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Pacing yourself

October 18th, 2008

 

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Pacing yourself
By Douglas E. Welch

Listen: Pacing yourself

[audio:http://welchwrite.com/career/audio/2008/career-op-20081017.mp3]

It is bad enough when your employer decides to give you too many projects in too little time, but it is even worse when you overwhelm yourself with projects and work. Sure, we want to accomplish as much as possible, but putting too much on your plate is a recipe for failure. There are only so many hours in the day and something has to give eventually. Like a good athlete, we all need to pace ourselves so that we have the energy to run the long race that is life.

I was reminded of the need for pacing over the last few weeks. I knew that life was about to get very busy for me, but I moved ahead with several new projects I found interesting. It seems I am incapable of doing nothing and once I conceive of an idea I want to implement it as soon as I can. In that vein, I leapt into these new projects only to discover then how much work it would require.

That, of course, lays out one of my first rules of pacing yourself. It is great to have grand ideas and large projects to accomplish, but you need to think a bit about how much work might be involved. Projects have a way of seeming easier in our minds than they are in reality. Perhaps we haven’t thought them through enough to understand the work or perhaps we are actively fooling ourselves. Sometimes we can find a project so interesting that we deny how much work it might be. We find it so much more interesting than that other work we need to do, so we find anyway to shoehorn it into our life.

Unfortunately, this often ends up overwhelming us when the other necessities of life simply won’t get out of the way. Bills must still be paid. Dishes must still be washed. Other work must get done. Yet, we still try to fit even more into our day. In the worst cases, our attempts to do more can cause other, more important projects to fall apart. This can be very damaging to your life and career and should make very clear why you need to pace yourself.

As much as it might pain you, the only way to make room for new projects is to get other projects out of the way. You need to finish a project, or abandon it, if possible, so you can move on to other, hopefully more interesting work. Some work can’t be removed so easily, though. You might have to spend some time delegating work to others where possible, or developing ways to make your current work easier and less time consuming.

Finally, among all this work, you have to build in recovery periods where you dial back the intensity for a short period of time so you can rest and recuperate for the next big push on the next big project. Without these planned respites you will quickly find yourself burnt out and stumbling your way through all your work.

It can seem crazy to slow down when you really want to speed up — to rest when you need to work — to turn off the computer when business demands you be online — but unless you pace yourself — in work and life — you will find yourself on an endless treadmill that will eventually throw you off. Manage your life and manage your work to insure your sustained productivity. Pace yourself so you can make it all the way to the finish line, no matter where that might be.


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  1. Brooke
    June 13th, 2009 at 14:26 | #1

    Hey! This is EXACTLY what I needed to read!!! Thank you SOO much for posting this. I am printing out this post and sticking it in my office.
    I am just totally overwhelmed with work at the moment.. because I took on too many interesting projects and didn’t want to disappoint anybody.
    Thanks for making me see sense :O)

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