Essays

How To Deal With Demand Overload

Most of the time, I’m a pretty organized person who keeps up with the tasks thrown at me every day. Sometimes, though. the flood of demands on my time starts to spiral out of control.

Right now, for example, I’m buried under expanded and unexpected responsibilities. My son is going through a period of deep attachment to me and is also experiencing some strong separation anxiety, so I’m spending significant extra time with him, particularly in the morning. I’ve had a surfeit of tasks at my real job. I’ve conducted three lengthy interviews in the past week, and I’ve also been given the opportunity to try out my presenting skills (more on that in a day or two).

The end result is that I’m tired, and I feel like I have too much to do on my plate.

Thankfully, I have a toolbox of tricks to help me deal with this. Here’s how I’m handling it.

First, I list out everything I need to do and/or is weighing on my mind. Thankfully, thanks to my handy pocket notebook and “go” bag, this information is usually right at hand, but I usually make a big list of all of them on a piece of paper.

I then highlight only the ones that must be done immediately or are of deep, fundamental importance in my life. Right now, that’s keeping up with my writing requirements, doing a few specific job tasks, and ensuring that my son’s emotional health is okay.

After that, I just do the highlighted tasks and ignore the rest for now. Nothing else matters other than the highlighted tasks – the rest can literally fall off the face of the earth. My tasks are those highlighted – and nothing else.

Whenever something else comes up, I add it to the list instead of jumping up to do it immediately. The only exception to this is if it’s a personally devastating issue, meaning that if I don’t take action now, desperate things will happen. Everything else just goes on the list until the next go-round.

When the highlighted tasks are done, I go back and highlight a few more that are the most vital among the ones left, then do those. I just repeat this cycle over and over until things are back to normal.

I’ve found that more formal prioritizing ends up getting in the way of getting things done – and getting out of the hole that I find myself in. Some people use all sorts of prioritization schemes and multiple to-do lists, but every time I try something that complex, I find myself fighting against it and not getting real stuff accomplished.

Now, to do some research on separation anxiety and two year old boys…