You know how our kids have those epic meltdowns? The ones where they fling themselves to the floor kicking and screaming in a fit of exhaustion? We usually nod knowingly, realizing that what they need is a little downtime.
Well, guess what? We have the exact same problem, and while it doesn’t usually manifest itself in throwing ourselves to the floor in a fit, we do have our grown-up version of a meltdown. It’s usually for the same reason: overscheduling.
It’s tempting to try to fill every second of your work day with something productive. In fact, if you want to be successful, it’s probably necessary to make the most of the time you have available. BUT that doesn’t mean you need to schedule and structure every single second.
Here’s why. In growing a business, you are expending a tremendous amount of energy, especially if (and let’s face it, when) things go wrong and you have to shift into high gear. The problem is that you can’t sustain that pace indefinitely. You need unscheduled time to slow down or take a break.
This is where overscheduling becomes our downfall. We have literally filled every single time slot with something, a conference call, a meeting or a deadline, that we can’t afford to take that much-needed break. And so we meltdown.
How to Break the Overscheduling Habit
Structure for Sustainability – Create a weekly schedule that you can sustain for the long haul, knowing that during times of crisis, you will have to take on more than you would normally. The key is remembering to go back to your regular routine and not try to continue pushing yourself to maintain that crisis pace.
Have Slow-Paced Projects Ready – Always have a list of someday projects that need to be done, but aren’t time-sensitive to fit into your work plan when you need a break from the daily grind. This way you still feel productive and get a break from your work without fully disengaging. Anything that doesn’t have a deadline works, like researching a new technology or following up on a potential idea.
Schedule Downtime – Plan periods of full-on downtime where you do nothing productive for either work or family, and treat yourself to some me-time. If you are the type who lets work sneak into their downtime, schedule an appointment that you would feel badly about missing, like a massage or a manicure.
Include Undefined Time – Leave about 20 percent of your calendar undefined. This helps in two ways: 1) your overflow work has someplace to go so you don’t have to sacrifice your personal time and 2) you have ready-made timeslots to take a working break and tackle your slow-pace projects, if and when you need them.
Do Regular Temperature Checks – Pay attention to signs of burnout. Are you having more frequent temper tantrums? Are you starting to resent your work? Is work inferring with your personal life? All these point to a problem with your schedule. It’s time to rethink what you hope to accomplish in a week.