I was reading a list of goals from a client and nearly laughed out loud. I work with a lot of overachievers, but I thought this was perhaps the most ridiculously overambitious list yet.
But I didn’t want to say that directly. I wanted him to figure that out for himself. So I told him to add up how many hours he thought each task would take to accomplish and report back to me.
He estimated it would take him approximately 15 hours a day over the next 90 days to accomplish the goals he’d described. And he was completely unfazed at the prospect. In fact, it would be difficult to describe his emotional state as anything other than eager.
This was an interesting response considering that when I asked him to choose one word to describe his 2015, he replied, “Overwhelmed.”
This is a man who loves his work. He also happens to be exceptionally good at it. When I asked him what he would do with more free time if he had it, he had a hard time coming up with a response. The idea of relaxing on a beach or getting lost in a book wasn’t unappealing, but those activities had a hard time competing with his passion-based business.
That interaction got me to thinking. Is there a meaningful difference between overwhelmed and busy? And is it possible that the trick to stop feeling overwhelmed had nothing to do with how busy you are? (more…)
On the one hand, they stress me out. I worry I won’t be able to finish in time, that the quality won’t be up to my standards, that people will be disappointed in me.
On the other hand, those exact fears are what drive performance. Disappoint people who matter to me? Shoddy work?
Not this overachiever.
Before I left London, I made myself a schedule and a commitment. I would get up at 6 AM every morning and write for about 2 to 3 hours. After that, I could do whatever I wanted. But the writing came first.
I made the necessary arrangements. My daughter would spend two weeks with her Grandparents while my husband turned over our flat in London. Then I committed to my Luminaries Club members that I’d report on how many words I’d written by our next call–just two weeks after the big move. (more…)
Editor’s Note: Last year, I gave a free webinar on core values for my subscribers. One person who took me up on that offer was Wallace Montgomery.
Brave enough to allow the group to give a critique, I gave him some free coaching afterwards to refine the values he came up with. To my surprise, on his third draft, he listed Overachieving as one of his core values. I asked him to share his thinking behind this decision, and how he came to see overachieving as such a valuable part of his personality. I thought his answer was particularly insightful and I share it with you below.
For an overachiever, there are few better environments than grade school.
While I don’t miss sitting in a classroom all day, I do yearn for a time when concrete goals were laid in front of me – and the surest way to accomplish them was hard work. It was an all-you-can eat buffet, and studying to get straight A’s was just the first helping. You were encouraged to load your plate with after-school activities. And the more you could consume, the more impressed everyone appeared to be.
Needless to say, the post-college world shocked me.
Among the countless lessons learned over the years: hard work in and of itself doesn’t guarantee anything. To truly get better at something worthwhile, you generally have to fail at it again and again (after a lifetime of living in fear of the F!). And being an overachiever can be a serious liability – mostly because it’s a hard thing to shut off.
All my life I’d sprinted, unrelentingly, mercilessly, towards a goal. I would achieve it and keep going, barely slowing down, on to the next. That worked just fine in school, even in some jobs, but not so well in longer-term pursuits like changing careers.
My career change has been a long, exciting, frightening, unpredictable journey.
And as an overachiever, it’s been, at times, crushing. At the end of each day, what have I done? Some thinking? Self-reflection? Research? That’s not enough!
I started riding myself hard. I wanted results, and I knew they weren’t coming any time soon. The criticism became so frequent and harsh it endangered my ability to achieve anything. (more…)
Towards the end of my previous career I became a master at work-life balance.
Having a baby made it easier. I told my boss I had to pick my daughter up from daycare at 5:30 PM everyday because they charge you extra by the minute after that. So he let me go.
But even before my daughter was born, I stopped taking work home. I might check email once or twice, but other than that I spent time with my husband, read books, and wrote poems.
Did I get behind on work? Sure I did.
That’s how I came to the startling realization that most deadlines are arbitrary–a truth I doubt is unique to government work.
If you don’t turn something in by the deadline, half the time no one ever asks you for it. I started making a habit of forcing people ask for things twice, unless it was obviously important or interesting, just to be sure it was work that needed to be done.
A couple of weeks ago, I got caught telling a whopper set of lies.
I was waiting for my daughter to get out of school, when another mum asked, “How are you doing?”
“Good,” I said breathlessly, “but crazy busy!”
(Lie #1: I certainly was busy, but I was not well at all. My back pain had returned in spades and the stress was so bad I’d started getting recurrent cold sores in my mouth.)
“I’ve got a launch coming up, I created a new product, and I’m wrapping up the book chapter I’ve been writing on contract. And of course the hubby’s been out of town a lot, so doing most of the child care. But,” I sighed, “I just have to get through April and things will slow down.”
My friend cocked her head and asked, “Haven’t you been saying that since October?”
Lie #2, that I thought everything would “slow down next month,” was the worst of all, because at least part of me believed it. Indeed, I’d been engaged in a vocational sprint for more than six months, where the finish line always remained just a few steps ahead of me.
In my last update on my no goals experiment, I shared 3 strategies for de-cluttering your commitments. I’m here to say I tried juggling and failed. It was a good experiment, but at least for me, I couldn’t make it work.
I decided the only real solution was to remove all work commitments and start completely over.
For many of my clients, the thought of starting over is one of their biggest fears. There were certainly days I just wanted to curl up and hide in my room. I was so stressed about the how: how to break ties without burning bridges, how to throttle back without losing momentum, and how to focus on the work I love without burning out.
In this post, I’ll show you how I’m addressing all three of those concerns and how you might do the same. (more…)
There were a number of warning signs that led me to re-evaluate the goals in my life:
I was anxious, even when (or especially when) things were going well
No matter how much success I enjoyed, I still didn’t feel I’d done enough
I felt so overwhelmed at times it was like I was suffocating
Two months into the experiment, I can say that when I’m successful at letting go of my goals, my stress goes way down. For example, previously I might have set a goal of working out 3 times a week–a goal I’d rarely live up and when I didn’t, resulted in a lot of internal scolding.
Now, I have an “area of focus” on fitness. That means I work out when I want to and I make sure it’s fun (no more forcing myself to do “what’s good for me”). I experimented with different kinds of exercise and ultimately found a Pilates class in my neighborhood that I love. I go once or twice a week, plus walking with a group of friends once a week.
So at least in that area of my life, giving up goals leaves me feeling great and reduces stress. If I don’t work out for a week due to projects, that’s ok. My fitness now flexes more seamlessly with my priorities because there’s no pass/fail criteria.
However, there was one big challenge I underestimated in going goal free: dealing with your previous work commitments.
I’ve found that, much like physical clutter, your previous aspirations and commitments carry a lot of emotional baggage that make them tough to get rid of. In this short video, I talk about three strategies for cleaning out your mental closet (without losing your mind).
What do you think? What’s the best way to de-clutter your commitments?
Editor’s note: I’m experimenting with adding more video on Everyday Bright and would love your feedback. Like these videos? Prefer just text? Think I need to hire a videographer to make these worthwhile? Let me know!