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Maintaining Success: Keeping Momentum Without Going Crazy

Maintaining Success: Keeping Momentum Without Going Crazy

goal

    Putting in some extra effort at work can pay off. You can get a promotion or a raise, or wind up on a choice project. The same goes with your personal finances — going the extra mile can help you pay off a debt early or save up for a purchase. You can push through to success in just about anything. But once you’ve achieved your goal, it can be hard to keep up that level of effort. If you’ve been staying late every night to finish a project, you don’t want your boss to start thinking that’s the level of effort you can commit to every project. If you cut way down on your expenses, you don’t want to live a spartan lifestyle forever.

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    Just the same, however, you’ve seen your work pay off. You don’t necessarily want to give up every perk that all that extra work got you. In order to find balance, you have to find a way to keep that momentum going, without driving yourself over the edge with all that effort.

    Looking for Balance

    Keeping up an extreme pace for weeks or even months can turn your extraordinary effort into something that you consider quite normal. That trap can make it hard to take a step back and decide whether you can really keep up this level of effort. However, it’s a necessary step: when you’ve accomplished your goal, considering the work that got you there is important. Of course, your work alone isn’t the cost of completing a project or reaching a goal. There are other costs, like the time you’ve been able to spend with your friends and family, your own comfort or even your health.

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    Life isn’t a balance sheet, but you can tell the difference between your lifestyle at a project’s beginning and at its end. Depending on the benefits, you may decide that keeping up your exertion is well worth it: maybe getting a raise means that you’re getting paid enough to make an increase in your workload well worth your while. But, then again, you might decide that you need to reintroduce yourself to a few things that have been missing in your life: if you stopped going out entirely in order to save up money, allowing yourself the occasional night out isn’t the end of the world — and it might do you a little good.

    If you can decide just what you’ve cut that you want back, you can tell just how much effort you are willing to put into keeping momentum on your goal. Think about the example of saving money by cutting entertainment expenses: you may be willing to continue to keep those expenses down, but with at least a little bit of a budget for fun with your friends. You won’t negate all that hard work of saving money — keeping up at least some of the momentum of your original goal and maintaining your success — but not depriving yourself of all entertainment.

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    Setting Up Balance

    Once you’ve got an idea of how far you’ll go to maintain your success, you can go about reintroducing balance to your life. You may need to inform a few people of your plan to do so, though. If you’ve been putting in 12-hour workdays, it’s probably a good idea to inform your boss of the fact that you won’t be doing that anymore. Many employers will revise their expectations upwards if you’ve gone the extra mile — it stops being extra and becomes required. You don’t want an employer to think you’re suddenly slacking off. But sitting down and talking out the matter can be all that it takes to step down to a more sustainable schedule.

    Depending on just what your goal was, you may find that other considerations must be made. Perhaps your friends or family members changed their schedules in deference to yours: changing that schedule back may be difficult. Being willing to compromise might come in handy if you are ready to cut back on your effort in other areas. Unfortunately, creating a bit more balance in your life may not be as simple as waving a magic wand, but it possible with a little consideration.

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    Key to creating balance is ensuring that you do follow through on any commitments you made upon achieving your goal. Maybe you set a secondary goal — something that provided a little continuation and helped you take advantage of the rush of meeting your initial ambition. Or maybe you have a new project set for you by someone else as a product of your prior effort. You may not be in a position to throw quite as much at your new goal as your last, but if it is important enough for you to follow through on, you’ll find yourself putting at least some effort into it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you’re able to maintain balance with other parts of your life in the long run. But you may need to set a few initial limits to ensure that any new projects won’t consume your every waking moment.

    With a little care, all that extra effort won’t become an every day expectation. If you’re willing to prioritize other parts of your life, you can build on your successes and keep some momentum without working yourself to the point of going crazy.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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