How much time is "enough time"?

Is your schedule constantly packed? Do you feel like there is never enough time to get everything done?

I’m sure you’ve felt like this at some point or another. Everyone has. In fact, most of us have whined about it to whatever person has the misfortune of sitting near us when we realize we’ll never get it all done.

A busy schedule is something that you’ll have to learn to deal with as you gain more and more success. While the most successful people may have people to delegate tasks to, their schedules still get more packed with the more success they earn.

If you are already stressed out by a packed schedule, you could be asking yourself whether or not you really want to go after “success” in the first place. If it only leads to having more on your plate, is it really worth it?

Everyone’s answer to that question is personal just as everyone’s definition of success is unique. John Doe may not want any more success because he can’t handle having anything else on his plate; all he imagines when he thinks about having more success is having more stress right alongside it.

On the other hand, Suzie Q wants to climb to the top of her organization. She knows that she will have more responsibility, but also sees avenues for creating support systems and working with coaches that will help her to feel organized.

John Doe & Suzie Q could be on the same exact career path, but the difference in their perspectives will ultimately determine the difference in where their careers lead. We humans are better at maintaining perspective when we’re looking at something long term, but we often find it harder to keep a cool head & calm demeanor on things with more urgency.

If you’re familiar with the Eisenhower matrix, you’ll know that the things that stress us out & make us feel like there’s not enough time fall in Quadrant 3:

Photo courtesy of waitbutwhy.com

Photo courtesy of waitbutwhy.com

They are usually things that need to be done soon (thus urgent) but aren’t necessarily on the path that is propelling us toward our definition of success (thus, not important).

So we ignore all the advice to not leave our email open all day and instead fill our days quickly responding to things we needn’t have distracted ourselves with. We interrupt our important tasks with small things that, if we had a team to delegate to, would have been delegated.

It’s not that you’re wrong to feel stressed out…

Jumping between a lot of different small tasks can give you the feeling that there’s a lot going on even if what is going on isn’t helping you reach milestone goals. Feeling like there’s a whole lot going on is an easy way to stress yourself out and lose focus.

...It’s just that you don’t have to feel stressed out.

There is always enough time, so long as you don’t feel rushed by time.

This statement is a bit of a catch-22. As a deadline approaches for a project, you may start to worry about how you’re going to get everything done on time. You complete things quickly and below the general standard you hold your work to. In essence, you feel rushed, but you don’t have to feel that way.

Now, you may be saying, “Lucy, how can I not feel rushed when there is a very real deadline that is approaching rapidly and I don’t have my shiznit in order yet?!”

I promise I hear you on this; feeling rushed is a very logical response to your environment. On top of it being logical, it is how you have always responded so it makes it easier to respond that way when it happens again.

You may also be one of those creative procrastinators that loves deadlines because that sense of worry is the only thing that will fuel you. If you stop feeling rushed, maybe you won’t feel the same sense of urgency anymore and won’t finish the work you need to.

So yes, (1) feeling rushed is a logical response to the current situation and (2) deadlines can provide motivation to get things done. But, you cannot create or execute as your best self when you are stressed from feeling like there's not enough time.

It’s not that there’s not “enough time”. It’s that you’re trying to squeeze too much in.

The time between the start of a project and the deadline for that project is a constantly decreasing increment. What you have to get better at is not squeezing more into that increment, but better defining what should fit into that increment.

I catch myself in this trap all the time. For instance, we recently decided to do a website upgrade for TimeTap. I initially said that it would take me a month to do. Then it turned into two months. Now it is looking more like three.

It’s not that I haven’t been chipping away at the website over these past few months. I have and we’re definitely closer now than we were three months ago. The issue is that I overestimated what I could do in the time frame I gave myself given all the other priorities I have to handle from day to day.

The next time you set a deadline for yourself, test your deadline against all your conflicting priorities

Whether it is a blog post you have to write or a logistics activity you have to make headway on, the next time you go to set a deadline for yourself be sure to take into consideration all the other things you’ll have to do alongside your bigger project.

For me and the website update example mentioned above, I didn’t consider how much time I was going to have to dedicate toward support, blog writing, quality assurance testing, & documentation during the initial month I gave myself. The website update may have taken me a month if I worked on it for the full workday without any interruptions, but that has happened all of zero times in my life.

As you set your weekly goals, practice your priority management by honestly answering whether you’re trying to squeeze too much in. If you are trying to squeeze too much in, you should celebrate! It’s a clear sign that you’re a go-getter and people who are driven are much more exciting to be around.

Now that you’ve recognized this about yourself, you need to take the next step which is to cut back to a more realistic expectation for your time.

Being more realistic about what you can get done in a given time frame does not mean that you are trying to accomplish less. It means that you are proactively avoiding the feeling of being “rushed” so that you can create & execute at a top level.