When we’re tired or overwhelmed, it’s easy to lose focus and become distracted. As a result, we may say yes to invitations without considering the consequences and end up with more than we’d like to take on, commit to, or do.
If this resonates, multitasking isn’t the solution.
If you tend to “multitask” your way out of overcommitting, I encourage you to read this Cleveland Clinic article on why that strategy doesn’t work. As it highlights, our brain bounces back and forth between tasks, resulting in inefficiency and more mistakes.
Cynthia Kubu, Ph.D., explained:
“When we think we’re multitasking, most often we aren’t really doing two things at once, but instead, we’re doing individual actions in rapid succession, or task-switching.”
If this behavior is ignored, you can easily fall out of congruence, where frustration and resentment build. Whether it’s fear of saying no, missing out, or a limiting belief that you must work hard or always be doing or going, you’ll end up in a never-ending cycle of work and things to do.
Here’s the thing: if you don’t treat your time and schedule with respect and protect it as one of your most valuable assets, no one else will. American hedge-fund manager, author, podcaster, and entrepreneur James Altucher sums this up nicely:
“If you are not making the choices in your life, then someone else is gonna end up making that for you – and it won’t be good.”
If one of your goals is to improve your work-life balance, you may be enabling others to take advantage of you. Although it’s probably not your intent, when you allow yourself to be accessible 24×7, you’re training others to depend on that.
Shift the paradigm.
If you want a different outcome and your desire to make a change is strong, here are five ways to take back control of your schedule and to-do list:
Block your time judiciously.
Create boundaries for what you need and want to do, and budget your time accordingly. Include all of your appointments and pre-planned items like doctor visits, kid activities, and vacation time, and even block off time for eating, exercising, and the like. Be realistic about what you can accomplish daily. If you work from home, block your availability for the start and end of your day to turn on and close down your computer as you would if you went to an office.
Review your calendar in advance.
Don’t wait until you’re overwhelmed to begin canceling without cause. Make it a daily practice to look ahead to the next day and week. Then monthly, look a few weeks in advance to add various appointments, travel, vacation, and other upcoming events you’ll need to prioritize. Remember that you also have options when invited to something that competes with other existing priorities. You can say no kindly, propose a different time, or give the person a call to find an alternative solution.
Know your role and purpose before responding to meeting invites.
If you are making assumptions about why you’re invited to a meeting, don’t just accept. Call and ask the person. Just because you may be involved in a specific topic or are a subject matter expert doesn’t mean you need to be present during the duration of the meeting, especially when the request is more than 30 minutes. A sure sign you may not need to be at a meeting is when you think, “I’ll just multitask,” or if it’s a reoccurring one that depletes your energy and provides you no value.
Determine alternative approaches to get the same result.
Some meetings are needed for a specific reason, like status reporting or alignment. However, make it a practice to discuss the frequency, duration, and effectiveness every now and then. Don’t just assume that what was needed at the start of the project is still required now that activities are up and running. If you’re the host, consider bringing this up early, so attendees feel comfortable addressing the topic openly and honestly. Sometimes, you can find a less time-intensive solution to get the same or even better results.
Share what you need and prefer to be successful.
Everyone approaches their work differently depending on where they get their energy. For example, some may prefer to brainstorm and workshop out loud, whereas others need alone time to process. I’ve also found that sometimes people aren’t sure who to invite to larger meetings and workshops and, in an effort to be inclusive and collaborative, they may invite everyone they think could be there. For these, consider “dividing and conquering” if several team members are invited, and it’s not a department meeting. This is more efficient and cost-effective.
Deepen your perspective to find balance.
These are just some ways to get your schedule under control. If you have a strong desire to improve but continue to hit the same roadblocks or just can’t get started, pinpointing the why behind your actions helps. Together with a coach, you can explore how your mind, body, and heart influence your thoughts, the choices you see, the actions you take, and the outcomes you get.
To learn more, schedule a call with me.