It is evident today that people within organizations are being asked to do more with less. Fewer resources, fewer people, a smaller budget, and/or a crunched timeline. Add to that the daily cacophony of stimuli hitting our eyes and ears and the myriad concerns we have to navigate in our personal lives. The result is a recipe for stress, anxiety, and overwhelm. Let’s call it being ‘overextended’.

Many of us (ahem, pointing the finger at myself) often show up overextended, as a way of being, at work. For a visual demonstration, picture the ‘hang in there kitty’ poster for yourself. Per author and psychotherapist Bryan E. Robinson, “A poll by the American Psychological Association suggests that Americans are in ‘survival mode’ due to reports of high-stress levels caused by inflation, pandemic recovery, and the war in Ukraine.” Anytime I hear or utter the phrases, ‘I’m in the weeds’, ‘I’m slammed’, ‘I’m underwater’, or ‘it’s been a crazy day/week’, I hear ‘survival mode’.

Not only does performance suffer when you and I are in ‘survival mode’, the possible short and long-term effects of being in ‘survival mode’ are alarming. Per Robinson, these include diminished attention and executive functioning, increased anxiety, mood disorders, decreases in cognitive flexibility, long-term memory loss, and increased risk of degenerative brain diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.

How then, are we to manage and lead our teams out of or away from being ‘overextended’? In response to this question, here are a set of conditions experts share that, if followed, will allow for intended results to naturally occur:

  • Focus your team on things that matter – for what are we being counted on?
  • Edit their workload – don’t automatically say ‘yes’, and focus action on the team’s purpose
  • Schedule uninterrupted work – have your team set aside 1+ hour of uninterrupted time each morning for proactive work
  • Fix your meetings – no more than 3 objectives, have an agenda, only invite those who must be there, and create an action plan before ending the meeting
  • Set limits on email – setting boundaries on workday emails and limiting ‘after-hours’ emails to urgent issues (‘scheduled send’ is your friend!)
  • Lead by example – schedule time for ‘nothing’ (creativity and strategic thinking often emerge during this time)
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