Being driven and willing to go the extra mile are great qualities to have. These traits are especially desired by employers, too. While taking the initiative and working hard is great, sometimes the lines between “hard worker” and “over-worker” can begin to blur.
Overcommitting yourself to too many tasks and assignments can be easier than you might realize. Wanting to seem willing to do a good job can quickly cross into the territory of letting people walk all over you. Not to mention, overbooking yourself can cause extra stress that you shouldn’t have to deal with. Keep reading for six tips on avoiding overcommitting yourself and getting better at respecting your time.
1. Use a Calendar
First of all, before you can determine whether or not you’re overcommitting yourself, you’ll need to keep a proper schedule. Having some form of calendar system can help you organize your time and tasks. This way, you’ll have a visual aid to refer to when planning a meeting or forgetting when a task is due.
There are so many ways to keep a schedule in this day and age. A paper calendar is a trusty staple, though you might be limited on space to write in events. They’re not the most environmentally friendly way to maintain a schedule. Online calendar systems offer a sustainable alternative that has many more valuable features.
Virtual calendars can usually be accessed through an app on your phone or computer. Not only will you have your schedule at your fingertips wherever you go, but you also have the ability to set reminders. Digital calendars can notify you about an upcoming event, so you’ll never forget something important. These can be set to go off anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours before the event. You can also share your schedule with coworkers online for easier group planning.
2. Stay on Top of Your Schedule
Now that you have a calendar system set up, make sure you’re staying on top of your schedule. This means referring back to it often enough for a general idea of your day or week. Even if you set reminders, you don’t want a sudden notification to come out of nowhere seemingly. To be better prepared while you work, it’s in your best interest to make surveying your schedule part of your workday.
One good way to do this is to start your day by looking over your calendar. As soon as you settle down at your desk, open up your schedule. Poke around and see all your planned meetings, tasks, and deadlines for that day. You’ll start the day with a nice refresher of everything you need to do and get done.
A great hack to make looking through your calendar even easier is to color-code your schedule. Most online calendars have this feature, allowing you to choose from multiple colors for different tasks and events. Do this by categorizing what goes on your calendar and selecting a corresponding color for each category. For example, blue could be for meetings and red for deadlines. As they say, work smarter, not harder!
3. Schedule Smartly
Speaking of working smarter, there’s another way you can make your calendar work even more efficiently for yourself. Have you ever heard of buffer time? This is some extra cushion to add to your calendar before and after events to avoid back-to-back appointments. Utilizing this method of scheduling can save you from this stressful situation.
You can customize this buffer time to be however short or long you want — or you can manage it in your workday. Fifteen minutes is a pretty standard amount of space in between events. You’ll have time to get organized for whatever comes next. Instead of turning around and running to another meeting right after ending one, you’ll be able to breathe during your buffer time.
Google Calendar, in particular, has a feature to automatically block out buffer times for you. However, blocking this out yourself isn’t a challenging task by any means. You’ll just have to get in the habit of doing so whenever adding events to your schedule. It’s definitely worth the extra minute to save yourself the additional stress of back-to-back meetings.
4. Don’t Mix Business with Pleasure
Part of using your time wisely is knowing not to mix your work life and personal life together. And this doesn’t mean dodging friendships with coworkers but rather avoiding a cross-contaminated schedule. This happens when you schedule work-related meetings during your personal time and vice versa.
A cross-contaminated schedule is a surefire sign of an overcommitted person. This could be taking on extra work or attending meetings on your day off or after hours. Or, you might try to squeeze in a personal call or task during your workday. Either scenario isn’t the best idea for managing your time. Jumping back and forth can be a hassle, and that’s not the only issue with this scenario.
Respecting professional and personal time accordingly is part of being a responsible individual. Your boss wouldn’t appreciate you tackling personal tasks while on the clock, and your boss should respect your time away from work. It’s a two-way street — so respect each other’s time.
5. Don’t Waste Your Time
Speaking of valuing and respecting your time also includes knowing you only have 24 hours in a day. In other words, do whatever you can to prevent wasting your time. One of the most common work-related ways to waste hours is by holding unnecessary meetings. You’ve probably seen the “this could have been an email” memes online. Unfortunately, many know this situation to be all too real.
If you hold a leadership position, try your best to limit the amount of meetings you have per week. This gives everyone, even yourself, more time to work on their individual tasks. Everyone might finish assignments faster when they have fewer meetings to sit through. And most of the time, email announcements are perfectly satisfactory and understandable.
You might not be the one in charge of planning meetings. Even if that’s the case, you can still take steps to limit how many meetings you’re in. Email or a chat system like Microsoft Teams when conversing with coworkers about assignments. These are ways to instant message someone in the workplace without hopping on a call. But what do you do if your boss suggests they hold a meeting about an upcoming assignment or event? Respectfully ask for a written outline or summary, since many people retain information better with visuals rather than listening.
6. Set Boundaries and Enforce Them
So now you’ve learned effective strategies to avoid overcommitting yourself. You might find implementing these brings a nice change to your work life or that you can finish tasks more quickly. That’s great, but you won’t fully succeed without setting and enforcing boundaries.
But what are boundaries? Harvard Business Review defines these as “limits we identify for ourselves and apply through action or communication.” In relation to your work/life balance, part of this is learning to say no to taking on too much work. Respecting your precious time is necessary to eliminate overcommitment and the stress that comes with it.
Parting of setting boundaries is knowing your limit — how much work is too much for you? Don’t overload yourself, and don’t take on someone else’s work if they ask unless you want to and have the time. Establishing what tasks hold the strongest priority will also help you set boundaries. Know what assignments are most important and require absolute focus and extra time. Don’t let anyone talk you into overlooking your priorities — this shows they don’t respect your time. And giving in shows that you aren’t respecting yourself as much as you should, either.
Follow the Schedule
Now you can see just how important keeping up a thorough schedule is. Without it, you could be overcommitting yourself without even noticing at first. Practice adhering to your schedule and not adding more work than your time can afford. Respecting your calendar leads to respecting yourself — and a more manageable life.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Antoni Shkraba; Pexels; Thank you!