Overcoming Overwhelm Through Planning and Delegation

September 11th, 2009 | Posted in Vitality by

Leaders can become overwhelmed with the need to get so much done, particularly when they find themselves being asked to take on more and more responsibilities. While we can comfortably habituate to a certain level of activity, when new responsibilities are added, we can easily find ourselves wondering how we are going to get everything accomplished.

There are two strategies I employ on a regular basis (and coach others to consider), when encountering this experience of overwhelm. Both strategies are designed to move the leader from a situation where the job controls them to where they control the job.

I remember a time in my career when my level of responsibility jumped significantly, literally overnight. I can still remember the sense of desperation I felt for almost a week, even thinking I might want to give up the newly acquired responsibilities and return to the old normal. I am glad I did not pursue that solution.

Instead, I learned the importance of dedicating time for planning and delegation. With new assignments often comes the need to understand new issues, the need to assess new people and the need to chart new directions. We can be tempted to put these vital tasks aside as we continue to tread water and wonder how we are going to absorb all of the additional work.

Taking the time to identify key issues, important milestones and expectations of others is the first step to gaining clarity around what is needed. Our planning can significantly increase the sense of control we feel. Once we know what needs to be done in each of the areas we are responsible for, we can determine what we will need to devote personal attention to and what we can delegate to others.

With additional responsibilities, we often take on new teams. Unfortunately, these new teams can remain underutilized while we try to do everything ourselves. By getting up to speed as quickly as we can through the planning steps noted above, we can confidently turn to others and seek their assistance in completing key elements of our plans.

We can too easily convince ourselves that we must be the author of all new guidelines, products, procedures and processes. This not only contributes to our overwhelm; it also slows everything down as we become a bottleneck.

Take the time to plan, and once you are clear on what needs to be done, utilize delegation as a means to engage others in important work. In so doing, you will assert more control over your expanding job and minimize your sense of overwhelm.

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