You can’t do everything so slow yourself down

Have you noticed over the past couple of months the increasing amount of online webinars, events and networking sessions to help communicators? Maybe like me, perhaps you got excited at all the opportunities suddenly available and wanted to take advantage of them all and now feeling annoyed or disappointed in yourself for having not attended them all?

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been feeling frustrated and annoyed at myself for missing events and not having the time to catch-up on webinars I was receiving via email. Was it just me? Was I unable to manage my time? Was I missing out? Well, no, and I’m not alone. After talking this week to a few peers it turns out many of us have become overwhelmed with all the online activity and after taking some time to pause and reflect, I’ve put together some advice that I hope might help if you’re feeling the same to help you slow down.

Tackle your FOMO

With so many online events happening it’s only natural you’ll want to take advantage of them, fearing on missing out on but it’s time to stop your FOMO from kicking in. I hadn’t noticed this in myself until chatting with a friend, I realised; I was letting my FOMO get the better of me without knowing it! Looking back on the various webinars and events I missed, am I any worse off for having not attended them? I don’t think I am.

As the old saying goes ‘You don’t know what you don’t know’, if you didn’t know an event was taking place then you wouldn’t have the worry of missing out. The final sentence at the end of this short blog post by Simon Sinek provides a different perspective about closing our knowledge gaps – “Innovation comes from solving ideas like no one else in our industry… but those ideas have to come from somewhere… somewhere outside”. He makes the valid point that by looking outside of our own profession and industry we can learn in alternative ways. So the next time you’re feeling as though you’ve missed out, see it as an opportunity to look at a problem differently and take your own initiative.

Keep to your CPD plan

Before booking onto an event first ask yourself ‘Does this fit within my CPD plan?’. It can be very easy to get distract by the opportunity to join a free event because it’s related to your profession but remember, the CPD plan you’ve designed to keep you focus on what’s important to develop your career. If you can’t directly connect to one of your goals, then don’t be afraid to pass on the opportunity and spend your time focusing on something else that will add greater value.

Now, I’ve only had a two-year plan in place and found it hard to decide what events do or don’t fit within it. Two tips I picked up from a CommsUnplugged event last week came from CIPR President Jenni Field:

  • Try breaking down your CPD plan into a 30, 60 or 90 day plan. That way you can focus on smaller goals that will be more manageable and easier to plan around your existing commitments.
  • Split your CPD plan into two or three headings such as internal comms, business development and perhaps an unfamiliar knowledge area such as external affairs or social media.
  • Consider having an ‘accountability buddy’, someone you can check-in with regularly to make sure you’re following your plan and go what you said you would.

The power of three

No matter what anyone says, it’s impossible to do everything and no matter how organised your to-do list and diary are, there is only so much you can fit into a working day and week. A previous manager once said to me ‘you can only juggle three balls at a time so if more are about to be thrown at you, ask what ball you should let drop before they all fall’. From this I’ve always tried to work on the principle of three, my three must do tasks of the day, my three priority goals for the week and the three key projects I need to deliver for the month.

We can also apply this wider to include making sure you have three breaks in your working day, three objectives in your 30/60/90 day CPD plan, three social calls with friends/colleagues not talking about work. By also having only three things to focus on each day, you’ll be more likely to achieve them and will boost your own moral. There is nothing worse for your wellbeing than setting out on Monday with a long to-do list that by Friday, has grown and hardly anything appears to have been achieved. Give yourself a break and break it down into more realistic goals, you’ll feel better for achieving those smaller goals.

Don’t forget about your own wellbeing

It can be very easy to just focus on comms activities but give yourself a break, you need time to switch off and focus on your own wellbeing. I’ve made a point of having three nights a week with nothing in diary after 5pm and that includes social media. Yes, many online events are happening in the evenings, but it’s not healthy for us to spend all day and spend more time in the evenings in front of the laptop.

If perhaps like me, wellbeing wasn’t something that featured high on the weekly agenda then now is the time to change. Start off by taking small steps, go for at least an hour walk every other day, sit outside one lunch time without looking at your phone and watch and listen to everything happening around you. Everyone has their own way of switching off so don’t be afraid to try new things. I found breathing exercises, thanks to Fresh Air Fridays, are simple to do yet make an enormous difference in slowing down my thoughts and refocusing myself. If I’m suddenly feeling overwhelmed with emails, messages and tasks doing a quick 10-minute breathing exercise really helps.

Note it down for later

One method I’ve found helpful for prioritising my time listening to webinars/podcasts or reading reports is to note down at the time the activity and my initial thoughts. Depending on how you prefer to work, this could be a simple notebook where you jot down the activity, where you saw it and a line or two about why it appealed. If you prefer the digital approach, I use a Trello board so I can quickly take a screenshot, copy and paste the URL and it doesn’t matter whether I’m using my phone or laptop. Once a month I then review the activities to decide on whether they’re useful for now, later or on reflection whether there are other activities that should be a priority.

If you have any tips or methods you’ve found useful to capture events or training opportunities and then prioritise why not share them in the comments below?

Featured image by Nareeta Martin on Unsplash