Many of us may have come to the end of 2022 feeling stretched too thin and burnt-out. Perhaps we feel too much is put upon us. The fourth quarter can be especially problematic with the holidays, year-end planning, and client work. For me, this time of year is filled with all things I love: rewarding client work, lots of celebrations with family and friends (birthdays in addition to the holidays), decorating the house (yes, I LOVE this), and volunteering with organizations that need the help. Though it all brings me joy, there is a tipping point where exhaustion comes in and the joy turns to crankiness.
During this goal setting time of year, we need to be mindful that we don't over-commit. As we start a new year, let’s take a fresh perspective, evaluate our boundaries and realize that OUR commitments ARE within our control.
A technique the ConvergenceCoaching team uses regularly to evaluate our commitments is Keep, Stop, Start (KSS). We use KSS to identify activities we should keep doing, stop doing, and what we should start doing to assess our “pile” of promises and realign our priorities. We have to remind ourselves, and others, that we can’t keep adding to the “start” column without stopping or giving away items, too. Based on how you were feeling at the end of 2022, maybe you need to identify more stops than starts.
Yes, this is easier said than done. There can be a tug of war between all the things we want to do and those we need to do. Instead of taking a hard look at these two lists, we add more starts and over-commit ourselves. In this blog, I’ll share some other strategies I’m employing to avoid over-committing.
Be grateful. When we are overwhelmed, we can begrudge all the stuff in our lives. Too many clients, too much demand for our services, kids that need help with homework and shuttled to practice and music lessons, keeping the house organized, and exercising or taking care of ourselves. But how wonderful that we have all these opportunities! If we take a moment to step back, we quickly realize these things we resent can be shifted to things we are grateful for:
- clients that want our services
- increased opportunities to sell and add value to our clients
- healthy and active kids who are learning and growing
- the ability to move and exercise as much as each can.
The shift in perspective affects our inner dialogue and how we approach these activities.
Prioritize. Make a list of personal and professional commitments you have. Some on the list are must dos and others are nice to haves. We have to manage the work or home life priorities (which each can take a dominate position at different times of the year). Then use the KSS technique to identify which items on these lists you should keep doing, stop doing, and start doing.
After going through the KSS exercise, look at the list to see if you are able delegate or outsource your stops, or if they are things you need to say NO to. Look at your Keeps and Starts again and see if you can realistically stick to those commitments, while leaving room for unforeseen additions. We must leave capacity for additions that we have not anticipated (good or bad). If you still feel maxed out with the current list, go back to your KSS and look for more Stops or at least defer some Starts for the time being.
Delegate. Once you’ve done this, get other people to own those commitments that were previously ours.
- We need to make ourselves replaceable which might take time to transition the knowledge and responsibility.
- Empower people to stretch themselves. Are we thinking talent, or family members, just aren't ready for the responsibility. We have some in our lives who are waiting to be trusted and asked to step up. They could use that vote of confidence when we ask THEM to take the lead. As an example, I have seen my son's posture straighten when asked to take on an "adult" responsibility; his confidence grows in that moment.
- Perhaps it is time to outsource responsibilities, professionally and personally. Outsourcing, offshoring, and fractional staffing services are growing quickly in the accounting profession. Is it time to employ those resources to take the load off so we can do the work we are really skilled at doing and we love? And at home, is it time to get help? Yes, we can mow our own lawn or clean our own house, but to make room for some of the commitments we want to take on, it may be time to hire some outside support.
Accept help without guilt. Getting help does not mean you are weak. It does not mean you are incompetent or poor at time management. If you are genuinely over-committed, asking for help only makes you more capable to fulfill your responsibilities. If you are stressed and just getting by, then rarely is anything you are getting done at the level you desire.
Let go of perfectionism. Perfect doesn’t exist. For some of us, over-commitment comes from this desire to be perfect. To be the go-to person at work for everything, while also having a perfectly clean house and being the perfect parent, child, sibling… No one expects perfection, and the feeling that we should be burns us out. Strive to do good work and be present in that moment. Always thinking about the next thing on the never-ending list does not give us a sense of fulfillment and replenishment. Instead, find ways to make the work you do meaningful to you and do what you love. Finding the joy instead of the perfection in our work will create more engagement and resilience.
Let’s commit to not over-commit this year. We need to find the right balance for each of us, between professional and personal commitments so we don’t feel overwhelmed and stressed out.
Cheers to a healthy new year!