Don’t Let Overwhelm Dictate your Actions

by Jeff Saari

I worked with an engineering manager recently who was overwhelmed by a few things, but one in particular.  Upon talking with him he told me that he has been avoiding, or procrastinating on this item for a while now.

Because I get to ask questions and be curious in my work, I asked him about the overwhelm.  In thinking it through he told me that it just seemed too big, that he didn’t know where to start.  As he began talking to me though, the confusion began to lift, and something started to happen.  The overwhelming nature of this big project began to unravel itself into smaller steps.  What he essentially wanted to do was to document all of the designs of the company in one central place, so the CEO and sales could have access to it all in one place.  It would also serve to revise some of the older ones as needed.  So there is a real business value to getting this done for himself and others.

One first step that he came up with was to make a list of all of the outstanding designs, which he thinks there are between 50-100, but isn’t sure.  In reality he has documented 3 of them so far so he isn’t starting from scratch.  Another extenuating factor is that he doesn’t actually care for the documenting process, that is sitting in front of the computer inputting the data required to document one of these designs.  So not only did the task seem overwhelming, he doesn’t particularly have a knack or interest for typing these up.  As we soon would see though, that is workable now that he knows that is a motivating factor.

Essentially a way forward began to materialize in our session.  He could see that he has been avoiding the project for the reasons mentioned above, and yet in reality he had 3 of the however many number of designs completed.  I asked him to consider that if there were 100 designs to document and he did 2 per week, that it would take him roughly a year to get them done.  This can seem like a long time, but contrast this with avoiding for the next year and getting none done, the choice is clear.  He thought this was a reasonable number to shoot for so we made that as an inspired action.  Next was to deal with getting him support for actually documenting some of these for him, which he agreed that there might be a couple people in the organization who could help.  He told me that documenting one takes about an hour so that is potentially one hour a week for him and one hour a week for someone else if he splits it up.

In our session we essentially blew apart the overwhelm he was feeling, that was causing him to take the action of procrastination.  Once he saw it clearly and realized that he actually truly wants to get this project on its way and done, he had renewed energy.  I am confident that he will get it done and I will use my coaching sessions to check in on the progress as we go along.  The metric of progress will be if he is on par for the 2 per week or not.  If he isn’t then we get to reflect on that, reorient and potentially change up the number he does, which of course makes the project go out longer.  But that becomes a conscious agreement instead of “someday I will get to that” sort of thing.

I recently wrote about a procrastination I found, with making a call to connect with a high level executive.  For me it was anxiety and the fear of rejection that was the motivator for procrastination.  I encourage you to look at the things that you are avoiding, for whatever reason and to assess what is going on, what you want, and bust through the clouds so you can begin to take newly inspired actions to get what you want.

For more great Leadership Resources visit the Leadership page at Connor Business Resources.

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