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How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed

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Most leaders have way more to do than they can ever get done.

There’s a story from the last century about Charles Schwab, then chairman of Bethlehem Steel, who wanted his executive team to be more effective.

He contacted business advisor Ivy Lee and said, “We don’t need more things to do. Everyone already has way more to do than they can possibly complete. We need a way to get the most important stuff done.

So, Ivy Lee offered to work with his team. He didn’t set a price, but simply asked that Schwab pay him whatever he thought his services were worth when their engagement was complete.

Here was his program: He told each executive to list on a small piece of paper the five most important things they needed to accomplish that month. He then instructed them to prioritize the list from most to least important.

Next, he told them to look at the list every hour, and not move from their top priority item until it was completed. Once number one was finished, they could move on to number two, finish that one, and then on to the number three priority and so on down the list. If they only got one done that day, that was okay.

Supposedly Schwab was so impressed with the results that he wrote Lee a cheque for $25,000, a king’s ransom in the 1910s (did I mention that Schwab was a crazy spender and died penniless and in debt?)

Today, take a lesson from Ivy Lee. Write down your important tasks. Prioritize them. Then decide which one must be accomplished before you go home for dinner. Work on it until it’s complete. Prioritizing helps you deal with stress and get the important things done.

Getting ahead is about getting started!

Written by Trevor Throness
Trevor is a veteran coach, keynote speaker, and the author of the book “The Power of People Skills” released by Career Press NY in 2017. He’s also written for or been featured in places like Forbes, Inc, The NY Post, The Globe and Mail, Entrepreneur, CEO Magazine, and numerous podcasts and interviews.


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