Having grown up in the U.S. to remarkably independent self-motivated parents, I internalized the idea that hard work equaled success from an early age. But, working hard doesn’t have to mean working 24/7. In fact, working constantly is a sure-fire way path to burnout: physically, mentally, and emotionally.
As a homeschooling work-at-home mom to a breastfeeding infant and a special-needs, pre-teen girl, I’m constantly fighting the urge to spend every minute of my day engaged in one task or another. Between writing books, juggling clients, teaching my daughter, and caring for my son, my house, and my husband, there just never seems to be enough time to get it all done. But, I’ve learned the hard way that trying to do it all without taking the time to rest and recharge means getting less done overall.
It is invariably the days and weeks on which I am over-scheduled with work projects and other must-do tasks that some unplanned event or catastrophe throws a wrench in my plans. My baby gets sick, cuts a new tooth, or refuses to eat and requires my constant attention, or my daughter has a meltdown that takes hours of time and most of my energy to get under control. Or, I get sick and simply can’t work any more that day, no matter how much I’d like to do so.
In short, things happen that I can’t control, and it means I have to be able to adapt. And, I can’t do that, if my schedule isn’t flexible enough to accommodate unforeseen events. To make sure I have the flexibility I need, I created the 75% rule: However many hours I want to work in a week, I cut it by 25%. Then, I fit my work assignments into only the hours I have marked as available. No matter what.
When I first implemented this system, I really had to work against my tendency to fill in the empty hours on the calendar. If a new client popped up with a potential assignment, I would see the empty slots in my mind and automatically say “yes, I have time.” It took me months to realize that the empty slots weren’t really empty. They were full with events, outings, and setbacks that I couldn’t possibly foresee. They were my fail-safes. And, in my life, they are absolutely necessary.
What about the rest of you? Do you fill your schedule, or do you purposefully leave some time for the unexpected?
Other links on working smarter by working less:
Blogger Justin Jackson talks about The Principle That Changed My Life