Tuesday April 4, 2017
Do you work longer hours in your business than you want to? I struggled with that problem for MONTHS, and it was starting to drive me crazy!
But then I made a few small adjustments to the way I was approaching things, and the transformation was instant and amazing.
Today, I'm going to tell you how I got stuck in that cycle of overwork, and I'll give you the exact methods I used to break free of that trap and reclaim my time, freedom and joy.
How I got stuck of a cycle of working all day and resenting it:
My personal trap of overwork was built from several pieces. These pieces were:
1. Underestimating time requirements.
I can often be far too optimistic when I estimate how long something will take.
I've based all too many time estimates on a best-case scenario, in which everything went perfectly smooth and there was a minimum amount of work to be done. And then, if revisions were needed, or I needed to stop and think about what I was writing, or part of the job was harder than expected, I ended up working overtime.
As a result, I tended to schedule more tasks than I had time for, and to end up working on the overflow in the evening, when I wanted to be working on my art and fiction writing instead.
2. Working slowly during my overtime.
Once I reached the point where I REALLY didn't want to be working on my business anymore, I started to feel frustrated and resentful. I started to take "quick breaks", which accomplished little or nothing and caused the task to drag out much longer than it needed to.
And even when I was working on the task, I had trouble concentrating, because I wanted badly to be doing something else.
As a result, I ended up spending most of the evening in a sort of limbo, working slowly through tasks that I wished were already done, while resenting the time I was NOT getting to spend on the things I wanted to be doing, and regretting the creations that were going uncreated because I didn't have time for them.
3. Making myself the last priority.
I was raised on the idea of "work before play", and when you've grown up with something your entire life, it can have a surprisingly strong hold on the way you think - both consciously and subconsciously.
I'd worked with enough life coaches to know the importance of doing what you're passionate about, and the power that people have to shape their own lives and schedules.
And yet, I felt powerless to create enough time to do the things I wanted to do outside of work - not because I didn't have that time, but because I wasn't making it a priority to spend that time as I chose.
I felt like every task, even the minor and optional ones, needed to be done before I could relax.
Any hint of work that remained at the end of the work day - even a file explorer that was still open to a business-related folder - was enough to pull me out of relaxation mode and trigger a wave of frustration and resentment. Not because I hated my work, but because I'd turned it into an obstacle to my own happiness, and was treating myself as being less important than it.
Reclaiming control over my schedule required some choices and mental shifts.
Here are the strategies I used to reclaim my freedom, happiness, and control over my life:
1. I started to pad my estimates.
To be clear, I didn't start inflating them to Scotty-esque levels.
But I did start to be more cognizant of my tendency to underestimate time requirements, so I began to make larger estimates.
Admittedly, it did - and still sometimes does - feel like I'm padding things.
But if going with my overoptimistic first guess consistently results in underquotes, unmeetable deadlines, or working overtime, then it's time to make adjustments for the sake of an accurate estimate.
2. I divided tasks into essential and low-priority categories.
If you looked at my calendar now, you would see that some of the tasks have an "LP" in front of them.
LP stands for "Low Priority". These are tasks that could be of some benefit, but nothing is going to blow up or cost me income or opportunities if they don't get done right away.
If I have a day where I have some extra time and nothing important to fill it with, I can attend to my low-priority tasks. Otherwise, they will be rescheduled if anything more important comes up.
3. I started prioritizing myself above my work.
This was the single most important shift I made in the process of reclaiming my time.
Before, any request for my time, any low-priority task on my calendar, and any hint of work still on my plate had to be dealt with before I could take time for myself.
The idea of saying "no" to all of that, and taking time to do what I wanted while other things were still pending, felt neglectful, irresponsible, and even dangerous.
What if I didn't get that stuff done, and it piled up into an insurmountable mountain that became impossible to catch up on?
But clearly what I was doing wasn't working, so something had to change.
As one of my mentors, Jacob Roig, told me, "Only you can honor your time. No one else can do that for you. Other people will take as much time as you give them; it's up to you to decide how much you want to give."
I wasn't sure I could permanently make a shift to putting myself before my work without suffering serious consequences in my business, so I decided to try something else: I did a temporary experiment.
That's important, and I want you to take note of it:
If you're thinking of making a significant shift in the way you do things, but you aren't sure it will work in the long run, try doing it as a one-week experiment and see how it goes.
I decided, "Just for this week, I'm going to try putting myself first in the evenings.
"When I hit the point where I start to feel resentful, I REALLY want to be doing something else, and I can't even concentrate anymore, instead of pushing through that and spending the whole evening working slowly, I'll just do what I want for a while, even if there's still work to be done.
"Then, once I've taken some time for myself, and I have the satisfaction of knowing that this WON'T be another day where I failed to make any progress on my art and writing, I'll get any remaining high-priority tasks done. But for this week, what I want comes before those tasks."
The difference was AMAZING.
When I started to treat my own needs, desires, feelings and passions as an important priority, instead of as an afterthought that could only be attended to when everything else was taken care of, the change was instant and profound.
I felt more energized and hopeful during my working hours, and more relaxed and content in the evenings. Even if I still had work on my plate, I didn't resent it the way I used to, because it was no longer an obstacle that prevented me from spending my time how I chose.
After all, it wasn't the work I resented - it was the way I was letting it keep me from spending time on the other parts of my life that were important to me!
When I started treating the things I wanted to do as a priority, and making time for them instead of squeezing them into whatever scraps of time were left over for them, I felt more powerful, confident and in control.
I no longer felt like a helpless victim of my own out-of-control schedule. I was once again the captain of my own ship.
But what about the tasks that were still left over?
Do I neglect the high-priority tasks that didn't get done before evening?
Nope! I still get them done.
But because I took some time for myself before returning to them, I can concentrate better, work faster, and enjoy my work more, instead of resenting the time I spend on them.
As a result, the important tasks still get done, but I actually spend less time on them than I would have if I kept pushing myself when I was mentally tired and needed some "me time".
Are you setting time aside for YOUR rest, recreation, family and self-care?
When my mother started working with Mary Morrissey, a life coach who teaches other life coaches how to build 6-figure businesses and create success in every area of life, Mary asked her to write out an example of what she wanted her schedule to look like.
When my mother presented the schedule, Mary looked it over, then asked, "What about your free time? You need to calendar in your free time, too."
For those of you who don't know Mary, she's running multiple 7-figure businesses. If she thinks it's important to put some free time in your calendar, and to actually honor that time, then business owners who want similar levels of success should take heed!
Do you need some help to create free time while making sure everything gets done?
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