During my business career, one of the most common complaints I heard from my clients was how overwhelmed they seemed to be every day. There just wasn't enough time in their day to live up to their demanding responsibilities at work. Then they went home after work and faced a whole new set of demanding responsibilities as a spouse or parent and continued their feeling of being overwhelmed some more. There's no question in my mind that individuals who are conscientious and considered successful by their peers and family can feel overwhelmed more often than not. Unfortunately continuous success and continuous feelings of being overwhelmed is just the recipe to lull one into a state of complacency. We'll define complacency in this lesson as a feeling of contentment or self-satisfaction, especially when coupled with an unawareness of danger, trouble, or controversy that surrounds oneself or their organization.
When you feel successful, become overwhelmed and subsequently become somewhat complacent, you tend to overlook things around you that you know are not RIGHT but believe you have no time to fix them. Like one or two employees who should not be working for you because they are overpaid for the jobs they perform or have bad attitudes that infest other positive, fair paid workers. Feeling overwhelmed causes complacency and forces many problems to linger around rather than be fixed. Then one day your productive and fair paid employees threaten to or begin leaving the company because they think you don't care or you will never fix the ongoing problems that they know you are aware of. In crisis mode you offer more money or more benefits in order to save a good employee and still have to solve the problems that should have been fixed long ago.
Even more often, success and overwhelm can breed complacency and arrogance and it can lower your competitive drive. I've watched many small business owners who were riding high one year, only to allow their competition to "eat their lunch" the next year because they were just too busy to keep their eye on them. A small business can take years or a decade to develop and become profitable, yet fall off the cliff and close after a year or two of poor results. Complacency kills business enterprises.
Keep in mind that complacency also destroys larger enterprises as well. Look what Sam Walton eventually did to retail giants because no one was paying attention to him. While Sam was growing Walmart in the early days, he wasn't even on the radar screen as a viable competitor of K-Mart, Sears and other large retailers. They were very successful and too busy to pay attention to a small time operator like Walton. Every retailer today who competes with Walmart regrets their early complacency while consumers for the most part rejoice, as they enjoy the low prices that Walmart brings to the marketplace. The Walmart story proves that you must never take any small competitor for granted.
To avoid becoming overwhelmed and subsequently complacent, I believe one must stay focused on their highest priority activities that MUST be performed every day. Individuals who feel totally overwhelmed are usually those who are busy putting out fires all day because of poor systems and the lack of daily planning skills. Hands on managers always want to be involved in all decision making as well as get involved in everything that goes wrong. Delegating responsibility to others and empowering others to make decisions will reduce feelings of overwhelm and grow the skills and self esteem of others. It's in every owner, manager and company's best interest to spread the responsibilities around and grow the pool of talent within an enterprise. It's also in everyone's best interest that if they see something that's not RIGHT, they can feel comfortable openly discussing it and suggesting viable solutions. This promotes teamwork and allows everyone to share in the decisions and success of the enterprise.
If there are two keys to time management that everyone should attempt to follow, to avoid becoming overwhelmed, they might be to learn how to set priorities for your activities; and to concentrate on one activity at a time until it's completed. While you must multi-task at times, you need to make this practice an exception as opposed to the rule. Those who try to do five things at once all day long will end up being overwhelmed, frustrated and eventually complacent. There will never be enough time to get everything you want done. But accomplishing the MOST IMPORTANT tasks first, will reduce stress and overload; while you continually accomplish your most important goals.
Every organization has MUST DO tasks that have to be done daily to stay in business. Never save the most important tasks for last; and perform them in a shoddy fashion because you ran out of time. Become skillful at delegating whenever possible; empower others to make them more responsible and proficient; build a strong team around you; and watch the overwhelming feelings and complacency melt away.