By Erika Flint
The realities of the modern work environment have many people feeling exhausted and overworked. Long work hours leave less time to fulfill responsibilities outside of the office, and with an expectation of “always connected”, the work day continues even after returning home. The economy and limited work opportunities have some people believing there’s little they can do to change things, leading to feelings of being stuck and out of control.
How can we help our clients feel good about the work they do and effectively deal with the stress and pressure of too much work? Read on for strategies for helping our clients thrive in an environment of overworked and overwhelmed.
The basics: time management skills
It’s important to ensure that clients understand the basics of time management skills because they can often improve workplace efficiency quite dramatically. I don’t recommend going into the details of time management with your clients, rather getting a basic understanding if they have a grasp on time management techniques at all, and if not point them in the right direction.
There are a number of different styles of time management, but almost all employ goal setting, prioritization, and elimination of non-priorities. Two very good time management styles are “Getting Things Done” by David Allen, and “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R Covey.
Some clients may think it’s unrealistic to read a book or learn a new time management method when they don’t have enough time as it is, but remind them that they need to work smarter, not harder. There are a limited number of hours and energy to do good work in any one day. The ability to squeeze out the best work given natural time and energy constraints is the key. The time and energy invested in learning and employing any time management techniques will be recouped daily not only in minutes and hours but also in an overall feeling of accomplishment and improved self-confidence.
Here are a few basic concepts to keep in mind when working with your clients that feel overwhelmed and overworked. These are elements that time management techniques are designed to help with, so it makes sense to incorporate the following during hypnosis session. Include suggestions that:
provide a sense of accomplishment
increase work efficiency
regain a sense of control
But time management is often not enough to help workers because the reality is that many employees are actually expected to do more work than any one person can actually accomplish. And many employees don’t feel empowered to admit they’re overworked for fear of losing their job to someone else, especially when there are many people out of work.
The following techniques are designed to help the client do their work and feel great about it. The methods are outlines for concepts to include within a regular hypnosis session with a client. Many clients may actually come in for reasons cited other than stress at work or overwork – so look for signs during the pre hypnosis interview or during other conversations of overwork. If you suspect it is an issue for your client, there are things that can be done to help them listed below.
Part of feeling overworked and overwhelmed is the inability to get started, the feeling of being stuck or buried under a stack of to-do’s with no good starting point, or juggling too many projects at one time. This is where the symptom of being overwhelmed becomes part of the problem because feeling overwhelmed can lead to the inability to focus and get anything done at all. This leaves the client feeling out of control, and not feeling good about the work they do.
The ability to focus and prioritize go hand in hand when it comes to alleviating overworked clients. This may seem like common sense, but many people get stuck in over thinking and worry about how they’re going to complete all of their work. This type of thinking can consume large portions of the work day. To help clients get started each day and be as productive as possible, help them focus on delivering quality work every day.
Suggest to the client that they will have the natural ability to focus first on understanding what is a priority, then do the work next. Focus, prioritize, work. As new work comes in, the same method is followed, focus, prioritize, work. This is the foundation of helping overworked clients, although many may already be doing this.
A metaphor to strengthen this insight is one of a simple magnifying glass – without it the sun’s energy is too dispersed to start a fire. It’s when the sun’s rays are focused into a concentrated beam that there is enough energy to spark a fire. The worker’s concentration and focus works in the exact same way – with enough concentration and focus great work can be accomplished every single day.
Most time management methods recommend starting each day planning and prioritizing, so to take this one step further you can lead your client into a future progression where they envision spending the first portion of each day focusing and prioritizing their tasks – ideally by capturing things on paper or electronically. Have them see themselves start their day focusing and prioritizing their work, then as the day goes on crossing items on their list off as they remain focused throughout the day and ending their day feeling a great sense of accomplishment as they review everything they crossed off their list. Note that not everyone likes creating lists, so be creative.
Prioritization is the driving force behind productivity. It doesn’t make logical sense to spend time on tasks that are not priorities, but people often do just that – spend too much time on tasks that are not critical or that important. They also spend time on tasks that are time sensitive, but not that important. And when time is short, prioritization is mandatory.
Learning how to properly prioritize tasks is important, and that’s another area where time management techniques can help. Also, look for signs of procrastination when discussing priorities because it may point to the root cause of a bigger issue for the client. For example, a client may be avoiding working on a more critical task out of fear of not being good enough, or lack of self confidence.
The illusion of being “done”
Just as clients are more likely to focus on their personal shortcomings, they are also likely to focus on all the work that is left undone instead of the work they’ve already completed. There’s also a feeling that the amount of work is impossible to complete, and often that feeling reflects reality. Many workers are often given more than any one person can handle in hopes that they will do as much as possible and increase productivity.
Realize that being “done” with work is an illusion. As you cross things off your list at work, more work is piled on. This is the nature of modern work, the more you get done, the more work you will be given. As your productivity increases, you will likely be given more responsibility – not a pat on the back and a vacation.
Recognizing the nature of modern work helps to alleviate the desire to be done. Although it would be nice to go home at the end of the work day or week knowing all your work is done, it’s not a realistic expectation. Instead consistently performing well, or excellence in your profession or job is a more realistic viewpoint.
Have the client see themselves as a purveyor of excellence in their work, each and every day doing their personal best and feeling great about the work they do accomplish. Focusing on the work they are able to accomplish every day, and feeling good about that.
A simple example of cleaning the house often helps clients see the danger in this type of thinking. The job of cleaning a home is never done – unless you stop living in it, and that is pointless. By the time you’ve finished cleaning one room and move on to the next, dust, dirt, and complexities of life like spouses, children, and pets, drag the outside in and that room becomes ever so slightly dirty again by the time you’re finished cleaning the rest of your home. Does that mean you don’t clean your house ? Of course not, you still clean, and it feels good to know that it was cleaned too, but it’s never really done. Even if you are able to clean your home entirely, it will become dirty again in a few days. However, if you take a moment to notice all the great work you completed while cleaning – the dirt in the vacuum, clean clothes and dishes, and organized cupboards, you can still feel good about the work you completed.
That example may not resonate with all clients, so a different one to use instead is painting the Golden Gate Bridge. Painting the Golden Gate Bridge is never technically “done”, it is an ongoing task and a primary maintenance job. There are currently 28 painters and 5 painter laborers employed to maintain the Golden Gate Bridge .
Overworked and overwhelmed workers are common in our current work environment. Many feel out of control at work, leading to dissatisfaction in many areas life. By helping clients feel a sense of accomplishment, focus on doing excellent work every day, and regain a sense of control, they can feel great about the work they do which leads to a more fulfilling and satisfying life.