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Home > Audio, Podcast, Show > Out of time

Out of time

April 26th, 2009

Career Opportunities podcast logoOut of time
By Douglas E. Welch



How does it happen? We look up from our work one day to notice that there simply isn’t enough time left to get everything done. This project has pushed out that project. Rehearsals went late and crept into the time we set aside for finishing that article. A family crisis erupted and took up whole swathes of our day. The stress level starts to rise and the walls seem like they are about tumble down. In case you haven’t guessed already, this has been my life over the last week or so. Too much to do in too short a time, but like most crises, I only have myself to blame. You might find the same thing happens to you on occasion. As they say, though, the only way out is through.

The need to say “No!”

Since my career goes in so many directions at once, I usually have more requests for my time than actual available hours. In any given week I could be involved in computer consulting, New Media speaking, teaching podcasting classes, performing for my son’s school fundraisers and much more. Like any good careerist, I want to take on as much of this work as possible, to move ahead each facet of my life. Of course, conflicts often arise. With such a variety of projects, they can often step on each other and even defy any logical scheduling. Still, I am loathe to say “No” to any of them, lest I miss some important opportunity. In many ways, this is exactly the wrong thing to do.

All of us have to practice the fine art of saying “No”, even when we would love to do the thing we are being asked to do. We have to be honest with ourselves when certain projects simply don’t fit into our already crowded schedules. We may truly “want” to do something, but if it only adds stress to our lives we will not enjoy it and, even worse, not do our best. In these cases, saying “No” might be the best thing we can do.

You might be thinking, “Well, unload some of your previous commitments so you can take on this one.” While that is an option, I am loathe to renege on a promise I have already made without a very good reason. Backing out of a commitment to others, even in favor of a better project, can be very damaging to your career. Trust is fragile and if those around you don’t think they can rely on you, you might find them unwilling to work with you in the future. Be very careful in renegotiating commitments. You might find that you hurt both yourself and those around you. We can only live life forward and accept commitments as we are offered them. It is important to remember that some opportunities must be missed if we have already committed to something else.

Watch your calendar

If you feel you are running out of time, it can often be because you are too focused on the short term. Many of us manage our lives on a daily or weekly schedule when a monthly or yearly focus would be more appropriate. I do everything I can to place items on my calendar as soon as they are known. For example, I already know of 2 large commitments in November of this year. By placing them in my calendar today, I will be less likely to let other projects encroach on that time. When I am presented with new commitments, I already know what time I have available and will be able to say, “No” with full knowledge of my schedule.

The truth is, many projects “sneak up on us” even though we know about them months in advance. They are not really sneaking, of course, we have simply chosen to forget about them in lieu of other work. You can’t fool time, though, and those projects will quickly come galloping down upon you. Wouldn’t it be better to be secure in the knowledge of your complete schedule instead of living your life stress-filled day-to-stress-filled day?

While running out of time can certainly happen, too often we are the creators of our own stress. We take on too many commitments in too short a time and then ignore future commitments until they force our attention. Learn to say “No” when needed and manage your calendar with a longer focus and much of your stress can be alleviated. This will then allow you to focus more on the task at hand, secure in the knowledge that you have your work, your life and your career under control.

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