Brain food: Your route to the top - Work overload

Stop and think. It's easy to panic and launch yourself at the task without considering the most sensible course of action. A few moments' reflection and planning pay off.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Break the situation down into chunks. Picturing the whole task makes it look terrifying; small steps are manageable.

Delegate. There may well be people around you who can help and offer expertise - take it.

Manage expectations. You may need to explain to others that the end result might be different from initial expectations. Better to bite the bullet early on and enlist help than give people a nasty surprise when you pass the point of no return.

Consider urgency and importance. The danger is to rush around doing the urgent things but ignoring the important ones. If something is both urgent and important, act. If not, prioritise.

Start small. Focus on getting some quick results, as this will give you momentum.

Develop a contingency plan. Even in the most difficult situations there are other options.

Go for the 80/20 rule. Build the stadium without the roof, write the report without the annotated footnotes.

Don't be too hard on yourself. Having decided what to focus on, don't worry about things you're not going to do. Put your energies into finishing everything else to a high standard.

Talk to your team. If everybody knows what is happening, less time will be spent on unproductive action. Consider creating a war room where people know action is being taken.

Communicate to interested parties. It's better to lead the communication of a crisis than being forced to respond to someone else's interpretations.

Remember it will pass. Life is bigger than a wobbly project.

Learn from the situation for next time. Patterns can turn into habits. If you're aware of what led to the situation, you can catch it before it happens again.

The Mind Gym, www.themindgym.com.

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