We all lead busy lives. From work, to our social commitments to our kids school and social commitments, it can all be daunting. All of these commitments, projects, meetings and events are great but if you take on too many, you can start to dilute yourself. This is particularly easy to do at work where being seen as a “go getter” will get you promoted.
Too often, we don’t realize that all these commitments are actually counter productive. They distract us from what’s important. Consider these seven signs that you might be diluting your impact:
Sign #1: Too Busy to Take a Day Off
No one and I mean no one is too busy to take a day off. Rest and rejuvenation are critical to our survival. Without some down time, we make mistakes, become irritable and don’t focus on the details. If you find yourself in this situation, ask yourself why you can’t take a day off. If it’s because no one else can do your job or they might screw it up, then you really need to revaluate how you manage your work. No one is indispensable — not even the president.
Sign #2: Attending Too Many Meetings
Most meetings are a total waste of time. If you attend too many, you are just wasting your valuable time. The meeting glut is usually driven by people who want to influence every little detail. Resist showing up. This can be hard to do but just realize, what’s more important — attending a meeting or creating value.
The next time you are invited to yet another meeting, really think about what you will get out of it. You should attend at least one and if it’s a total waste of time, politely stop going.
Sign #3: Tossing and Turning at Night
Trouble sleeping is a sure sign of dilution. If you spend all night worrying about all the projects, tasks or issues you have to deal with, it’s time to start getting rid of projects and commitments. You need your sleep and the more sleep depraved you become, the worst your performance. It’s actually in your best interest to be well rested and ready to go on the projects and tasks that are the most important to you and your career.
Sign #4: Burning the Midnight Oil
Working hard is noble. Working too hard is crazy. If you find yourself working 12 hour days for more an a month, something is terribly wrong. Your effectiveness as the days and weeks roll on will severally diminish. As your effectiveness slips, so does your quality of work. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s best to hire more people or take small breaks. I know, you absolutely need to get your product out — everyone is depending on you. Sure they are, just like they depend on everyone else in the company. Even if you are a solo micro-entrepreneur, do you really want to work yourself to death? Is it really worth it to bust your hump and then be too burnt out to do anything else? I didn’t thing so.
Sign #5: An Inbox Filled with Unread Email
Email is a curse. Unread email is a sure sign that you have way too much going on. Email gets abused because it’s so simple to send off a quick note. When you get too much email, you are clearly getting overwhelmed with more and more useless data. Accept the fact that you will not be able to respond, nor read, all that email. It’s liberating to make your inbox reach zero by simply focusing on what’s important. Believe me, if it requires your attention, it will bubble to the top of your inbox.
Sign #6: No Quiet or Alone Time
Alone time is a vital part of productive day. When you have time to quietly work or reflect, your mind clears and you can concentrate on what’s important. If you can’t make time for yourself then you are seriously over committed. Quiet work time is essential to actually getting your work done. Without a solid block of uninterrupted time, your work product will come out disjointed. In addition, you will feel like you are getting nothing done because, you really are getting nothing done.
Sign #7: Making Silly Mistakes
Mistakes happen when you are rushing or tired. If you find yourself making silly mistake after silly mistake, then you really need to find a way to focus. Most mistakes won’t kill you but the more little mistakes you make, the worst your decisions and work become. Pretty soon, all you make are mistakes.
The single biggest contributor to silly mistakes is being rushed. So, avoid being rushed. Plan out your work so that you know what you need to do and then focus on getting it done.
So I’m Diluted, Now What
Congratulations. You made the first step — you admitted you have a problem. Now, what to do about it. Most of us just can’t drop everything in an afternoon but we can certainly start on the path of becoming more focused and productive. Here are a few things that can set you on the right path:
Say No: I know it’s hard to say no to another revenue generating project. I know it hard to say no when people need your to help. All these things are hard but you must realize that for every new project you take on, you dilute the other ones. Prioritize what’s important and only take on projects when you are done with others.
Schedule Quiet Time: or just work time. Make it a point to set aside a couple of hours a day to work, without distractions. If this means leaving your cube or shutting your office door, then do that.
Only Read Emails Once a Day: Email is one of the most time consuming tasks man has ever invented. Well, ok, surfing the Internet and reading blog articles is a close second. Get in the habit of only checking email once a day. Believe me, you won’t miss anything and you will be much more productive.
Leave A Meeting If You Add No Value: I know, bold and daring but hey, if you add zero value, why show up? Now, your boss might have other ideas but strive to only be at a meeting if you add value. Adding value means participating — not bringing your laptop and working on other things.
Start And End Meetings On Time: Most meetings are horribly run. They start late, end late, don’t have an agenda and the moderator lets people drone on way too long. Make every meeting count by respecting everyones time. Start on time, end on time and for God’s sake man, have an agenda!
Pick Up The Phone/Skype Instead of Sending An Email: I’m sure you remember that thing with the buttons on it. You know, the one you used to dial instead of sending an email. Use it. A phone call can save you countless back and forth emails. In fact, why not have an email free day. Make it a rule that you cannot email on Fridays or whenever. If you want to send someone a note, why not IM them or better yet, go to their office. Hey, you can even pick up the phone.
You’ll Feel Better, Trust Me
Okay. I know I’m being all preaching on this stuff but I speak from experience. It’s a horrible feeling to be overwhelmed with commitments. You really to need to pick your projects carefully. That means you have to say no once in a while. Think of it this way, you want to give your best to whatever project or cause you take on. If you are diluting yourself, your performance will be subpar and just make the experience more of a chore than fun. At work, choose the battles you fight. Don’t try to change everything all at once. Relax, there are plenty of projects and opportunities — you just need to be ready, rested and able to take them on.