[Article] Getting out of overwhelm

Have you ever started the day with a list of ‘stuff’ to do and lots of good intentions? It’s a regular feature of my week.

How often do you actually get everything on the list complete by the end of the day? In my case, it’s rare. But that’s because it works for me to have a rather longer than realistic list. And I prioritise my list.

Not everyone works at their best with too much to do, however. If you find yourself overwhelmed with the amount of work on your list, here’s something for you to experiment with:

Empty your head of everything you’ve got to do, want to do, need to do, dream of doing. Write it all down.

Next, pull out of the list anything that has a deadline in the next week and put that on a new list. Pick the three most important items on that second list and do them today. When you’re done, stop. Make coffee, go for a walk, read the news or whatever else appeals to you.

Notice how you feel.

Make a plan for tomorrow, and do the same again.

Three things might not seem like very much. If you take it in context with all the ‘noise’ of emails, telephone calls and other interruptions, it can be quite an achievement to complete three tasks. Of course, it depends on the average size of the tasks you have on your list and the amount of email you get.

So, do three things per day for a week and then try four. If that’s still too easy, move up to five. If you’re getting overloaded, drop it down again.

What’s the point? By doing this you’ll get a realistic sense of how much work you can accomplish in a day. How useful would that be?

[Article] The weekly one-to-one – why bother?

How many people do you have in your team? Four? Five? Ten? More?

If you have a large team, the idea of conducting weekly one-to-ones with each person can seem overwhelming, so it’s not surprising that lots of people report that their manager regularly cancels their one-to-one meeting.

Some people are disappointed by this; others don’t care. Some tell me the meeting is usually a waste of their time anyway. But if you’re a manager of people and you’re not having a regular, scheduled, structured one-to-one meeting with each of your direct reports, you’re missing out.


If you don’t have a regular, scheduled, structured meeting with a person, you won’t know what’s going on for them, you won’t know how best to support them and you won’t be able to help develop them.

Some managers excuse themselves from conducting one-to-ones on the basis that they ‘see everyone all the time’. ‘If they have something to tell me, my door is always open’. Worse still, there are senior managers who think that because their direct reports are all managers in their own right, they don’t need regular one-to-ones. They can manage themselves, can’t they?


The weekly one-to-one needs to be just that. A regular weekly meeting just for the two of you. When your team members know they’ll be speaking to you within the week AND they know exactly when that will be, they save up non-urgent questions, reports and discussion and bring them to the one-to-one. If they don’t know when their next one-to-one will be, you’ll get a lot more interruptions to your day with non-urgent conversations.

So having a regular scheduled session with each person in your team helps your time management. It funnels a lot of conversations into planned meetings instead of having them crop up at any time.  Of course there will still be the urgent discussions and problem-solving sessions, but you’ll have more time and energy to deal with those once the non-urgent stuff is under control.

Four or five or ten or more regular meetings in a week might seem like a lot, but in fact, the one-to-ones need only be 10-15 minutes.

That’s why you need a structure. A ‘standing agenda’ if you like. The value of this is it gets you into good habits. Your people know what you expect and can come prepared.

For example, the meeting might include the following:

Successes: the best strategy for getting the best from every person in your team is to focus on successes. Help people build on their strengths and learn from their successes. The more you know about what’s working and why, the easier it is to achieve more.

Challenges: your role as a manager is to make it easy for your people to succeed. If you know the challenges, you can discuss the support you can offer and monitor the degree of challenge to ensure it’s right for each person. Some people love a big, impossible goal; others are content to stretch in smaller ways. It’s your job to harness that into great business results.

Updates:  share the latest information relating to clients, suppliers, projects, products, campaigns – whatever your work is all about use the one-to-ones to keep each other informed.

Plans, targets and goals: what’s on the agenda for the coming week? Once you know what each person is planning to do, you can offer support, monitor progress and encourage everyone to do their best.

So you see, a weekly one-to-one is a mini coaching session as well as chance to swap information. Use it as a means of encouraging and developing your people and you’ll soon see their performance increasing.

Furthermore, when you stick to a regular schedule of one-to-ones you show your employees you respect them, you care about them and they are important. You also show them how to manage their own team and how to manage time effectively.

What could be more important than that?