I recently wrote about coping with change, and that prompted an e-mail from Scot Herrick at Cube Rules. The issue, Scot said, was that a lot of people were simply deluged with lots of different issues at one time, and they were struggling with how to handle it all. I urged him to write about it on his blog, so that we could start a conversation.
Scot tells me that his post on the challenges of so many changes at one time in our lives generated a lot of interest, not because he offered a solution, but because he laid out the problem in black and white. He listed several headaches, such as multiple work projects with multiple problems, issues at home and the shrinking amount of time.
I wanted to continue my part in looking at these challenges, so being a journalist, I immediately found an expert to interview in Dr. Noelle Nelson, a psychologist, author and seminar leader.
Her take on the issue of having so many changes to deal with at one time: "The human race is continually expanding. If the people living in the 1800s had to do the number of things we do at one time today without thought -- driving a car, changing the radio, talking on the phone and eating a protein bar -- they'd freak. The human brain is phenomenal, and can assimilate. We may go through a period of not understanding how to deal with something, but the brain slowly starts to create new folders and we begin to find ways of making things work."
Nelson says that it's managers who often have the most balls to juggle, often coping with changes on a daily or hourly basis. She says the key to coping is "prioritizing."
While that may sound simple in theory, but difficult in practice, Nelson says it's really a matter of finding the issues that "have the hottest fires under them," and giving yourself 30 minutes to one hour to deal with one thing, then moving on to the next. "You do what you can do, then you move on," she says.
She also advises:
* Getting past the moaning the groaning. Managers are often the loudest to complain and the worst at delegating work or using technology to help them manage smarter and better.
* Writing it down. Instead of stressing about the tasks, write down everything you must do, from finding care for an aging parent to completing a project on time. Decide what tasks are most urgent, and who can help. "You'd be surprised how you can find help if you'll just ask for it," she says. "You can free a worker up by passing some of her work onto someone else, and get her to help you. You can call a neighbor of your mother and ask them to check on her once a day." She says that writing a task down "keeps us from feeling overwhelmed -- it stops you from thinking about it over and over."
* Knowing yourself. "Understand what keeps you healthy, wealthy and well," she says. "I know that I have to get eight hours of sleep a night. Maybe you know that you've got to spend an hour a day just relaxing with your spouse. Those are invalids. Those are the things that you cannot change in order to maintain yourself."