Someone recently shared in one of our ICAP Facebook groups that she was trying to tackle too many tasks in one day. She added that she tended to overestimate her available time. That meant she was moving uncompleted tasks from one day into the next day’s list. The end result was making new lists and wasting time and energy. She was not alone with this confession, confusion, and remorse.
I refer to this as the “Smorgasbord Syndrome.” As a child, I can remember my parents saying that my eyes were bigger than my stomach when we had big family celebrations. I didn’t want to miss out on anything that might be good. And, of course, even though I probably left little room for dessert, I didn’t want to miss out on any of those, so I added more to my plate when dessert rolled around. You can guess that I probably had my share of stomach aches.
It’s easy to see how this approach translates into your life and business. You think you have more time to accomplish what needs to be accomplished. You keep saying, “yes, pile more on my plate.” Whether you say that to someone who asks you to do something or just to yourself, the end result is the same. Your life and/or business plate is overflowing.
How do you decide when to say yes and when to say no? How do you get control on what to put on your plate?
Quantity is about how much you put on your plate. Clearly we all have the same 24 hours in a day. Time management is a fallacy. There’s a fixed amount. No matter how hard you try, you won’t get more. The key is to be realistic about what you can accomplish in the time your have. I’ve read that when you plan a project, you should allow 50 percent more time if you want to get it done. The idea is not to fill the time, but accomplish the project. If you have leftover time, that’s great. You can allocate it to another project. If you get hit with an emergency, you’ve got some leeway.
When you think about quantity, one idea you might try is putting together a list of the regular activities that you already do. This could include sleeping, preparing meals, exercising, bathing, and other home activities. You should also include business activities, such as answering emails, filling orders, design time, marketing, writing blogs or social media posts. Allocate the time that you spend on each now. This should come up to 24 hours. Depending on the type of work you do, you may find this easier to do with weekly numbers, or 168 hours.
The time allocation is similar to cash budgeting that you might do in your household. You know how much is needed for each expense and you budget that. You might also have an emergency budget line or an incidentals budget line. You need the same with your time budget. You can’t be so tightly time budgeted 24/7/365. So add in a couple of hours each day to allow for this.
Quality is about what you decide to put on your plate. If you are realistic about your time constraints, you clearly can’t do all you want. Prioritizing is the key here. As I piled my dinner plate, I clearly didn’t think about quantity. I would have stopped sooner, if I had. I should have also thought about quality. Not everything in the buffet line is the same quality. This holds true with the options that you face in your business and life. You have to learn to discern where the quality is if you want to accomplish what is important to you.
A big part of this is learning to say no. As you approach your tasks, ask if it’s something you really want to spend your time on. Ask if completing the task really moves your business forward. Ask what would happen if you just didn’t do the task. I think many of us spend time on items of less quality rather than search for the work that is meaningful and makes a difference.
Save Room for Dessert
Who doesn’t like dessert, whether that is something rich and decadent or a nice piece of fruit? It’s a wonderful complement to a good meal. This holds true for your business. Whether you schedule in time for dessert in your business or use the budgeted leeway time, it’s important that you celebrate what you are accomplishing.
How do you figure out what and how much to put on your plate? Share your comment below in the comment section.