Ever since I started working, planning and organizing has been a major part of my life. I always find it important to plan ahead and to be well-organized. When I began working for myself three years ago, this has become even more essential to keeping my sanity. I’ve seen many people around me burn out, be late for things and complain that they can’t get their work done so they work overtime, often without getting paid for it. That’s partially your own fault, is what I tell them.
Why you have to say no
Sure, I’ve had times where I was overworked. I had too much on my plate and tasks were coming in faster than I was able to finish. And I am a relatively fast worker. When I took a step back, I realized that I was the problem, not the people that kept asking me to do things. I was the one who said “yes, sure,” whenever they asked me to do something. Even though I knew I didn’t have time, I would make sure to fit it in somewhere, or to move my schedule around. I didn’t want to say no because I thought I would make people upset or I would seem like I didn’t want to help. Well. Let me tell you, that that is never the case. We underestimate how little insight other people have in our agendas. You know very well the pressure and what your schedule looks like. Other people do not. So if you keep saying “yes” to things, they will keep coming back to you. Not because they want to take advantage of you, but often because they know you will do a good job and they believe that you have time to do them, as long as you keep saying yes.
The first time I said “no”, I said it with hesitation and I think I gave a million explanations and apologies. The more I started to say no, the easier it became. I started staying on top of my calendar and if someone asked me for help, I would look at my calendar and see if I could fit it in. If not, I would look at when the next available free space was and I would say “I can get started on it in 2 weeks.” If it wasn’t fast enough for them, I’d tell them no. But usually it was OK.
When it comes to keeping a calendar, time buffers are one of the most important things in my work and personal life. I used to estimate how long it would take me to work on a task and that’s the time I would plan for it. But as we all know, it usually always takes longer than you think, because problems come up. Little alterations need to be done, unforeseen circumstances will happen. Now, I always plan my tasks with a good buffer. If I think it’ll take me 10 minutes, I plan 30 minutes for it. If I think it’ll take me 2 hours, I plan 2,5 or even 3 hours for it. It is better to plan too much time than too little. You will end up rushing to get it finished and in the process make mistakes. Not only that, you will become stressed and lose joy in your work. I promise you, you rather have time left to work on other things than not have enough time to finish a job.
This also goes for my personal life. I never understand people that are always late. If Google Maps tells you it will take 30 minutes, it never takes you 30 minutes. It doesn’t take into account traffic lights, other cars, traffic jams or any other hiccups. It is better to have some time to spare than to sit in traffic stressing over whether or not you will be on time. Trust and believe.
Plan some extra time for personal appointments, commute, cleaning, your morning routine or your hobbies. It will force you to slow down and enjoy life more!