This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com
Stress is an expected component of every entrepreneur’s experience, but being overwhelmed and over-committed should not be a normal part of your professional life. When you’re overwhelmed or over-committed it’s important to ask yourself why and how this happened.
Some people — the Controller + Manager brain types — will rarely experience overwhelm or over-commitment, because they protect their time and say “no” to anything they think might lead them to take on too much. Others — the Analyzer + Systemizer brain types — are particularly organized, and keep an accurate mental tally of their responsibilities, which helps them eliminate the possibility of saying “yes” to things they can’t handle.
For nearly 50 percent of the population, being overwhelmed and over-committed is a very familiar reality that may lead to burnout and stress. If you’re one of those people, it’s worth figuring out what your personal triggers are, so that you could stop the cycle of stress.
If you frequently find yourself saying “yes” to helping others out of obligation, before assessing whether you can handle the responsibility, then you fall into the people-pleaser category, or the Nurturer + Harmonizer brain type. This brain type is motivated by helping others. While that may be a noble cause, if it’s stressing you out, causing you to miss deadlines or to disappoint others, then it’s really not an effective strategy for being helpful.
To avoid being overwhelmed and over-committed, be sure you listen to what people need help with first, before offering assistance. First you should assess if they really need your help. Second, ask yourself whether you’re saying “yes” just to be nice, or if you really think you can be of use. If you have a lot on your plate then it’s OK to say “No” or offer to help out at a later date when you have some free time on your hands.
In cases where time is of the essence and helping later just won’t do, assess how much time you can give, and how using that time up will affect the rest of your tasks and deliverables. Also, be sure to communicate to others if you have to push off their work until later, to accommodate the most recent request.
If you often find yourself helping others before you assess how much is already on your plate, then not estimating and managing your time right is the real culprit behind feeling overwhelmed and over-committed. Chances are you’re the type of person who actively avoids the practice of time management and you’re the Innovator + Influencer brain type. For you, making an adjustment will probably be harder, because not only will you need to develop the discipline to manage your time and expectations, you’ll also need to apply this new discipline on the fly.
Managing your time properly requires that you review your entire to-do list and estimate how much time it will take to complete every item on this list. Only then will you be able to determine if you can offer assistance to others. If this process sounds too tedious, you can also make a point of assessing your to-do list a couple of times a week to see how much bandwidth you have and, based on that assessment, decide whether you can take on helping others at that time. If you do this, then when someone asks for help, you’ll be prepared with an educated answer regarding whether you have the time, and if you’ll be able to honor your current commitments without disappointing yourself or others.
Learning to break a pattern of over-commitment that leads to being overwhelmed is a big responsibility that requires thought, patience and discipline. Take the time to assess your triggers and implement strategies to work with them and you will evolve into a more effective professional.
Preventing your own burnout is your responsibility. Are you up for the challenge?