How to deal with overwhelming circumstances

Sometimes work can be very overwhelming. Deadlines are being missed, your inbox is being bombarded, stakeholders are spiralling up into hysteria every time you talk to them, and it seems everywhere you look there are problems!

Due to unforeseen circumstances that quite often occur when implementing new technology or enhancements to an existing system, deadlines can be pushed back time and time again.

On the other hand, work can be delivered within the set time frame and, due to time pressures, important things are overlooked and the deliverable needs to be revised.

Either way, pressures build up within the business, emails fly back and forth, and conversations are increasingly difficult as the sense of urgency rises. For me this is an unfavourable state of affairs.

Two business reasons that cause pressure on deadlines are:

  • The business is under pressure to meet external obligations or mandates which are important for the ongoing sustainability of the organisation. The incentive may be for further funding of a project, increased profits, or the risk of losing profits in the case where a current system is failing to meet the immediate needs of the business.
  • There are competing priorities between different areas of the business to make sure processes and systems are in place to meet their demands, and these priorities are being met by a limited availability of resources.

A good friend of mine told me she deals with stressful and overwhelming situations by gritting her teeth and working harder to push through the problem… I hope she was kidding. In some cases working harder may be necessary, but not at the expense of setting an unreasonable expectation of performing at that level all of the time. This can an impact on your health and cause you to build up resentment towards work because you are spending less time with family, leisure and hobbies (such as blogging). As a result, this creates other problems, adding even more to the sense of being overwhelmed.

This is my strategy for dealing with overwhelming circumstances.

  • In the words of Leo Babauta breathe . Breathing will calm you down, help bring you back to present, and focus your thoughts on what has to be done right now.
  • Breathing will help you strategise . Think of similar situations you have been in and the things you did to help you through. Use that, and the knowledge of what you have to do, to devise a step by step action plan to achieve your goal. If you are stuck for ideas talk to a friend or trusted colleague. Sometimes just talking can help clear the chaos in your head and your friend may have some very simple and effective pointers.
  • To get all of your ducks in a row… communicate . Communicating is the important part of strategising and implementing your plan. It helps manage expectations of your stakeholders, and showing them that you have a plan gives them reassurance, and enables them to manage expectations up their own reporting lines.

Again… breathe . Breathing also helps with clearer communication and your ability to listen effectively. Listening is an important part of communication, and you will find that once you are more grounded and focussed, you are better able to understand other peoples’ communication styles and their problems. This in turn helps you break issues down into action items to give you the strategy going forward.

How have you dealt with overwhelming circumstances in the past?

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