“It's not the load that breaks you, it's the way you carry it.” Lena Horne
In life, your load will get heavier as your responsibilities increase. There will be times when you will feel that your load is heavier than you can bear: People coming at you from all directions; not enough time in the day to get what you need done; and not enough resources to meet all of the demands. Looking at everything as a whole can be discouraging, causing you to feel that you can’t handle the demands and the pressure. I have been there, so I know how it feels. Here are three things I’ve learned to do to not let my load break me:
Don’t place everything on your back at one time: In other words, don’t try to carry it all at once. Only carry the things that are the most critical to you and to your job. There never should be more than two to three of them at one time. To do this, at the beginning of every day, I identify the top three things I want to get done for that day. There are other items on the list, but I only focus on the top three. This approach also allows me to focus on one day at a time and not get overwhelmed. It also gives me a sense of accomplishment when I complete one of the items. Also, I’m a very curious and creative person. I had to discipline myself to stay focused and not to get a lot of things started that increased my load and those who work with me.
Don’t let others put more things on your back: I learned the hard way that people will add to your load if you let them. Now there will be times when your boss increases your responsibilities. When that happens, you will have to reshuffle your priorities, then go back and let your boss know and see if she feels you need to rearrange them. If your boss is unreasonable and says you have to get everything done, you then need to look for another job or you will burn yourself out. As for other people who try to add to your load, you have to learn how to say “No” or “Not now” and let them know the reason why. It will disappoint a lot of people, but it is far better that you let them know in the beginning rather than taking on more than you can deliver. Until you learn to say those words, people will add more and more to your plate and just expect you to carry it without concern for your well-being. Also, in this digital world where we are connected 24/7, you can easily get overwhelmed by the number of emails you get each day. People can get offended whenyou don’t respond to a message (email, text or voice) they sent or “like” something they posted within 24 hours. I scan all of my messages at least twice a day, but I often don’t have the time to respond to all. The ones that are truly urgent, I do respond to, all of the others just have to wait. When people get mad, I just let them know that there was something critical I had to take care of. (See the previous bullet point.)
Don’t hesitate to hand off some of the items on your back: Early in my career, I tried to handle everything myself. I don’t know whether it was pride, not trusting others, always wanting to be “The man”, or what. All I do know is I almost burned myself out. What taught me how to delegate was when I caught pneumonia once, was in the hospital for five days, and out of work for over a week. To my surprise, the company kept operating during that time. It taught me that many people will step up and help out if you call upon them. That illness made me a much better leader.
In summary, as you move ahead in life, your load will get heavier. You can carry it without breaking by focusing on the critical few, by saying “No”, and by getting a helping hand.