I’ve heard thousands of people express openly that they feel overwhelmed with all the demands on their time. This led me to explore what differentiates people who feel powerful despite the demands and are able to accomplish success – in relationships, in their career, and even in changing the world. I’ve interviewed 300 powerful people, and found that all of them are skilled at managing competing priorities by focusing on a few key things.
Let’s be real – we’ve all faced daily demands that try to rip us away from what matters most, but many people are more engaged, inspired, and able to ignore the distractions.
Whether your distractions are big or small, it’s critical for your happiness and success that you are able to recognize when you’re getting pulled away from your purpose, and elevate when it hits.
Powerful people know they can’t multitask their way out of their daily problem.
Startling research from Stanford University now suggests multi-tasking can wreak havoc on one’s physical and mental focus. It found that multitasking is counterproductive and may even damage your brain.
While I’ve heard many effective strategies that powerful people employ when feeling overwhelmed, what follows are seven of the best. Some may seem obvious, but the real challenge lies in applying them in the face of overwhelming demands on your time.
1. They Put Things into Perspective
Taking time to connect with what brings you the greatest joy improves your mindset. Research shows that finding meaning in your past, present, and future powers you in ways that can improve your mood, reduce the stress hormone cortisol, and enable greater overall well-being. It’s helpful, and a driver of overall happiness, to think beyond short-term goals and focus on your deeper purpose. Feelings of frustration can also come from our own skewed perceptions of haunting deadlines, bosses, and traffic. But those are only actors on your mind’s stage where you control the script. Living your inspired script in an optimistic and forward-thinking way means everything in a world where it seems easy to otherwise be pessimistic and critical.
2. They Don’t Ask “Why Me?”
Powerful people aren’t as concerned about why things are happening to them as much as they are focused on why they can make new things happen. “Why Me?” statements open the floodgates to feeling more overwhelmed. There are millions of things you will experience in life, and the more time you spend being frustrated by it, the less time you’ll spend focusing on changing things for the better. Powerful people know that asking “why me?” only takes them where they don’t want—or need—to go.
3. They Master the Technology
Technology can breed stress by focusing your brain’s attention onto something that creates the expectation you should be available 24/7 and pulls you away from relationships. It’s extremely difficult to feel stress-free when you are outside of work and get an email about something work-related. You have to give your brain a break by consciously unplugging and putting away the cellphone to engage in the moment. When deadlines are not pressing, this is relatively easy. When things are heating up and the “to do” list is completely full, this can be a challenge. In these moments, think about your day and identify the best outcome for that entire day. Often that outcome includes more focus on people and relationships, and less focus on technology. If it doesn’t, then you can make an intentional decision to stick with the technology in that moment, as it serves your purpose. Charlene Li shared that powerful people “don’t see technology as the ends, but merely the means, and they use it to scale their influence.” The point here is to keep this decision active throughout your day, so you’re ready and able to let go of the technology whenever you can.
4. They Think About Others’ Needs
Powerful people help others, knowing that it’s at the heart of relationships and the basis for everything that matters. When someone’s facing something hard, they’re right there to lift and help them through it. In a service-driven world, there’s no shortage of these opportunities. Those who are willing to forget themselves and work for the benefit of others find it unlocks their own power to focus and become more.
5. They Listen More Than They Talk
The easiest way to quickly feel less overwhelmed lies in something that you can do everyday with others: listening. The practice of being fully present in conversations is so impactful that it’s most often referenced as the key to success in career and life. Daniel Pink suggests that this is the differentiating factor for powerful people today, that “they listen more than they talk.”
This task may seem difficult when you’ve got piles of things to do, but you’ll be surprised by how focused you feel afterward and how much easier it is to let go of distracting thoughts that otherwise stick in your brain. And the person you listen to will appreciate it, as it’ll feel like oxygen to them.
6. They Trim the Priorities
It’s tempting, yet completely useless to try to get everything done at once. To be focused and productive, you need to be open about what’s most critical. This means tapping into the power of simplicity in life, staying focused on the highest impact activities. Guy Kawasaki offers this radically simple advice: “Powerful people remove tasks from the list of priorities.”
7. They Innovate Everything —Together
Powerful people are willing to ignore the status quo, create new trends, and take the right risks. They don’t stick with what’s worked just for the sake of protecting the past. They courageously push to achieve a new, beautiful future that is inspiring to them and to others. This approach makes them less overwhelmed because it builds a focus that is future-oriented, pulling them out of the deep valleys to the highest mountains. Walt Disney lived and shared this endlessly applicable advice, “It’s kinda fun to do the impossible,” and it is as we’re doing it all together.