A significant trend that is picking up speed is the number of times commitments are forgotten, appointments are ghosted and reminders or offers of help are ignored. You’re busy. I’m busy. We’re all busy. That doesn’t excuse a lack of courtesy. Not responding to communications, showing up late (if at all) for appointments or failing to pay bills on time are disrespectful and irresponsible. Stop wasting your own time and other people’s time by failing to be accountable for your life.
If you’re simply overwhelmed, then it’s time to get off the roller coaster. Avoiding issues that are competing for your time will only create more stress, and it won’t make them go away. It may be time to get some help. Get a coach, financial counselor or a therapist — maybe all three. In the meantime, if you feel tough enough to tackle things on your own and are ready to make a change, then let’s take a look at some simple ways to help improve your approach to the issues that are overwhelming you.
Get real. The first step would be to list all the commitments you have made and are looming in front of you. Note the dates, times, deliverables or expectations. Face the reality of your life. If you’re overcommitted, then it’s time to evaluate what is and isn’t necessary to achieve and sustain the quality of life you want. Make sure you’re looking at the big picture and not just a snapshot of a time. You may choose to avoid planning professional development or taking time to build your network because neither seems necessary now. The consequence could be finding yourself laid off without marketable skills or leads to other jobs to help cover the expenses you ran up by taking that trip to The Bahamas.
..evaluate what is and isn’t necessary to achieve and sustain the quality of life you want.
Use a calendar. Appointments, bills, homework, car/household repairs, networking conversations, celebrations and vacations all require a commitment of time. If specific appointments have already been set or meetings scheduled, make sure they are in your calendar. If bills are due by a certain date, then put them in your calendar. If you aren’t already using a calendar, you’re making life a lot more stressful than it needs to be. Expecting your already maxed-out brain to remember everything without a tracking system sets you up for failure. Stop pretending you can do it. Our days are marked by hours, and consequently, you can manage your time better by knowing which days and hours are already committed and what’s left before you tack on one more thing.
Stop overcommitting. Pay attention to what you’re committing to and be aware of the consequences. Review all of the commitments in your calendar (and you did put them there, didn’t you?) before you promise more. Be clear about your goals so your commitments are in line with what really matters. Promise only what you know you can follow through with without impacting other needs. Keep in mind that “commitments” stretch beyond time; they may involve money, energy (physical, mental and emotional) and other resources. Don’t keep spending when there is no more money coming in. Don’t use up all of your paid time off by February and expect to have something left to cover an illness later. And many times people miss commitments that occur every month simply because they allow themselves to be distracted by things that take them off course — basketball games, new cars, social media, cruises. I think you get my drift.
Be accountable. Commitments require accountability. That’s a pretty simple equation. You said you were going to do something, and it’s up to you to plan when and how — and then get it done. If you’re falling short, what are you doing about it? It’s not someone else’s job to manage the things you have committed to. Granted, some commitments are made for you: Taxes. Work assignments. Family obligations. But it is up to you to bear the responsibility of the choices you made. For example, you drive a car or live in a home that was bought on credit, so there is a payment due at a certain time every month. You committed to it. You get reminders to make the payments. If you don’t, there are consequences. This is really a simple recipe. Not meeting your commitments creates consequences that lead to yet more stress.
Respond to communications. Stop avoiding things that you don’t want to deal with. Not responding to communications only creates more. I can’t count the times I hear “I get too many emails.” OK. Fact of life. So now what? Do you ignore them all and hope they go away? I think it is safe to say that failing to respond will only lead to more problems. All emails are not equal, so they have to be addressed differently. Evaluate the communications you receive and figure out what you need and how to manage them. Is it data/information you may need for a later time? Is it a reminder about something coming up? Is it a request that is time sensitive? Is it reallyjunk mail that you have no interest in?
There are many more time management tips I can provide, but they would create a much longer blog entry. I’ll save those for another time. Right now, I am going to get on with completing some other commitments.