Recently, I’ve had some interesting conversations with clients, colleagues, and friends about how busy life is. In fact, I doubt you’ll make it through this blog post without some kind of interruption! Excessive busyness has become a regular part of our lives. Some of us are expert task-jugglers (or at least it looks that way). Others of us struggle with the juggling act.
As we start a new year, it’s a great time to ask yourself if your juggling act is preventing you from achieving your goals. If the answer is yes, then I’d like to issue you a challenge: fire yourself. That might sound a little scary. Maybe even completely crazy. But the bottom line is that if you have too much on your plate, you will never be successful.
I’m not saying that you need to quit your job or give up on your career. And I’m definitely not saying that you should sacrifice your personal relationships to be successful at work. I am saying that you can’t do it all. And no matter how energetic or strong willed you are, at some point, you have to focus on the things that make a difference. If you feel overwhelmed, can’t find enough time in the day, don’t get enough sleep, and watch your weekdays run into weekends over and over again, know that there is hope…but you might need to fire yourself. Here’s how to do it.
No matter how energetic or strong willed you are, at some point, you have to focus on the things that make a difference.
How to fire yourself
1. Set clear goals. Start with five goals. Once you clarify your top priorities, you’ll quickly identify areas where you need to fire yourself. Understanding your objectives, and limiting how many you have, will provide you with the best opportunity to be successful. You still have to be smart and work hard, but eliminating the things that are getting in your way will help you become much more effective, almost overnight.
2. Know when to say “no”. You might be pretty good at setting five goals. But how often do you say no? An extra project at work. Another home improvement. A social outing. You probably have the best intentions when you say yes. “If I give extra support to my team or my manager, that will help me get ahead at work.” “If I say yes to another project at home, then I’ll be able to get more done and finally relax with my family.”
The fact is that you can’t make everyone happy, all of the time. Pretty soon, your list of goals has doubled from five to ten and you’re on track to achieve maybe one or two of them. Firing yourself will only work if you learn to say no. Otherwise, you’ll end up right back where you started—overwhelmed and underachieving.
3. Ask for help. Have you ever been assigned a project (even one related to your top five goals) and felt that empty feeling in your stomach because you knew it would be a ton of work and you might not have the resources you need? When that happens, ask for help. Help comes in many forms: reprioritizing your work load, getting some extra budget to hire outside help, or taking something off your list. Whatever form it takes, it’s okay to speak up and make sure that your manager or your partner in life knows that you need help. It isn’t about being strong or weak, rather, it’s about being honest and being able to deliver on your promises.
As you think about your life, professionally and personally, I encourage you to take a realistic look under your own hood. Are your priorities clear? Do you know how to say no and ask for help? Can you have an honest discussion with your manager at work and your partner at home? If you can, that is fantastic. If you can’t, or if you feel like you’re running out of energy and focus, then it might be time to fire yourself from the things that are getting in the way. I think you’ll quickly find that you’re more effective in every aspect of life. And throughout the year, make sure to give yourself permission to do some things just for you.