Outsource or delegate. Ask yourself, “What is the highest and best use of my time?” Activities that don’t fall within your answer can be taught and/or delegated to others. This can include managing selected projects, delegating attending certain meetings, having a team member conduct the initial interviews for an open position, or outsourcing the cleaning of your home and meal preparation. Maria had the revelation that she should delegate the weekly Sales meeting that she had always led to — of all people — the Head of Sales! She realized she had hired this person over a year ago but was still clinging to certain responsibilities that “she had always done,” and had never fully empowered him, for fear of giving up control. In the end, she admitted all she really needed was an email update. By letting go of this one task, she freed up 52 hours a year to focus on other high-priority strategic issues.
Challenge your assumptions. If feeling overwhelmed is an ongoing struggle, it is likely that you have assumptions that are keeping you stuck in unproductive behaviors. Kegan and Lahey refer to these as “Big Assumptions.” For Sue, it was the belief that “If something falls through the cracks, I’d fail and wouldn’t be able to recover from it.” In Ajay’s case, it was his belief that “If I’m not there to help others, I won’t be needed and people will question my value.” For Maria, her assumption was “If I lose control, others will mess up, and the company will fail.” While these big assumptions felt real to each leader, these limiting beliefs were not likely 100% true and kept them stuck in old patterns that significantly contributed to their sense of overwhelm. By identifying and debunking these beliefs over time, they were able to broaden their previously contracted view of the world, which in turn allowed them to reduce their overwhelm and provided them with a greater sense of agency.