Do you know that sinking feeling in your gut when you realize you’ve taken on too much?
Maybe you said “yes” to something new, like coaching your son’s hockey team. Or perhaps you’ve agreed to take on another project at work when you already had enough to keep you busy for three months.
Has this happened to you?
If you are nodding your head, I am going to let you in on a big secret. Many advisors think they have a productivity problem — when in fact they have an overcommitment problem. They’ve made so many promises to themselves, their colleagues, their clients, and their families, that there aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done.
How do you fix overcommitment? By creating an “early warning system” to keep you from saying “yes” to opportunities you don’t have time or energy for.
Your first task is to create a comprehensive list of all your commitments. Include every single project — personal and professional, large and small, urgent and non-critical.
What qualifies as a “project”? My non-scientific test is straightforward: anything that has a well-defined end state and that requires more than one action step is classified as a project.
For example, updating the website for your firm is a project. The end-state is a website that has an accurate description of your offering and ideal clients, along with fresh headshots and bios for your entire team. Getting there requires multiple steps, such as vetting and hiring a website designer, writing website copy and getting it approved by compliance, booking a local photographer to come to the office and take everyone’s picture, etc.
Start with a blank piece of paper or a new Google Doc. Consider all areas of your life and all priorities that matter to you. Then, ask yourself these three questions.
Here are some examples. You might have promised your spouse to fix that hole in the fence. Or maybe you want to pay down your credit card debt. Or perhaps your partner is counting on you to pull together a new PowerPoint presentation for a client workshop. Each of these could be a multi-step project, and each one should be captured on your master list.
Making a complete list of all your commitments takes some time, but it isn’t hard. In fact, you might even feel better after you get it done — there’s immense value in downloading all that information that’s rattling around in your brain!
However, in order to get the most out of your project list, you must follow three important rules.
One, don’t overthink the order of projects. Sure, you might list them by size, value, or urgency. But what matters most is that you have a complete master list to refer to.
Two, keep it all in one document. Personal projects in a paper notepad and work projects in a Google Doc won’t do. It’s also not a good idea to cut out the projects you are responsible for — but have handed off to other people that you supervise. You must have one consistent place to capture everything — or else you will lose track of projects.
Finally, you must look at this list regularly and keep it updated. What does “regularly” mean? My usual advice is once per week. As long as you do a thoughtful review, the weekly frequency is enough to keep most people from overcommitting.
For one, better productivity. Having all your projects front and center will allow you to evaluate the status and ensure progress on a regular basis. There’s nothing like bumping into the same “Fix the hold in the fence” line for 5 weeks in a row to make you pick up the phone and call a contractor!
You can also expect greater clarity about what you are working on. With that clarity, you will make well-informed decisions about what to do and what not to do. And yes, you will be empowered to turn down the opportunities you have no space for (or trim down your current list to make room for them).
So, how many projects are on your list right now? Share in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!