I am the type of person that takes on way too much. I'll get an idea, start playing with something, buy some new things, try to take on another project, etc. This is a sure fire way to get stressed out and feel overwhelmed. Better, in my opinion, to do less and do those things better, leaving time for necessary and healthy activities. Here are 3 simple steps to reduce your workload, and give you more freedom:
1. List all of your projects.
Make a list (I use Workflowy) of all the projects you are involved in and every single thing that draws your attention. Here are some suggestions:
- Events you committed to organize.
- Charities you organize projects for.
- Things you are learning or want to learn.
- Blogs you maintain.
- Projects at work.
- Plans you are making.
- Building or writing projects.
The main criteria is:
If you did nothing at all, would someone, at some point expect something from you related to the "thing" in question? if the answer is yes, it goes on the projects list.
2. Delete half.
Now that you have the list, delete half of them. Or move them to another list. I created a "Projects I'm not Doing List". This is the easiest step. You just remove half, nothing more.
3. End your commitments to the deleted projects.
This is the hardest step. Now that you have made the decisions to remove these projects, you have to actually remove them from your life and mind. This step is important, because it provides you closure that will remove some of your stress. Some things are harder than others to remove. Here are some suggestions:
If it is a small project, DO IT NOW! Make that reservation, clean the house, throw away all the clothes that you never wear, etc. Just get these things done and get them out of your projects list.
Don't make tasks into projects!
Just stop. Adding it to the "Projects I'm not Doing List" will remind you in the future that you made a conscious choice not to do this.
Projects you "Want to do Eventually"
Well…if you want to do it, but not now, then what is stopping you? If it is important, get started; if you can't do it now and it's important, then it will come back to you in time. Put these in your "Not Doing" list. Sorry, if you were going to invent Facebook, you would have invented Facebook…as the saying goes.
Projects with Others
Simply explain to others that you have too much on your plate and you will no longer be able to meet your obligations to this project in a manner that you would be proud of. Here is a sample email:
Dear Charity That Stresses Me Out,
I am writing to inform you that I will no longer be able to contribute my time and energy to this project. I have too much on my plate, and will no longer be able to meet my obligations to this project in a manner that I would be proud of. It would be a disservice to this project if I continued. I hope you understand and I will do my best over the next week to transition any of my responsibilities.
Then of course, do something to aid in the transition, not just blow people off going forward.
Job projects can get a little tricky. Depending on what type of project it is, you may need to look for another job. Here are some strategies:
- Quit. You can take this job and shove it. I'm not working here "no more".
- Change positions. Moving within the company is often easier and doesn't burn as many bridges.
- Talk to your boss; just be honest that your work is suffering because of too many responsibilities. 9 times out of 10, they will listen and help you clarify your priorities.
- Delegate! Trust someone else to do something.
- Just Stop. I don't really recommend this one, but if you are stressing out over something small that no one is really noticing, maybe just stop doing it and see if someone cares.
I expect if you follow these steps, you will have more free time, less stress and a rather "high and mighty" suggestion for your friends at the next cocktail party.