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Do You Suffer From Smorgasbord Syndrome?

Someone recently shared in our Members’ Studio 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 that you 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.

It’s your turn!

How do you figure out what and how much to put on your plate? Share your comment below in the comment section.


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11 Responses to “Do You Suffer From Smorgasbord Syndrome?”

  1. patty sawyer said:

    Thanks Morna for a very “timely” blog. It seems the number one issue for most of us. I am trying to focus on new ways to cope with time struggles. I liked your analogy of the budget and will try that approach. As I often remind myself…”The dates on the calendar are closer than they appear!” as more and more time seems to just fly by. How did it get to be the end of January so fast anyway?

  2. Morna said:

    Patty, Good luck with the budget. Love the idea of calendar dates being closer than they appear.

  3. Susan Pelland said:

    This is my biggest challenge. Thank you for addressing it in a fun way. I will think about the buffet line more often as I schedule my “plate”. I hope that doesn’t just end up making me think about good food!

  4. Morna said:

    Sue, you’re welcome. If you think about good food being like good projects, I think you’ll be ahead of the game. I think this actually makes me think about really taking only the good food at the buffet line. 🙂

  5. linda schiffer said:

    I have no solutions to share for this problem – but I suffer from it in spades! 🙂 I hate to give up any possibility and am wildly optimistic about what I can actually accomplish.

    My husband is always saying to me “Lower your expectations and raise your productivity.” Doesn’t help. LOL!

    🙂 Linda

  6. Morna said:

    Linda, definitely lots of us are in this space. Just realized that maybe even our sewing/crafting space fits this too.

  7. Lorraine Glach said:

    Very much enjoyed this article!

  8. Morna said:

    Lorraine, Thanks.

  9. Laura Estes said:

    Life is a Smorgasbord! I really don’t worry about how long my list is. Just get it on the list. Each day there are many things I would like to do, need to do. During early morning planning, I pick 10 things that have to be done that day to keep the business rolling and the household operating. Barring a disaster this is usually easily accomplished. Then, I select 5 more that would be nice to get done, and most often, these get done as well. Then I can pick from my list things I want to do. One thing about my list, instead of “make sunshine quilt”, I will break it into separate aspects, select fabric, cut out sunshine quilt, piece background, applique sunshine and so forth. I break every task into doable size pieces. Once you get used to 8 or 9 legal pad pages, it is really a workable system. This allows me to keep ideas on the back burner and not become overwhelmed.

  10. Morna said:

    Laura, You are right. Life is a Smorgasbord! You’ve got a great system that works for you. I’m not so sure I’d get used to all the legal pad pages. 🙂 Thanks for adding to the conversation.

  11. Susan said:

    Morna—Thank you for this article. I am used to budgeting food calories and looking at a buffet for the things I really want. Applying this concept to my creative and every day life is a great idea. I need to add up my must do times to see what is left for creativity and fun.

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