Day 185 (A Hundred & Eighty-Five) of 365 days

Given the pace of life today, it’s increasingly common to feel overwhelmed by a blizzard of professional obligations. To-do lists grow despairingly long; calendars fill with meetings and calls. Even those with laser focus can struggle to keep up. But some of us are more susceptible than others to getting swept up in this frenzied accumulation of tasks, struggling to set priorities or say no. By trying to do everything at once, some of us end up falling behind.

By a certain point in our careers, most of us are used to keeping lists that outline what we have on our plate for the day. But there is a difference between jotting down a few scattershot items and taking a more systematic approach to prioritizing that list. Decide which tasks will really move the needle for you, and focus on those first”. You can’t treat every message in your inbox equally! One key part of prioritizing is knowing when you work best. Break your day into segments and tackle challenging work during times when you are sharpest and most productive. If your brain is most active between six and ten in the morning, for instance, that may not be the best time to respond to non-critical emails. Save those missives for a built-in time slot dedicated to administrative tasks.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by your responsibilities, consider whether you are by nature a “pleaser,” as many high achievers are. Pleasers tend to take on more than they should — their default response is, “yes, why not?” But learning when to say “no,” and learning to do it tactfully, is critical for preserving valuable time and energy. Entrepreneurs often struggle with this, especially if they become known, they’ll start getting all kinds of offers to be on panels and take non-essential meetings. All of a sudden, their time is not their own. They have to find ways to not lose their bearings and stay focused on the activities that will propel their startup forward.

As a responsible person, I tend to take on more work to help others out. I’ll always get the job done no matter how much is on my plate, but it can sometimes leave me feeling overwhelmed. I’ve learned along the way that taking on too much responsibility is, in itself, irresponsible. Especially when you’re part of a team. Knowing this about myself, I’ve gotten better at saying “no” to tasks that really aren’t mine to take on.

“Yes, people” are lovely, on the surface. You may think that saying yes to everything will portray you as a go-getter who can do everything. However, in the long run, no one can do everything. And saying no in a professional way can show strength and self-knowledge.



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