career development, Ellie's World, Self-reflection, workload management

Workload overload alert!

I’m in one of those phases where I am perennially saying to those around me “it will calm down after the end of this week”. Only it doesn’t seem to be doing so. Sometimes we get into a cycle of being very busy and therefore dealing with the urgent things on a just in time basis, which means that the things we’d like to get ahead on move down the list until they become just in time, and push other things down the list. And so on and so on. It feels impossible to get out of the loop while work continues to flow in to the top of the system. The only ways to break the cycle are to work even quicker or longer hours to try to get ahead, or to slow the flow of work into the system.

An overflowing bathtub..

In theory it ought to be easier for me to slow the flow because I work for myself. In reality, I am still only 2 years in to running my own business and still face the freelancers fear of having no work. This leads to taking on more than is strictly necessary. That plus the fact that I love what I do both on the coaching and the consultancy side – it’s actually not the coaching flow I need to slow down but the consultancy flow. So I’m trying to be clear on my goal to be financially secure but also to restrict work to only a sensible fraction of my life. And I’m saying no to consultancy work if it’s not exactly what I want to be doing or exactly in my field of expertise.

For most of my coaching clients, stemming the flow is more challenging. A series of mentors each contributed to a series of questions that I ask myself when in danger of taking too much on:

1) Will you get fired if you don’t do this?

2) Will you drop lots of other people that you care about in it if you don’t do this? (Danger here – people pleasers like me tend to put too much weight on this one)

3) Does it have to be YOU that does this? (Danger here for perfectionists and those who find it hard to let go of things)

4) Is there someone who would welcome this as a great development opportunity? (This helps me with question 3, but I struggle when I know everyone is busy)

How do you decide what to do when you need to stem the work flow?

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