Stop Over-Scheduling! How to Take Back Your Time

TimeBusy lives lead to full schedules, and while this can be satisfying, there’s a very thin line between being booked and overbooked. Unfortunately, the cost of being over-scheduled is not so minor.

If you find yourself jumping from one appointment or task to the next, and continuously falling short in meeting all of your responsibilities, you may be in the danger zone. Some of the consequences you may experience include:

  • Missed deadlines
  • Damaged client relationships
  • Lost work
  • Burnout
  • Lack of balance
  • Feelings of frustration
  • Injured reputation
  • Misplaced priorities
  • Increased stress
  • Inability to get caught up

If you’ve ever experienced the lack of control that comes with being over-scheduled, you know how difficult it can be to manage and get yourself out of the cycle. But it is possible to take back your schedule. Here’s how.

Pad Your Calendar

If you have a lot of appointments or tend to schedule individual tasks each day, one cause of your overfull schedule may be as simple as not allowing enough time for each meeting or task. Start giving yourself extra time to account for meetings that run over and tasks that take longer than expected. This way, you have some flexibility and can avoid running late for everything else you have planned that day. Plus, you may find that you end up with some extra time between meetings to take a breath and regroup – something we all need to do during the day.

Prioritize Everything

If I’m not giving it conscious thought, I tend to treat everything that comes across my path as a priority. So, it takes some effort on my part to realistically prioritize and plan my time. Without this prioritization step, you will most likely hit over-scheduled status quickly. Assigning a priority to work items is vital, but you should do the same for all personal tasks and other responsibilities you have to make sure you’re focusing on the most important things in your life in a balanced way.

Start to Outsource

If you simply have more work than you can handle, it may be time to outsource. Although it can take time to build a team of qualified and trusted subcontractors, and to train yourself to delegate, once you are able to do this successfully, you will not only have more time but you may also find that you can grow your business beyond what you anticipated.

Say No

If all else fails and you’re still overbooked and overstressed, consider turning away non-ideal work or personal requests. Sometimes, something has to give. It’s hard to say no, especially to incoming work, but if it’s not supporting your business goals and overall sanity, passing now may be better for you in the long run.

How do you handle being over-scheduled? Have you ever had to scale back?

Image credit: Nick Colomb

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  • http://2fishweb.com clnewbill

    Well, I am there, at 8 out of 10 consequences. So how does one find that trusted subcontractor? Any advice or ideas?

  • Pam – Ryvon Designs

    With Christmas and the holiday season coming, great timing on the tips!! I learned a while ago to pad my calendar, and I’m working on prioritizing! ^_^ Almost have figured out the best way to say “no”, except when someone just won’t take that for an answer.

    I love reading the site-point blog posts, there are always some gems and great pointers.

    Pam – Ryvon Designs

  • madr

    I’ve used GTD for about two months now, it really helps.

  • http://danielmclaren.net danielgm

    Great article! I’m coming out of a storm of work and stress and the list of consequences really hit home. With any luck, your suggestions will prevent me from getting into a similar mess in the future.

    clnewbill, attending local industry-related events can be a big help. The smaller the event niche, the better. I met a designer I worked with at a web design meetup and a Flash/Flex developer I work with at a Flash platform meetup.

    I found out about both groups/events through meetup.com

  • http://www.avertua.com Alyssa Gregory

    @clnewbill Colleagues who you know through professional organizations, social media sites, forums and other places of collaboration can be great possibilities for outsourcing. It really takes time (and usually some trial and error) to build the trust, it can be easier to do with like-minded colleagues who you know as acquaintances, instead of complete strangers.

  • Vantrix

    My recipe for avoiding over scheduling is:

    1. Try to keep things simple.Plan your work well before starting and go about finishing it accordingly.

    2. Always cater for extra time for finishing a task/project to take care of any eventuality. This way you would be able to deliver completed and tested work well before the deadline most of the times!

    3. Bite only that much which you can chew! Avoid hoarding work.

    4. Know a bunch of highly dependable people in the field you specialize whom you can reach out to in times of crisis.

    5. Believe in saying NO. It really helps!

    Anita CM
    http://www.vantrix.net

  • Ketira

    Bookmarked! I’ll probably need to refer back to this as I can see how it relates to Life as well as work! Thanks for the great article!

  • http://www.seowebconsultant.com spinball

    Outsource, outsource, outsource. This has saved my butt more than a few times. Get a few good people to work with that have the same style and understand your method of development.

  • just…b

    Do not forget to just take some time to completely disconnect. No phones, computer etc. Turn off and tune out for a while. Your eyes, back, body and brain will thank you! And you can return to a project refreshed and re-energized.