How to deal with overwhelm

I’m a technical wizard. And working online that means that at any moment, I could be bombarded with technical questions from clients in a panic. Sometimes it’s because they didn’t take a minute to try to resolve the issue on their own. It also happens when they’ve spent hours down a rabbit hole, and then they reach out.

It’s amazing when I can feel all heroic and respond quickly and solve their issue quickly. The problem is…When you become known for helping people quickly, you are top of mind when they have technical issues. And in this line of work, these are daily occurrences. After 18 years working online, my client list has grown. And I get contacted by clients who I may not have worked with in a year.

Before I learned to focus, I was overwhelmed frequently. Things got much better, but I still have my weeks. This week was one of them. I abandoned my focus and all lines of communication were open. Oops.

In about 5 minutes my brain was on alert and tuned into too many communication sources:

  • My father and husband were texting
  • I was on the phone calling one medical department while receiving a call from another (I kave kidney disease and I’m approaching kidney failure, so those calls are becoming frequent)
  • I was sitting on a Zoom call waiting for a colleague to arrive and in messenger trying to figure out where she was
  • I had a colleague on Voxer asking urgent questions
  • I had a client on another Voxer channel also asking urgent questions

Deep breath. Drop overything but the medical call. Well that’s a no brainer.

I know you know what I’m talking about. If you allowed an open signal to your mind like this, you’d be bombarded with messages, too.

Here’s how I work and what I do so this situation is avoided 99% of the time:

  • I time block client work on my calendar so that no client’s urgency ever takes prioirity over another
  • I evaluate my work plan twice a week, on Fridays to be ready for Monday, and on Monday to remind myself of priorities
  • I only keep lines of communication open particular to a client while doing focus work for that client, keeping my browser tabs minimal to avoid distraction
  • Three days per week, my client time blocks are only 30 minute bursts, so I switch projects and don’t go hours without commuicating with them. This helps me avoid the context switching of more rapid response to multiple channels.
  • Two days per week, I block out 3 hour time blocks for more deeper focus work, which for me is website design.
  • Slack (message channel where most clients communicate) is integrated with ClickUp (task manager) so conversations turn into tasks and are immediately given a due date and assigned.
  • Clients know how to communicate with me (naturally vs urgently) and what to expect from me on response times
  • Past clients reaching out to me know that they should expect no less than one week response time because their urgency does not take precedence over my already planned out week and active clients.
  • I check email once per day. My income is not in my inbox – it’s in other channels set up with active clients.
  • I turn the sound on my phone off when doing client work and check personal messages at lunch.

I could go on, but this last one is the most important thing I strive to do.

I give myself grace and don’t leap to respond to every ping or panic that comes my way. I used to.

I’d rather be a hero to myself than to anyone.

And that means focus and pride in my work. I don’t need to be a hero for others.

How about you? What makes you feel like the hero that you are?

Cool Shit

I manage my productive and paid time online with Google Calendar and ClickUp, but for my bigger goals, I use old fashioned paper and this is the best planner – The Full Focus Planner.

The best books to learn focus and time blocking:

Shiny Objects

Don’t be distracted by these:

  • Productivity app #22. You only need one! Just use the damn thing and be consistent.
  • Researching a cool SAAS platform that a client just asked about. Learn one new platform a month to stay current, leave the rest.

New Tool Worth Using

💥 Use ChatGPT to turn meeting transcripts into summaries. Works great for team meetings and for creating evergreen lessons for courses, too!

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Talk with you soon!

Tricia & The Leadership Ally Team