In any case, this article has several nuggets of wisdom I've been mulling over. One point especially resonated with me:
"They [Successful People] never decide they don't have the time....They've figured out what is important to them and they're making it happen."
Having enough time. I struggle with this concept, and have struggled with this concept, for as long as I can remember. If I'm being honest with myself, it comes from three sources:
1. The ambitious part of me, a major part of who I am, compels me to overload my schedule in some sort of attempt to prove to the world that my juggling act is more complicated than everyone else's.
Remember those conversations with friends where you outline your respective "To Do" lists, basically trying to out-busy one another? I certainly do.
One personal example: I challenged myself to double major in college, and I was consumed by that goal for the remainder of my undergraduate degree. I did it, but often at the expense of sacrificing creativity for rule-following. The excitement of a challenge had me taking on just one more class, just one more gig, just one more social event. The logical part of me would lecture, "Say 'no.' This is too much," while my stubbornness would coax, "Too much for some. Don't be lazy."
2. I'll add "one more thing" onto my proverbial plate because I have a great need to help.
For instance, I'll say "yes" to volunteering for a job/committee/outing when I really feel I should say "no." (This is another point in the article.) My perception of my stress level explodes. My other commitments either become less effective, or my sense of burnout exponentially increases, one or the other. This seems so innocent, so "good," but am I really helping? Or just taking up space of someone who can help more effectively? I am afraid it's the latter more often than not.
3. I hate disappointing people.Related to the first two sources of my struggle with time, I hate disappointing people, especially people I admire. I think we all have some sense of this.
Challenging yourself is good. Helping others is good. Avoiding disappointment is good. But, "too much of a good thing" didn't earn its place in Top Cliches Of All Time for nothing. We do reach a point of diminishing returns, and I think successful people know when that point sets in and how to stay ahead of it.
What to do now? Three strategies that have been working for me:
Analyze your "To Do" list. I am a list maker, an organizer, that overly methodical person that drives spouses crazy. So, I channeled my superpowers for good and began to analyze the patterns in my "To Do" lists. For instance, I noticed that I consistently failed to get to 2-3 items on my list. Some would label these as "stretch goals," but I call it an inaccurate forecast. I began making the list as normal, then consciously eliminating 2-3 items. Over time, I was able to forecast what I was really able to achieve in a day more consistently.
Create a benchmark for evaluating opportunities. I read a lot to "practice saying 'no'," but still have a hard time with it. What works better, for me, is to have a clear checklist to evaluate opportunities. It may be your personal mission statement, the core values that define you, your goals for the next five years, or hopefully, a combination of the three. When deciding whether Opportunity XYZ is a good one, ask yourself where it fits within these criteria. If it doesn't, then it's a no brainer. However, maybe it fits with your core value to volunteer, for instance, but you already have volunteer activities and need to work on building a career goal. These benchmarks can help add some clarity about the trade-offs and make it easier to move forward without feeling burned out.
Find your true 100%. If you're like me and find yourself struggling with your inner Hermione Granger, it is possible your perception of "I'll pitch in 100%!" is off. Recently I confessed to my MBA team that I felt like I only gave 80% to one of our projects, and I was surprised to hear that it felt like my effort was 100% to them. This got me thinking about my perception of my effort vs. the actual effort. Perhaps I was overwhelming myself because I was putting in more effort than necessary. I am not suggesting that we all dial back our work. But exploring how to align your perception with your "true 100%" can be a valuable tool in managing time.