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A Mindset for Overcoming Busy Times (Bite-size Article)


The busyness of work is an unavoidable reality. On a personal note, I've been finding myself buried under a growing list of tasks lately, from tax return preparations to work and personal projects. There have been days recently when I felt totally overwhelmed by everything I had to do, which made me less efficient and even brought me down because of stress.

This got me thinking that while everyone has their own tricks for getting through busy times, what's really important is the mindset you develop to handle these periods.

In this article, Iā€™m going to share not about specific techniques, but about the mindset I try to maintain to help me get through the busy spells in work and life.

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Creating Many Small Successes

When faced with time-consuming projects or large tasks, you may find yourself overwhelmed. However, breaking these tasks into smaller parts is crucial during busy times. For example, consider a task that you know will take 10 hours to complete. Adding such a large task to your list can make it psychologically challenging to start. However, if you divide it into smaller segments, planning to tackle it for 2-3 hours a day, it suddenly seems more manageable.

Let's say on Monday, you decide to focus on collecting and organizing the data needed for the report, which takes about 3 hours. On Tuesday, you spend another 2 hours creating the report's outline and writing the introduction. This way, each day, you're making progress and achieving small milestones.

Gaining success experiences from your daily work is incredibly important. If a task added to your list remains undone for a long period, it can turn into a failure experience, potentially leading to self-blame, or a loss of confidence and self-esteem. However, by tackling a small portion of the task each day, even if it's just for an hour, you create a success experience. Achieving these small successes builds confidence and motivates you to continue working hard the following day.

While both strategies ultimately aim to complete a "10-hour task," the approach of breaking down tasks and accumulating small successes can significantly reduce stress levels and effectively control productivity.

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Setting Priorities

It's crucial to categorize tasks based on urgency and importance. This might lean a bit towards technique, but things that don't need to be done urgently can safely be postponed. I categorize all tasks based on the "Time Management Matrix and its 4 quadrants" as advocated by Stephen R. Covey in his book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" This matrix is based on two axes: "urgent vs. not urgent" and "important vs. not important," dividing activities into four quadrants. It provides insights on how we should allocate our time.

Having this awareness can positively impact how we approach our daily tasks and how we plan. Explaining this matrix in detail would make this article too long, but if you're interested, I encourage you to research it further on your own.

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Rest & Stress Management

When faced with an abundance of work, it's natural to think that increasing the time you commit to work is the solution, but it's impossible to keep this up forever.

Especially during busy periods, it's crucial to consciously take breaks and care for your stress levels and health.

As a general advice, try incorporating moderate exercise, meditation, or time for hobbies as short-term stress relief methods. Also, ensuring you get enough sleep, which often gets shortened during busy times, is important. I've written an article on the benefits of napping (power naps) before, which you might find useful as a reference.

Even when you have a lot to do, as mentioned earlier, revising priorities or adjusting your schedule within possible limits might offer some relief.

Tip: Plan ahead. And during busy times, consciously keep a schedule with breathing room

Planning for the next day at the end of each day can also be very effective. Tackling tasks haphazardly without a plan during busy times can lead to confusion and, consequently, increased stress. I use tools like Logseq or TaskChute to always get a perspective on the next day the night before.

The most important thing when planning is not to overpack your tasks. Connecting back to the discussion on success experiences, if your plan is crammed to an unrealistic level, you'll find by the end of the day that you haven't accomplished what you intended. Such experiences can turn into failures, demotivating you and affecting your productivity and stress levels in a vicious cycle. For instance, setting a buffer like "ensure at least 3 hours of break each day" or "limit work hours to 6 hours" can help you maintain a manageable plan tailored to your circumstances.

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For me, during consecutive busy days, I often feel overwhelmed. However, not perceiving busyness as something negative and seeing challenges as opportunities for growth can aid in managing one's mindset. The busier and more challenging the times, the more important it is to not overextend and address things one at a time calmly.

I would love to hear if you have any personal insights or ideas on this topic.

Thank you for reading.

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