In my years coaching, one of the common scenarios I’ve seen with professionals is that they always feel like they’re chasing the clock, with not enough time in the day to get everything done.

The inbox feels like it’s filling up quicker than it can be cleared it out, then the phone rings with a request that is urgent and needs to be completed yesterday according to the caller.

This scenario usually brings on a slightly panicked tone, followed by a trip to the loo or the coffee machine (water doesn’t feel like it will cut the mustard), before burying the head in the computer screen and blocking out the world for the rest of the day in the hope you can clear everything out in time get a half-decent nights kip come midnight.

Sound familiar?

Sucks doesn’t it.

In these situations, I often work with the individual to think of a different time when they’ve been put under time pressure to complete several tasks, and their thoughts often return to exams at school or university.

4 questions, 3 hours, and an initial reaction of “you’re asking me that, and that, and that…I could spend 3 hours answering each of those questions they’re so vague!”.

I then ask what did the individual do to get through each exam with a positive mindset, and their answer is that they took 10-15 minutes at the start of the exam to not only read the questions, but crucially sketch out a high-level plan for answering each question.

Through our discussions, we identify this benefited them in several ways. The biggest being giving the confidence and composure to answer all the questions as well as they could in a time they felt appropriate for each question.

True, there were some trade-offs along the way, but overall they left each exam feeling confident that they’d given it their all.

My final question is what stops them doing the same thing in the workplace, and they “don’t know”

My advice here is start doing what you’ve proven works before.

Taking 10-15 minutes to plan and organise the hours ahead at the start of each day can have the same impact in the work place as they did in your exams, and crucially will let you feel on top of your to-do list, not it on top of you.

Using the time to review the diary and prioritise your tasks, allocating time for any prep needed for the days’ meetings, answering emails, making calls, continuing ongoing projects or starting new ones will give you the confidence to feel on top of what you are going to achieve during the day.

You also put yourself in a positive frame of mind because you’re in control, setting a realistic set of goals that you know you can achieve. You’re also in a better place to remain composed and reallocate your time should that urgent request come in.

So the next time you’re in a downward spiral, make the effort to step outside of your to-do list for 10-15 minutes as the 1st task of the day.

You’ll plan your day ahead with confidence and feel great at the end of it.