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10 Lies People Tell Themselves To Rationalize Their Overwhelmed Schedules

10 Lies People Tell Themselves To Rationalize Their Overwhelmed Schedules

How many times have you used the excuse ‘I’m too busy now’ to turn down offers to help a friend in need or to just take time off to enjoy yourself? If you are like me, probably a lot. Yet, there is something wrong if you are so busy that living life to the fullest gets shoved down the agenda. Here are 10 lies that people keep telling themselves to justify their super busy schedules.

1. I must sleep less to get more done

It’s amazing how many people believe this. People using apps such as Fitbit found that if you cut down on sleep and get disturbed rest, your production level goes down. You may be gaining more time but you are not being more productive. These apps are useful because they can give you loads of stats on your smartphone about your fitness, productivity, and the quality of your sleep.

2. I must work longer hours to achieve more

If you increase your working hours, you actually become less efficient! The UN is also concerned about this. Their report shows that millions of people are far too busy to enjoy fuller and happier lives. They are convinced that though they are working really hard, they are not being more efficient.

The Mexican billionaire, Carlos Slim believes that people should work an 11 hour day for 3 days a week until they are 75. This is a radical view but he insists this is the way to go as people can enjoy themselves and actually be more productive until they are older.

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3. I am far too busy to take breaks

You also probably think that once you get in the zone, you will become more focused and get even more done. Well, the bad news is that your brain needs breaks to stay focused.

“From a practical standpoint, our research suggests that, when faced with long tasks (such as studying before a final exam or doing your taxes), it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task!”- Alejandro Lleras, University of Illinois psychology professor.

4. I would never daydream or twiddle my thumbs

The surprising fact is that when we switch off our brains and begin to relax and daydream, some of the trickiest problems are solved. You might actually have experienced this Eureka moment when you are driving or taking a shower. Psychologists call this the ‘diffuse mode’. This is a sort of subconscious processing that goes on in the brain. But you need to be in a relaxed state for it to function best. You certainly can’t avail of it when you are concentrating. Daniel Kahneman has explained all this in his book Thinking Fast and Slow.

5. I just have no time to take a walk or go to the gym

Charles Dickens had a great routine. He would write until 2.p.m and then he would go for a long walk. He would sometimes walk for 30 miles! Yet, he wrote 20 novels and many short stories, all by hand.

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“If I couldn’t walk fast and far, I should just explode and perish.” – Charles Dickens.

If you want to put your brain on steroids, try doing some physical exercise

6. I know more money will solve my problems

If you work harder, you can get a promotion and get a higher salary, right? But working harder might lead to some complications like neglecting your health, family and loved ones. It might also create even more problems in trying to manage your time.

A much better idea would be to sit down and analyze your financial situation. By making a series of cuts, you could end up happier and less stressed out.

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7. If I have a busy schedule, I look more important

Busy as a bee! Yes, but the bees are producing pollen and helping to pollinate the planet. If the truth were known, appearing busy can have many rather sneaky advantages in the workplace. It can hide inefficiency and also reduce the number of interruptions. It also gives the false impression that you are really doing a great job.

Time for a reality check. Time spent on the job is not an indicator of quality, I am afraid. You will be judged on the results and also other efficiency standards.

8. I prefer multitasking because I have no choice

You are so busy that you just have to have three things on the go at the same time. Now, there is nothing wrong with talking on the phone and having a cup of coffee. Driving and texting is a different matter as it could kill you or some innocent bystander!

The problem is that when you start to do more demanding tasks which need your brain to be focused and alert, then you have to forget about multitasking. It simply does not work because you cannot focus fully on several tasks at the same time. Interrupting one task to do another is also a total waste of time. In a New York Times article, researchers reported that test takers who were interrupted and distracted performed 20% worse on tests afterwards.

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The solution is to start prioritizing and also to concentrate on one thing at a time.

9. I don’t have enough time

Time is elastic. You can stretch it either way. You can spin things out, just to look busy; or you can pack a load of things into it. It just depends on how important that task or person is to you. Everybody gets 24 hours in a day. There are no discounts, coupons or special offers.

It all boils down to time management. Using time effectively to complete tasks is what you will be judged on.

10. I can never say no

It is like a tsunami. One of the reasons you are overwhelmed is that you say yes to everybody and everything. It is great for making friends but you may be exploited.

Learning how to say no is going to protect your time credit in the bank. You will be able to safeguard your account from trivia and superficiality. You will become time rich and that is the real mark of success.

Featured photo credit: Giuseppe Savo via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Published on January 16, 2019

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

  • Are you a great strategist?
  • Are you an effective planner?
  • Is Project Management your strength?
  • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
  • Are you the ideas person?
  • Is Implementation your strength?

Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

4. Take Time for Planning

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

You can take the time to think about:

  • What’s the purpose of the project?
  • How Important is it?
  • When does it need to be delivered by?
  • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
  • What are the KPIs?
  • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
  • Who is working on this project?
  • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
  • What tolerances can I add in?
  • What are the review stages?
  • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

5. Focus on Priorities

Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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    The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

    If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

    If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

    6. Take Time Out

    To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

    If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

    Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

    In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

    Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

    Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

    I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

    Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

    If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

    8. Stop Multitasking

    Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

    So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

    When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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    If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

    9. Work in Blocks of Time

    To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

    I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

    Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

    Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

    Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

    Then take another 10-minute break.

    Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

    By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

    10. Get Rid of Distractions

    Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

    “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

    Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

    If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

    11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

    You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

    Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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    Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

    12. Take a Time Audit

    Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

    Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

    You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

    Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

    Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

    At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

    If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

    13. Protect Your Confidence

    It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

    When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

    Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

    When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

    Final Words

    A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

    The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

    If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

    Reference

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