Doing the two-step

I asked a friend going through a tough time at work how his day had been, whether he felt like he was keeping his head above water.

‘Yes,’ he answered ‘but the tide’s still coming in.’

We’ve probably all felt like that. Perhaps our day already feels like we’re up to our knees in the water when we see a huge wave of work rushing towards us, threatening to knock us off our feet. In fact, the word ‘overwhelm’ comes from an Old English word which means ‘to overturn’ or ‘to capsize’ which is an apt description of how we feel when weighed down by our workload or other pressures.

One of the questions I ask coaching clients is:

What two steps could you take immediately that would make the greatest difference in your current situation?

Depending on what the client regards as his current situation, the answers vary in scale from ‘sort out the clutter so I can actually see my desk’ and ‘send off my final assignment’ to ‘call that headhunter back about the job in Scotland’ and ‘put the house on the market’. The question isn’t simply ‘what could you do next?’- a valuable question in itself – but asks the client to consider what would make the biggest difference to her where she is right now.

It occurs to me that we could use that question to deal with this feeling of being overwhelmed too. However, the question is much more powerful when followed up by

Will you take them?

It doesn’t ask the client if he could take the steps, it asks if he will. In the midst of your workload hassles, you may decide that the two steps are

  1. take five minutes to stretch your legs and drink some water
  2. ask a colleague for help.

These steps could make a difference to your situation – but they won’t if you don’t do them. If you won’t take the steps, maybe there are better choices. You can work through options until you find steps you believe will make a difference and that you are prepared to take.

So today’s pebble for your consideration:

What two steps could you take immediately that would make the greatest difference in your current situation?

Will you take them?

Any thoughts?


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, why not email me to see how we can work together?

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