How are You Coping with Chaos?

If you were to take a hot minute and reflect on your daily life, which of the statements below would best describe what you are experiencing?

  • “Things are moving so quickly!”
  • “I come out of every meeting with a list of to-do’s, only to move right into the next meeting. There’s no time to actually DO the work!”
  • “I used to be obsessed about completing everything on my list by end of day. Now, I realize that’s impossible and it will still be there when I return tomorrow.”
  • “Every time I turn around, there is a new initiative or priority … I’m feeling dazed and confused.”

Concept Of Chaos In A Modern Office, With Flying Computers, ChaiObviously, there is a clear theme here: We are working in environments that are fast-paced, ever-changing and demand responses with a sense of urgency.

The ubiquitous presence of our electronic devices makes us “always accessible” which can make us feel like we can never stop working. No time to get away, relax and clear our heads.

All the NOISE compounds that sense of chaos. For me, chaos leads to confusion. When I’m confused, I cannot get any clarity about what needs to be done and by when.

The result? More spinning, little doing.

So what’s a girl to do to deal with the madness? Here are a few thoughts you might find helpful:

  1. Seek out QUIET space. This may require more than shutting your door and turning off your phone. I’ve found leaving the office for a truly quiet space that is comfortable can do the trick. Sometimes it’s best if I can move my body and let my brain shift to autopilot so I go for a walk or join a yoga class.
  2. Engage in HANDS-FREE THINKING. There is some overlap here with finding a quiet space, but what I’m focusing on here is putting all electronic devises out of reach. Just think – without any prompts to do any research on the web or get distracted by a tweet, message, phone call or other random “ping”, which screams, look at me NOW! Remember, you were hired for your brain, so USE IT to sit and THINK. Don’t worry about it looking like you’re daydreaming.
  3. Get your THINKING ON PAPER. Now that you’ve cleared your mind a bit and made space for real thinking, begin to write out what YOU think are the next steps to take in order to move things forward. There is something magical about putting our thoughts down on paper – it’s like a little sorting and filing process for the brain. Once you can see it in black and white, all the gobbledygook starts to make logical sense and you can begin planning.
  4. VALIDATE your approach and PROVIDE CLARITY FOR OTHERS. With your thoughts on paper, you now have a discussion document to support discussions with others to validate your thinking and collaborate on priorities. This discussion probably starts with your boss, then with other relevant colleagues. Refine along the way as you hear others’ perspectives and then put a stake in the ground. Identify the priorities and timing so you are ready to set direction and clarity for your team.

Times of chaos call for order and your people will be looking to you to provide the direction that is different from chasing their tail!

Simply put …

Breathe and be self-aware enough to recognize when you need to step away. Your calm, thoughtful approach will set the tone for those around you.

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at