4 Questions to Ask Yourself When You Are Too Busy

“Help me Tina! I’m too busy and something needs to change…”

Young overworked business woman sleeping on floorYou are right – it does. Being too busy isn’t sustainable and doesn’t serve you or your clients. The good news? It’s fixable, so grab your to-do list and ask yourself the following questions.

Question 1: Does this really need to be done? (If yes, now or later?)

We often have things on our to-do lists that either:

  1. don’t need to be done at all – they are ideas, maybes or “wouldn’t it be nice ifs”. They are things we are thinking about, but that we haven’t actually made a firm decision on yet. Ideas are not to-dos – create a separate idea list and get those things off your to-do list!
  2. don’t need to be done now – if you aren’t strategic about planning ahead, then as a default everything on your to-do list feels like it needs to be done NOW. Work through each item and ask yourself – when does this really need to be done? Could it be put off until next week? Maybe even next month? Take your list and put realistic due dates beside each item.

You should be left with a list of things that are actually do in the next week or so – and a list of things that aren’t due yet (or are ideas and are no longer on the list!)

Question 2: Do I need to be the one to do this?

If you are anything like I was for years, as a default you feel like you must do everything. You are good at what you do. You are used to being the one to get it all done, but now things are starting to fall behind and slip through the cracks.

Run through your list again and ask yourself – could someone else do this for me? Be aware of the following when you answer:

  • “Well yes, someone else could do this for me but it’s only me so I have to” If you don’t have anyone working with you right now this could be true, and you also have the power to change. Growth dictates that you will need to hire help at some point – when you do it is up to you.
  • “But no one can do it as well as me – so I have to be the one to do it” This is a dangerous spot to get stuck in, because as long as you believe it to be true, it is… and it could be the thing sucks the life right out of you. Yes, you may be the best at doing something but that doesn’t mean you can’t train another person to be as good as you (or at least close enough 😉 or find someone who does it already and bring them on board.

The goal here is simple – identify the things that others could do for you. It doesn’t mean you have to hire a bunch of people tomorrow, but at the very least you can look to give more to the people you have already and plan ahead for getting more support (which becomes a light at the end of the busy tunnel!)

This second question can be a doozy as it brings up all kinds of stuff for many of us – it can have our inner control freak kicking and screaming! I highly recommend getting the support of a coach or OBM to help you here if you go through your list and still have your name beside every task. An outside eye can often see what you can’t.

Question 3: How can I create more space?

At this point you should have a realistic list of what needs to be done in the next week or so. Now you want to ensure you have the space and time to get it done. Here are two of my favorite tips:

  • Plan ahead –book the time in your schedule to get stuff done. You might book in specific tasks, or you might book in time for types of tasks (ie: writing time, client time).
  • Set boundaries – distraction is the death of productivity. Be it team, clients, family or social media – every time you get distracted it takes you off track, and for many people it happens all day long! Close your door. Turn off your phone and email. Let people know when you aren’t available and when you are. And get really good at saying no (because they will test your boundaries!)

Question 4: Do I need to renegotiate any deadlines?

If you are truly in over your head and can’t get everything done, then you need to revise your deadlines. I get that this sucks and you may hate having to do it, but it’s better for you to own up to something ahead of time vs. having people get upset with you because they are waiting/asking. To simply say to someone “Hey, I got in over my head here and that’s on me. I won’t be able to get X to you until next Monday and wanted to let you know.” Yes, you might need to make concessions for being late if this affects their timelines.

Even if they are frustrated, people will respect you for stepping up and being real with what is going on – and quite often they are OK with adjusted timelines if they know ahead of time.

The beauty of these 4 questions is that you can use them over and again. Every time you find yourself too busy work through this process, and ideally overtime you won’t need to anymore.

Let me know how it goes k?

  • Debora McLaughlin

    Great article. I find myself feeling like everything has to be done at once and then I work through a strategic plan with action items so I can tackle something big one piece at a time otherwise if feels overwhelming. I find the leaders I coach often don’t ask “do I need to do this?” so helping them to pause and delegate gives them the time back to focus on what is most critical in their role. I’ve often reminded that I do have a team and the more I give away to them the more productive I am. Something all business owners need to remember. Thanks for your ease to implement guidelines.

  • Jaimie Skultety

    Terrific article! I’m thinking you wote it just for me as I haven’t made the time to respond to your question of “how are things?’ You’ve reminded my inner control freak that she needs to let some things go (for now).

    Promising an update to you soon…

    XOXOX

  • Monica Muir

    Good reminders – I’m keeping these questions where I can see them! Thanks Tina!

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