours of your day down the side. Now block off the time you need. Let me give you a hint. Do NOT start by scheduling everything else in your week first. If you do that, you may find there ARE NO blocks of time left. You take the blocks you want FIRST. And make them early in the morning, when you’re fresh and motivated. Yes, you can schedule other blocks later in the day if you wish, but stake out the early morning. And if anyone or anything gets in your way, threaten them with grievous bodily harm until them back off. Okay, just kidding. But unless you FORCE everything else out of your way, you won’t get the time you need. Why early morning? Easy. You’re most likely at your most productive. And you’re setting yourself up to finish your major priority for the day by 10am. Try this and you’ll see. If you can get the really important stuff done before lunch, you’ll feel absolutely wonderful! For the first time in ages you’ll feel you’ve taken back control of your life.
6. Review Your Priorities Every Night:
If I were to wake you out of a dead sleep at 2am and ask you exactly what you’ll be working on in the morning and what time you’re going to start, you should be able to blurt it out even before your eyes open! Clarity is the key. You must be totally clear on what you’re about to do. This eliminates the wasted time that comes from indecision and guess-work, and it also allows your subconscious to work on the issues while you’re asleep.
7. Eliminate Interruptions and Force Your Schedule on Others:
Yes, it sounds brutal and egotistical, but I can tell you now that unless you build the schedule that works for you and stick to it, other people will “invent” your schedule for you and you’ll be miserable and frustrated because, despite the flurry of useless activity they force on you, you won’t get a thing done! Refuse phone calls during your key result working time. Refuse meetings. Block off the time in your Outlook or Google calendar at work and at home. As for that time-sucking monster called email, don’t you dare check it more than 3 times per day, and never before your first block of working time.
8. Get Rid of Low Value Tasks:
When you find yourself spending hours doing work you hate or work you’re not good at on a repeated basis, that task is a prime candidate for elimination. You’ve got to get it off your plate. Your choices are a) delegate it to someone else, b) outsource it to someone else, or c) just ignore it until it goes away (yeah, it’s shocking how much of the work in most enterprises is so useless that, if it’s not done, there are no consequences!). So take this blueprint as your exit strategy and start using it right away – it’ll make a huge, positive difference in your life.