Written by: Victoria Chardon, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
If you’re a manager and you’re feeling overwhelmed right now, it’s no wonder. The seemingly endless cycle of lockdowns, social isolation, and working from home has forced us to interact and work in different ways - we are spending more time alone and more time on video calls. Against this backdrop, leaders are still expected to wear their ‘management face’; we still steer our teams, deliver against quarterly targets, and prioritize what our clients need whilst managing our employees' wellbeing and motivation. It’s easy to reach that crucial breaking point without realizing you’ve been pushing up against it for a while. It’s also easy to view work as an anchor point at the moment - with so little else in the world seems able to progress, work feels like the one thing we have control over.
If you’re pushing up against that barrier of overwhelm, here are three essential tips to help you manage better during the pandemic:
1. Prioritize Effectively
We all know that prioritization is the key to getting results, staying focused, and beating overwhelm. So why is it so difficult to actually do it? Often the problem is that everything on our to-do list seems to be important, and we’re not very good at saying no.
Here’s a quick, practical way to prioritize the tasks you need to get done:
Write a list of everything you are working on right now.
Consider each item with relation to the Four D’s: Do, Delay, Delegate, Drop. What do you need to do right now, because it is urgent and important for your business or team? What can be delayed until later - it’s still important, but you could revisit it? What can you delegate to somebody else - by empowering someone else to help you? And finally, what is neither urgent nor important and can be dropped completely?
We’re also spending more time than ever in meetings and calls. If you are imprisoned by your calendar and feel that meeting time is cannibalizing focus time, try taking the ‘intentional meetings’ approach: only attend meetings where you have a true intent to learn, to lead, or to participate. The moment you ask yourself why you need to be in a meeting - decline it. Be firm, and don’t attend any meeting where it’s not clear what your contribution will be. Signal your approach to your team and stakeholders so that expectations are set. Last year I even set myself a goal that I had to decline one meeting every day. It’s surprising what suddenly isn’t urgent or can be postponed until a better time if you really want to free up space.
2. Empower Your Team
Delegation is an art that many managers fail to master. There is something about asking people in our team to take on a task that we don’t want to do ourselves that feels uncomfortable. So let me reframe it for you.
Our teams look to us as leaders. A good leader takes the time to understand their employees' strengths, development areas, and career paths. And in doing so, they can match employees up with tasks that they will find interesting, fulfilling, or will learn something valuable from. Being given work to do which is matched individually in this way can be incredibly motivating for people. It signals trust from you, their manager, as well as showing your investment in their personal growth journey. I don’t think of this as delegation - it’s empowerment. Just ensure you’re not merely pushing tasks on to them - it’s about finding opportunities that will stretch them, but it shouldn’t be at the sacrifice of their wellbeing.
Revisit your to-do list. Are there things in your ‘delay’ or delegate’ bucket that would be a good match with the skillset or development journey of someone in your team?
3. Look After Your Own Wellbeing
This may be last on this list, but it’s the most important. You are no good to your team, your company, your clients, your boss, your partner, your kids, your friends, or anyone else if you are not looking after yourself. We are in unprecedented times. The line between home and work life has all but disappeared. There is no guidebook on managing your wellbeing in a pandemic, so you will need to write your own. If you don’t have the usual wellbeing tools available in your routine, by which I mean things like mindfulness, meditation, sport, or yoga, it can be difficult to start when you feel like you have too much on your plate.
But ask yourself this. What small thing could you do today to help maintain some sense of wellbeing? Perhaps it’s switching off your computer fifteen minutes earlier than usual. Establishing a five-minute breathing break at the end of every meeting. Leaving your mobile phone in another room whilst you have dinner. Turning off the webcam during a meeting, using a headset and walk around the room instead of sitting in front of the screen. You will be amazed at what a difference such micro-changes can make, and as you turn them over time into habits, you’ll start to establish more balance.
It is not a weakness to ask for help if you feel overwhelmed. Admittedly, not everyone works in the company where you can ask your manager for help, or perhaps you don’t have the best relationship with them. But regardless of that, if you are struggling right now, there are other people you can turn to, such as a coach, a therapist, a trusted colleague, or a mentor. Often, the thing we really need is to acknowledge that we’re feeling that way in the first place instead of trying to keep the engine running. From there, you can start to build an action plan of what you want to do about it.
Victoria Chardon, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Victoria Chardon specializes in fulfillment, confidence-building, and making big dreams become a reality. As well as being a Google leader who manages an international team, she is the co-founder of Rising Star Leadership, a consultancy that creates personalized coaching programs for groups, individuals, and corporations. Victoria helps people to connect with themselves on a deeper level than they usually would, pulling them away from life on the surface' and helping them claim their powerful, unique individuality. She also works with leaders to help them incorporate vulnerability and compassion into their leadership style. She is a vocal advocate on wellbeing and mental health and has taken to the stage on several occasions to share her personal journey and break down the stigma of mental health in the workplace.