3 Questions to Go from Overwhelmed to Organized
Judith Martinez '14
Between managing a team of 15 people across two coasts, traveling for my company InHerShoes, recently beginning a Master’s program, working on the next “thing” on the horizon, and squeezing in this upcoming season of HBO’s Silicon Valley, I love to defy (or at least attempt to) the odds of what I can get accomplished in 24 hours. People always ask me “how do you do it?”
There’s no secret sauce that I’ve found, but there are a few quick and easy questions I have a habit of asking myself that help me go from overwhelmed to organized with a viable action plan.
1. What’s more important, that this project gets accomplished or that I’m the one that gets it done?
I’m a doer. I like making things happen, and having big ideas are great, but when the rubber meets the road, I want to know exactly how and when we can get there. This mentality is great for producing results, but not that helpful when it comes to battling things like burnout.
I will easily find myself asking this question every time I am in my office faced with 10 things to get done in the next 15 minutes before my next meeting. I used to see being overwhelmed as an indicator of my inability to do it all—now I see it as a sign that my life is expanding. When met with this dilemma, I take a look at what needs to get done and decipher whether it’s something I can delegate (like an email), or something I need to do myself (like a phone call). At least 50 percent of the time, the things that come across my desk are things I can empower my team to take on or train them to manage. Learning to recognize what needs to get accomplished versus who needs to accomplish it is a great way to nix feeling overwhelmed from the start.
2. Is this project or task moving the needle?
Millennials make up a disproportionate percentage of "work martyrs"—those who willingly work almost 24/7 and are afraid to unplug, disconnect, or even take vacation. A recent study by Accountemps, a Robert Half company, confirms what we already believe to be true: Young workers, especially women, are increasingly feeling the pressure to (over)perform.
When faced with a slew of seemingly impossible deadlines, opportunities, and decisions to make, asking myself this question gives me a quick check-in to see if what I’m working on is actually going to move the needle.
3. Why does this matter?
Ever since beginning InHerShoes, this has been a critical question not just for me, but also for our entire team. We all come across moments where we may not want to be doing what’s in front of us, but it’s part of what we are committed to in the long haul.
I never want to go over budgets or funding streams for an upcoming program, but I know I’m committed to providing the best programs for our girls, and understanding our finances is part of that.
How do you keep your cool when you begin to feel overwhelmed?