Avoid Getting Overwhelmed When Every Client Needs Something ASAP

LightningI recently had a day started like any other weekday, apart from a little light rain. It ended with an overflowing inbox of client requests and a that awful feeling of being overwhelmed.

I spent the morning on a Windows 7 article that I needed to finish. Several emails came in. “No problem.” I thought, “I can handle them in the afternoon.”  Every Wednesday at noon, I have a weekly status meeting with a client. It forced the article and my eyes to take a break from each other.

At the end of the meeting, my day crashed with a thunderous roar. More email requests had arrived. Like the rain, the work started to pour in. This doesn’t happen often, but it turned this organized planner into a panicky gal. Plus, I managed to lock myself out of an important account, something I never do.

One of my worst habits is checking email too often. I do this because I don’t want my inbox to pile up. I scan my emails frequently and then delete, file, respond or or leave them for later if the message needs more than a few minutes of my time. On this day, many of the messages met the “leave” requirement. So they remained in the inbox where they caused my stress to climb even further.

So what do I do to stop getting overwhelmed like this? Here are the steps that I took to regain control:

  • Pick the most urgent task. Complete the task, celebrate accomplishment and get a quick lift.
  • Delete email newsletters and updates. You can always catch up on them later, but reducing the number of unread messages is a quick way to reduce the  stress that comes from an overwhelmed inbox.
  • Add tasks from emails to the to-do list. Then, prioritize and assign them so I can see what needed doing now and what could wait. This way I can move the emails where they belonged and out of the inbox.
  • Skip or postpone events, meetings, appointments, etc. You can always skip or move non-urgent meetings or events to concentrate on urgent matters.I had more meetings than usual that week, so I rescheduled one so I could have more time at the office.
  • Let go of social networking. Not forever — just for the day. Though social networking is an essential tool in my business, I let it go that day because I knew it wouldn’t help my productivity or stress levels. Besides, if I had tried, I may not have communicated as well as I do on a normal day. I returned to it the next day.

Although following these steps didn’t completely cure that feeling of being overwhelmed (there were still a lot of email to deal with), it definitely helped to regain a sense of control and order.

How do you handle overwhelming situations?