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How could this happen? I do most of my work in my computer so you would say I wouldn't deal which much paper. Well, somehow I surrounded myself with piles of paper. My colleagues call it “the wall”. 

We all want to be that 21st century paperless professional. But let’s face it, printers still come too handy. In the age of communication, the cloud, and infinite memory devices, why do we print? You can find a plethora of reasons to print if you want to. But most of them are  based in our need to touch. It makes us feel safe to touch things. The main reason to keep documents is that we may need them. But let's be honest, we can do that without paper. It's, in fact, faster and more efficient to use documents while they are in digital form.

Being (almost) paper free does also spark joy. We know for a fact that a neater environment can have a tremendous effect on productivity. Having an organized working space is sort of healing. Sometimes, when you're feeling overwhelmed, it's crucial. I’m gonna show you it’s possible to de-clutter your office in a way that’s both easy and fast.

Sorting paper clutter

First thing you wanna do is to pile all your papers on top of your table. Be careful, the amount may be overwhelming. Get a cup of tea and start sorting.




What I like to do is a mix of Marie Kondo’s spark of joy method, and the decision tree from Getting Things Done. Two of my favorite lifestyle changers.
The point is you need to tackle every piece of paper giving it your full attention and decide what to do with it. Dispose of it, archive or digitalize. Everything goes unless it’s really necessary.
What to keep?
Most of papers can be sorted in two categories: things you need to get done and things you need to remember. I prefer todoist to keep all I need to do together and the notes app for things I need to remember. I have this apps in all my devices so I can actually use them.
Sometimes It can be hard to tell, follow these:
  • Of course there are some docs you may need to keep and archive even if you don’t plan to check on them. Those go straight to archive.
  • Is it already on your computer? Discard it right away since you can access the information anytime.
  • Keep nothing to check later, check them now you’re in the de-cluttering zone or take a picture of them.
  • If you kept something to read later, read it now. Odds are you discover you didn’t need to keep it after reading and it’ll be one paper less.
Take a moment to celebrate your run for efficiency. Think of all that time and mental space you’re acquiring through this process.

I write what works for me. Did it work for you too? Do you have any other tip to share? 

Do you feel like you're buried in tasks to do, projects to plan, calls to make and e-mails to send? Do you feel you're drowning in a growing list of postponed to-do's? You could be overwhelmed.

There are many ways to prevent feeling overwhelmed at work. But if you're reading this post you probably already are. It’s okay though, EVERYONE's been there. That's why I wrote this post to share what I learned about how to survive being overwhelmed and get back on track quickly.


how to survive being overwhelmed and get back on track quickly

This feeling of overwhelm is caused by confusion. You've somehow lost control of your workload and now it's attempting to swallow you. Think of it like a dam that's been built between your incoming tasks and your productivity. We need to let the work flow and it will follow it's course naturally.

Following this lines I have explained 3 easy steps to get started. The only rule is not to get stuck in any of them aiming for perfection. Whatever it is the cause, you can stop being overwhelmed by realizing you just need to get things done.


1 Prep the field to build productivity

Where you are, and the condition this space is in causes a major difference. It can either impair or boost your ability to focus and get things done. Like in gardening, we need to prepare the field for the seeds to grow well. This step is a cleansing one, so you want to focus in clearing your mind and space, to be able to focus in one thing at a time.

Reboot your work environment

Be careful here, I’m talking about minor tidying and cleaning. This is not a major spring clean, this is not a purge. We’re trying to make your environment nice so you can focus, but by no means should it take more than 10 minutes.

  Reboot your workload

We’re going to use the “bucket list” technique to empty your head. Write down anything you need to do. Write for a couple of minutes (don't let it be a time waster). I know you're missing something important, we'll get to it. You should now have an idea of what's bugging you.


2 Learn to budget some time

We’ll put in action some time management technique. Creating a time budget for each task will help you decide when it's best to handle it. It will also help you establish a period of time in which ask your coworkers not to interrupt you.

Look through your list and pick the easiest thing to do. Be honest, not the one you like the most. Pick the one you honestly think it’s gonna take you less time/effort to finish. Now make an honest but challenging time estimation.

- A what??
- Let me show you how. 

My time estimation for the task I picked is 1hour which divides in:
  • Contextualization 15min
  • Project layout 15min
  • Layout description 15min
  • Review and completion 15min
As you can see, the reliability of this estimation lies not on inflating it. It lies on breaking down each task in manageable portions. It’s also important that you include contextualization and review in your time estimation.

To make sure you know what’s expected, and to make sure what you did is what you were expected to do is essential. If I didn’t do that, I would have estimated 30min of work for this task which would have let me feeling frustrated or perform poorly.

Learning to do a Time Budget is a training most of us don’t get before our incorporation to the workforce. It’s a valuable thing to learn to do though. Only when you figure out what your possibilities are, you can make a realistic approach on what you expect to get done. This is the only way I know to prevent being overwhelmed.


3 Get in the mindset to beat that frog

Productivity experts and sports-wear brands have it figured out: just do it.

Now you’ve prepped the field, and identified the time window you’ll need to succeed. You might have even noticed that your overwhelm balloon is kindly deflating. That is because you managed to make decisions and act on them. It’s simple as that.


Behind the famous “eat the frog” mantra of the overly productive, is a mystery solved by psychology.
Let me explain. All us humans (and some animals too) work on the combustion of achievement and reward. Remember that feeling that comes after you close a project? That feeling is the reason you feel happier when you’re productive and you feel you’re on top of things. It's also the reason you feel stressed and depressed when you're overwhelmed and paralyzed.

 

Work unplugged 

Now you’ve settled your mindset and prepared the field for productivity to happen. But nowadays productivity has an arch-enemy: social media and communication. You have to learn to be unplugged for periods of time to be productive.

Within the time you’ll need to dedicate to your project. You want to silence distractions for it, or all the planning will have been useless.
  • Close all your browser tabs (In fact close everything you don’t need to use)
  • Hide e-mail (none should get mad you’ve been off email for 1 hour)
  • Silence all alerts (you can just ignore them but I find it easier if I turn them off)
  • Set a timer and get started. 

Don't forget to celebrate! 

Once you’re done, take some time to celebrate. Do not skip this, it’s important, it's part of the whole achievement-reward combustion thing. Now you've finished with the celebration, take a deep breath and pick another item on your list.

Like in yoga, perfection comes from practice. Your performance might not be perfect the first time but don’t quit, try again with the next task. Embrace step-backs as a reminder that you need to keep practicing. And remember, the main purpose of all this is to make you work wiser therefore happier.

Congratulations, you just did it! You survived being overwhelmed.


I hope you found this post helpful! Let me know if it worked for you :)