Does this sound familiar?: You’ve been trying to implement a change on your team that will lead to increased productivity. Although you’ve explained why the new behavior is important and saves time, certain people won’t budge. And no amount of explaining—or even coercing—seems to bridge the disconnect between what people should do and what they actually do.
The answer to the puzzle of why people don’t do what is logical and beneficial for the individual and the team, lies deeper than you might think. In such cases, you most likely have a logic-resistant emotional issue to address.
As a time coach and trainer, and author of The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment, I’m acutely aware that addressing underlying emotional issues plays a foundational role in shifting people’s habits. That’s why in Chapter 2 of my book, I go through six crippling emotions—and how to overcome them. To get you started empowering your team, I’ll cover one of them here.
When You Can’t Keep Up: Overwhelm
Overwhelm happens when you feel disproportionately matched to what’s happening in your environment. This feeling may result from requests that you do more work than you have time to complete, or from an inability to prioritize what must get done now and what can wait. In the modern workplace, knowledge workers can easily fall into overwhelm because they rarely repeat identical work in the same way. This means that it can be hard to estimate how long something will take.
While people may have incredible autonomy over how and when they complete assignments, sometimes they lack the skills to effectively plan and execute concurrent projects. Depending on your workplace, this may fall into speed or quantity overwhelm—or both. For the purpose of examining blocks to using reporting tools designed to increase productivity, like iDoneThis, we’ll focus on quantity overwhelm, meaning the sheer volume of requests feels insurmountable.
What Happens When You Suffer from Quantity Overwhelm?
If your team members suffer from quantity overwhelm, they will typically lapse into one of two sets of behavior. The first possible response is to flip into panic mode where they frantically try to get as much done as possible without much thought or planning. In this state, they will actually carry out many activities but will resist updating reporting tools like iDoneThis, because doing so seems like a “waste of time” when there are more “important” tasks to do.
The second kind of response is to shut down. In this state, people think constantly about all that they must do but take very little action. This leaves them embarrassed about their output for the day and therefore unwilling to publicize it.
How to Combat Overwhelm
As a manager, the best way to alleviate and prevent overwhelm is to have one-on-one communication with your staff members on at least a weekly basis where you not only discuss what they’ve done but also how they feel about their level of work. The people who struggle most with overwhelm have the perspective that no matter what, they must keep up with what happens around them. Your goal is to create a safe environment to address issues, to overcome challenges together, and even to adjust workloads, if necessary, and help them understand how to ensure their tasks match their ability.
For this process to work, you must be genuine in your concern and action. Respond calmly, forgive for past missteps, and then work on a strategy to move forward. If individuals say they feel overwhelmed and stuck, work with them to address the issue.
Perception is reality. Even if you think something should be very manageable, your team may not. Respect the difficulty of their situation and work with them to surmount it.
Overcoming Quantity Overwhelm to Get On Board with iDoneThis
If you’re an advocate for iDoneThis in your organization who has struggled with this issue and gotten no results from appeals to reason, such as explaining how it only takes a few minutes and cuts down on boring meeting time or expressing how full participation is necessary to make the digest meaningful and useful, it’s time to address the underlying issue of overwhelm. If you don’t, every reminder to do something like use iDoneThis jabs at an already sore spot.
Reducing overwhelm will result in a big step forward to consistent use of iDoneThis. But if you still notice resistance, you can try out these two approaches:
For the frantic: Emphasize how updating iDoneThis can actually lead to work reduction, by giving perspective on how much they have accomplished, clarifying what’s important, and allowing other team members to offer support.
For the paralyzed: To reduce fear, reward the simple action of replying to the iDoneThis e-mail before focusing on the content of the e-mail. Support them using feedback, encouragement, and “likes”. This way, you reduce the probability of guilt, embarrassment, shame, or perfectionism blocking participation.
Addressing overwhelm can play a key role in your team’s success in the coming year. For more on overcoming crippling emotions, check out The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment: How to Achieve More Success With Less Stress.
About Real Life E®
Elizabeth Grace Saunders is the founder and CEO of Real Life E® a time coaching and training company that empowers individuals who feel guilty, overwhelmed and frustrated to feel peaceful, confident and accomplished through an exclusive Schedule Makeover™ process. She is an expert on achieving more success with less stress. Real Life E® also increases employee productivity, satisfaction and work/life balance through custom training programs.
McGraw Hill published her first book The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment: How to Achieve More Success with Less Stress. Elizabeth contributes to blogs like Lifehacker, Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and the 99U blog on productivity for creative professionals. She was selected as one of the Top 25 Amazing Women of the Year by Stiletto Woman.