My husband and I were talking about this over the weekend. I told him my fuse is a bit shorter than it normally is (okay, it's a LOT shorter than it normally is), and I thought I was getting burned out. I did some research on the subject, and yep -- the self-diagnosis is that I'm a bit crispy around the edges... Read on and see if you're getting brown around the edges too!
How Do You Know If You're Spreading Yourself Too Thin?
Sometimes the signs that you're doing too much are subtle. Other times there's absolutely no doubt in your mind that you have too much on your plate. Here are a few signs that you're spreading yourself too thin:
* Insomnia -- you go to bed and cannot get tomorrow's agenda off of your mind. (This is one of my biggest challenges. I've learned to keep a post-it note pad and pen by the bed. If I can write it down at least, I don't worry that I'll forget to do it in the morning.)
* Fear and doubt -- fears and doubts start sneaking in. You doubt your skills, direction, and purpose. Francesca Battistelli's song, "Free To Be Me" speaks to me: "Sometimes I believe that I can do anything; yet other times I think I've got nothing good to bring..."
* Moody -- you feel tired, irritable, and frustrated. You may find yourself snapping at your spouse, children, or family members and then -- of course -- feeling guilty about it. Sometimes a nap helps, but other times it doesn't.
* Exhausted -- everyone gets exhausted from time to time. However, the exhaustion that comes from overwhelm doesn't go away. I know I've gotten to this point when I *know* I need to start a project and I just can't even think about it. And then the guilt sets in ... because there's always a deadline ... and it just spirals around and around.
* Family members -- when your family members start acting out or complaining that they don't see enough of you, then you know you've tipped the scales of balance in the wrong direction. (I don't have this issue as much...as a resume writer, there are peaks and valleys, even in a single day. I might have a ton to do one day, and then a pretty quiet day the next day.)
* Negative thoughts -- when you start thinking, "I'm doing too much," "I'll never get this done", or "I'm not going to make it" then you're likely spreading yourself too thin.
What Can You Do about It?
Spreading yourself too thin isn't all doom and gloom. It is a very useful sign that things need to change for you. And sitting down and assessing what isn't working is a great way to improve and grow both professionally and personally. Truth be told, spreading yourself a bit thin can also be invigorating and fun -- it's certainly better than being bored. I find I like being busy a lot of the time. If I don't have a lot on my calendar on a particular day, that I waste a lot of time and don't get much accomplished. (What's the saying? "Want something done? Give it to a busy person." That's me, for sure.)
However, to be productive and to get where you want your business to be, it's important to regularly assess if your energy is being put into the most productive tasks. For example, if you spend two hours answering email every day, those aren't productive hours. You ideally want to spend your time on high priority tasks -- tasks that make you money. For most resume writers, that's talking to prospective clients and actually writing documents.
Tools to Overcome Being Overwhelmed
When you feel overwhelmed or that you're spreading yourself too thin, there are some very effective solutions.
#1 Create a schedule -- Schedule your day. Put your high priority tasks first. Schedule time with your family and friends. And schedule downtime for yourself. If you cannot take care of yourself, then you can't take care of everyone else.
(This brings me to another good point -- you're probably the caretaker of someone else in your life ... a spouse, child(ren), maybe a parent or other family member. I don't have any kids, but I do have two family members that I help take care of, and I find my "work" fuse is especially short when I'm stressed out about issues related to their care. You have to learn to separate the parts of your life from each other, and not let work-related stress spill over into your family life, and not let family stress spill into your work life.)
#2 Create a business plan -- If you don't have a business plan, create one. If you do have one, then use it. Set aside time each week, or month, and review where you are and where you want to be. Use your plan to help you stay on track. One of my big goals this year is to use a membership site to create passive income, so I'm not trapped in a "dollars for hours" system. My membership site (BeAResumeWriter.com) is to help careers industry professionals be more effective in their work -- but I am working on a training program for resume writers to create a membership site for their clients.
#3 Outsource -- You don't have to do it all yourself, and to be honest you probably shouldn't. Outsource those tasks that you dislike, that take you tons of valuable time or that don't make it to your top priority list. These tasks can include house cleaning, writing, social networking -- you decide what gets taken off of your "to do" list. It doesn't have to involve hiring a virtual assistant. My 12-year-old niece/goddaughter is earning money for a school trip to New York in the spring, and I hire her for a few hours each month to handle shredding and data entry. (And I'm thinking of hiring her to help with taking out the trash each week -- especially after last night's spider-on-my-back episode!!)
Finally, be confident in your decisions and feel free to use the word "No" whenever you need to. Don't be afraid to turn down opportunities, requests, and other things that take up time (time that you don't want to spend). This is your life. You're the boss of it and your business -- take back your time and regain control!