How I Saved My Sanity and Boosted My Business by Doing Less (and How You Can Too)
Have you ever felt totally overwhelmed? Not just regular busy… I’m talking completely slammed, under the gun, over-committed, and wiped out?
You’ve been there before, haven’t you? As you mentally assess all the things you have to accomplish in the next several days, you begin to realize there’s no way you’re going to get it all done.
Then that horrible stunned feeling washes over you. You know the one. You feel hot and flushed, there’s a knot in your stomach, and you notice a growing pressure in your head.
In your mind, you can picture the faces of the people who are depending on you to finish all those things that you have no earthly chance of finishing. You imagine what they’ll think of you if you don’t come through.
Every time you dig out, you get inundated again. It never ends.
Your weeks, your months, your years… and your life fly by you like a fast-paced, tense, pressure-filled blur.
How did you get this way?
What did you do to deserve this horrible situation?
Will it ever get better?
You feel exhausted, desperate, and defeated.
What If It's All Your Fault?
You start to feel like maybe it’s a personal deficit. You’re not able to keep up. Maybe you’re not tough enough or smart enough or (fill in the blank) enough.
After all, we live in a fast-paced, busy world and you either adapt or die, right?
The hustle and bustle is unavoidable.
We’re so connected these days, you have to be constantly engaged in something just to keep up. To get ahead you have to take on more than the next guy - and be busier. If you’re not a multitasker, you’re falling behind.
Finishing a task at the last second is commonplace - and that’s how you do all your best work anyway, right?
So if all that’s true, there’s no end to that horrible, stress-filled grind. The whole thing is out of your control, so you’d better just buckle up and prepare for the bumpy ride.
But here’s the thing. That’s all wrong. It’s just not true.
You don’t have to live that way - and it’s not out of your control.
Why The "Busy Myth" Is so Dangerous
The real problem is that you have somehow managed to convince yourself that being busy and moving fast is a valuable thing.
Although it’s a widely accepted belief across the globe, Americans (like yours truly) are especially guilty of believing that working at breakneck speed, keeping grueling work hours, not taking breaks or vacations, working on huge volumes of projects at a time, and losing sleep over work is somehow related to quality, productivity, and success.
Busy = Good is a myth.
It’s not just an opinion. It’s not a matter of preference. It’s a fact.Let’s look closely at a couple specific Busy = Good related myths.
The Myth of the 11th Hour - Pressure is Not Your Friend
I know you’ve heard someone at some point say, “I do my best work when I’m scrambling to meet a deadline.”
Absolutely, positively incorrect. If you believe that, you’ve brainwashed yourself into believing it.
The real truth can be found in this Harvard Business School study by creativity researcher Teresa Amabile. She followed 177 employees in 22 different project teams for up to six months. What she found might just blow you away.
Sorry to be the one to burst the bubble for you, but Amabile’s study showed that not only are people less creative under intense time pressure, but people believe that they are more creative during those times.
Did you catch that? Under intense time pressure, you incorrectly think you’re more creative (productive). But not only is that wrong, but the study revealed that creativity dropped for three straight days after the day of intense time pressure.
How about this…
The Myth of the Multitasker - Worse Than Smoking Dope?
You may also feel like multitasking is something that we all need to accept and embrace in today’s day and age. That seems to be the message: That multitasking is what smart, productive, successful people do, right?
Not so much. In reality, multitasking wastes time.
See, people technically don’t multitask… we just jump from task to task quickly and often. And as we switch gears, the “ramp up-time” actually costs us productivity.
If you’re a pro-multitasking kind of guy or gal, the news just gets worse from here.
Multi-tasking doesn’t just waste time. It also negatively impacts your memory and can even make you come off as… well… stupid.
Yeah. I typed it.
As it turns out, multitasking can drop your IQ down further than getting stoned. Yep. Stoned. High. Partaking of herbal recreation.
Before anyone gets the wrong idea… I’m not saying marijuana makes you smarter.(I’m pretty sure there are some conclusive studies about that, too)
It’s just that multitasking is worse.
It sounds far-fetched, but the findings in the study by the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London prove it. 1,100 British workers were studied and the findings showed that multitasking (specifically with electronic media in this study) caused a greater decrease in IQ than blazin’ a fatty or losing a night's sleep.
Read about it in this Chicago Tribune article.
We don’t even have to get into the effects of stress, anxiety, and fatigue on your health, do we? You and I know it’s downright devastating to the health of your body and mind.
So what’s the point of all this?
The point is that between doing poorer quality work, wasting time, and becoming dumber than if we were to smoke dope, there are some really compelling reasons NOT to burn the candle at both ends, work too hard, or take on too much.
Think about it. How might it affect your clients when you try to fit too much in and jam-pack every minute of your day? What’s the impact on your work when you’re slammed and dead, zombie tired?
Over time, if you continue down that road, do you think your clients are more likely to remain satisfied? Or might they become disillusioned by the slowly eroding quality of your work?
Time for a confession…
How I Saved My Sanity and My Business by Slowing Down
There’s a widely held belief among authorities and aspiring authorities in the blogosphere that says if you want to be seen as an authority, you need to be come off as all-knowing, always persevering, and always right.And even when online authorities do “show their scars” - it’s done in a milk-toast, whitewashed kind of way. Like some people do in job interviews where they repackage a strength and try to sell it as a weakness.
“So, Bob… what’s your biggest weakness?”
“My biggest weaknesses are that I’m far too loyal to my employer, I care too much, and I work too hard.”
If that tripe doesn't gag you, nothing will.
Anyway, I can’t bring myself to do that to you. I feel compelled to share the unvarnished truth about one of my weaknesses with you. And although it may sound like a re-packaged strength, it is not. I assure you. It's a bad thing I'm working really hard to correct.
I recently learned that I take on too much and have a tendency to agree to projects that I shouldn't. You need to weigh out the advantages of a project vs. the investment (of time, money, effort, etc.) you have to put into them.
What I have to be very cautious of is agreeing to projects that don't weigh out properly, but I feel compelled to "help" with because I'm so fond of the people or companies asking me to do those projects. You've probably done the same thing at one time or another. Let me give you more insight in to what I mean...
You may or may not know this about me, but I’m also a professional copywriter. I write sales pages, sales letters, eBooks, video scripts, email swipe, and all other kinds of online copy for many different clients.
There are two clients in particular who come to me again and again with copywriting work. They’re both big names online that you’d recognize, and they’re both really great people who I not only respect, but personally like.
To make a long story short, in a very brief period of time, I agreed to two assignments from one, three assignments from the other, and yet another assignment for a referral from one of them.
The referral was difficult and uncomfortable to deal with from the get-go. None of the other five projects were anything particularly daunting, but when I looked at them all together as a whole, I saw this huge, insurmountable obstacle.
All I could see was a tangle of projects and deadlines that I couldn't possibly have sorted out given my other business commitments.
Eventually, after some panic and a great session with an excellent business coach, I saw my error. I separated from the difficult referral, hired some help for my copywriting business, and lightened my work load significantly while retaining both of my favorite clients and keeping my copywriting practice in tact.
In the end, it all turned out well for me, but it could have gone very differently if I had stayed over-committed and not communicated quickly and honestly with everyone. The quality of my work could have been greatly affected - possibly resulting in lost clients and an unhealthy business.
Is It Time for You to Slow Your Roll?
When you stop pushing so hard and decide to slow down, some interesting things happen.
Your mood becomes lighter and more positive
You have more mental clarity and vision
You make better decisions
The quality and crispness of your work remains high
You’ll have more time for other things and other people
All of that adds up you a happier (and healthier) you, happy clients, and a sane time management strategy that can help you continue to grow your business without doing yourself in.
If you’re anything like me, this slow thing is all well and good, but you might be skeptical that it’s just an excuse to work less and be… you know…. lazy. Could I just be encouraging people who are already prone to taking life waaaaay too slow to go even slower? I suppose that’s possible. But first, I know my readers and they’re not bunch of slackers. Secondly, it’s pretty easy to tell if you’re someone who needs to slow down. Honestly answer the following questions…
Do you feel intense anxiety when you think about your work/tasks?
Do you feel like there’s no end in sight to the work you have to do?
Do your goals and deadlines feel out of reach?
Are you losing focus on one task because you’re worried about other tasks?
Are you regularly missing time with friends or family because of your work load?
Do you find yourself dreading the work you used to love?
Are you physically and mentally exhausted?
Are you losing sleep over your work?
Did you answer “yes” to more than a couple of those? If so, you might want to take some time to reflect on what you’re doing and why. It may be time to slow your roll before something bad happens. Consider the following…
Take time to look at and, if necessary, reassess your goals.
Make a list of high-leverage activities that actually move you and your business forward - and devote most of your time to those.
Find ways to remove stress-inducing tasks and activities from your life as much as possible.
Bring in some help to complete some of the more basic tasks - or the tasks that stress you out.
Remember that NO ONE gets your best effort when you’re overwhelmed and over-extended.
You deserve happiness and success out of your life. Your family and friends deserve the best ‘you’ that you can give them. The world deserves… no, needs your best work.
Maybe it’s time you slow down and give it to them.
What do you think?
Do you have a tendency to go too fast and take on too much?What’s that feel like for you?What do you do to fix it?