Let’s face it – we all have way too much work on the go.

Most of us spread ourselves thin at the best of times. This is only heightened with year-end deadlines and all of the holiday busyness. It’s enough to turn a calm, cool & collected professional into something akin to dried out turkey dinner … dry, burned out and downright nasty.

The challenge is  we only have control over so much of our time. There are the non-negotiable deadlines, the meetings the emails, and additional holiday gatherings that leave little time to get “our” work done.

And while I love the thought of cloning myself, we really do have to work with what we’ve got.

Here are some key strategies to keep us calm and cheerful right through into the New Year:

1)      Pick your top goal or project

Sure – you want to get through 18 projects.

So do I. But we both know that ain’t gonna happen this year.

Pick your number one goal. Focus on that. If you get it done, pat yourself on the back. And then move on to your next goal. Timothy Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek calls this ‘selective ignorance’ (which incidentally was the Webster’s 2010 Word of the Year). Essentially, Ferris recommends that we turn off and tune out the distractions so we can focus on what we really care about. I couldn’t agree more!

Related article: Why can’t we get this prioritizing thing right?

2)      Set short-term deadlines

It is much easier to stay productive in the short-term. Deadlines that are far off in the future are easy to ignore. Break a big goal down into small chunks and set short-term deadlines. Small, consistent wins do a great job of motivating us and add up to big changes rather quickly.

Related article: Does Procrastination Boil Down to Temptation?

3)      Tell someone

We can let ourselves off the hook too easily at times. So it can be pretty powerful to tell someone else. Pick someone who will do a good job of holding you accountable.

4)      Get rid of other jobs

What can you get rid of to lighten your load? The Pareto Principle states that 20% of what we do brings 80% of the impact. What low-value tasks are sucking up a lot of your time?

Once we know what our top priorities are, we need to seriously consider off-loading the other stuff.

There are lots of great approaches for identifying the lower-value activities. Mike Cloutier uses the 3 Balls approach to manage an overwhelming workload. In this article, he talks about glass balls (for the things that must be done), rubber balls (the things that should be done) and lead balls (the things that could be done). Stever Robbins uses the “prune, prune, prune” approach as a means of “coping with too much to do”.

5)      Leave a buffer

If you abide by the above tips, this one should be a breeze. Things come up – they always do. So build in some free time. And get to sleep early. It is amazing how much more productive we are after a good night’s sleep.

Related article: Is it time for a break yet?

Hopefully these five tips will help you from spreading yourself too thin. What are your sanity saving plans? I would love to hear your suggestions and tips.