Moving into Spring Quarter, I’m taking on a couple of new projects to an already busy schedule. I love filling my time around my schoolwork with my projects, so anytime I have the opportunity to take on something new, my gut reaction is to say yes. Too many yeses later, and I’m stressed and overwhelmed, unable to balance all those commitments. So this is my step-by-step process to deciding when to say yes.
So Much Stuff to Do, So Little Time
Over the years, I’ve found I have two settings for my attitude to new endeavors: YES and OhMyGodNo. I fluctuate between them depending on how overwhelmed I am.
By far, YES is the more fun setting. I am a naturally enthusiastic person, and this setting thrives on that enthusiasm. Filled with energy and ready to do more, I push myself to try new things and get more involved. It even translates over my school work, where I spend more time in the library and focus on perfecting the details of each essay. In this mode, my bullet journal is always in my hand and I exercise every day.
On the other hand, OhMyGodNo is awful. High on the joy from all the projects I’ve taken on, I say yes to too much and am overwhelmed. I shut down and drop every project I can. My schoolwork starts to suffer. I stop taking care of myself, so no exercise, healthy eating, or regular sleep cycle to help reset. Once I reach OhMyGodNo, it can take me a while to recover.
I don’t enjoy the emotional rollercoaster that this entails. Recognizing that I have been riding the glorious YES wave the last few months, I decided to be very careful before taking on these new projects.
Time and Energy
Unfortunately, I have yet to find that 25th hour in the day, so it is crucial to pay attention to the time that each commitment entails. This should include travel time and time spent outside of any meetings to prepare. For example, the 10-12 hour a week commitment of my internship this spring doesn’t include the two hours of commute time to get to the office.
The energy level required to take on any project is also very important to consider. If I were to start training for a marathon as soon as I’m done with my half marathon, that would require a much higher energy level than joining a new club, for instance.
The first thing I did was figure out exactly how much time each of my current commitments took up. This is where that time tracking I’ve been doing for the last three months comes in handy.
For a normal week, I took down the hours I spent on everything. I included the number of hours of down time, social time, and sleep. This is important because it gives me an estimate of the number of hours I have to fit the new project.
I also listed the energy level required for that activity. This way, if I decide to drop one commitment to make more room for this other one, I can note the amount of energy I would be expending in each situation.
I chose a week that was on the heavy side with regard to schoolwork. I find its better to plan around that assumption because every quarter will have heavy weeks so my schedule needs to work for that level of commitment.
So Does It Fit
Then, I do a breakdown of what a week with the new commitment(s) will look like. This lets me see the loss of downtime.
It is important to note how the week I chose made me feel. I wasn’t overwhelmed, but still felt the stress from the demands of my schoolwork. I’ve found this is a goldilocks state for me because it leaves some wiggle room for unpredictable stressors, but I still have the enthusiasm of the YES state.
The week with the new commitments was more than a few hours over that week, so I knew some sacrifices had to be made. I decided I would take one less class and cut back my tutoring hours to make it work so that I maintained about the same amount of fun hours to keep me sane. I added a few more hours of schoolwork/internship time in an effort to plan for the worst.
This leaves a bit of space for me to expand my exercise schedule should I decide to run that marathon. I can wake up earlier to fit longer morning runs and I left space on my Saturday morning to recovery.
If this schedule doesn’t work for me, and I find myself overwhelmed, I may find myself in that OhMyGodNo state once again and I will adjust the schedule accordingly.
If you have a different strategy for figuring out if you can handle a new project, or you give mine a try, I’d love to hear about it!