I figured I’d use this example from my own life to write about procrastination and its many joys. I find I fall behind most often and accomplish less when I pare away everything from my life except work. I might accomplish a lot during the first phase of such a cycle, when I’m doing nothing but going to work, coming home and writing until midnight, and hitting repeat. I manage to keep it up in phase two, when I’m slacking off on some nights and then desperately squeezing all my writing and editing into a few nights before deadline. Then I hit the wall and can’t do anything but stare at foodgawker for hours, and sitting down to write seems about as difficult and painful as trying to perform brain surgery on myself.
Instead, now that I’m back from a short vacation, I’m going to try to establish some balance in my work/life schedule. And that includes not only working hard, but making sure I schedule in leisure time and hold myself to it. That way, I won’t burn out spectacularly and wind up setting myself back instead of moving forward.
Here are some techniques I’ve tried, will try, or have read about for establishing a healthy balance between work and leisure. I hope they help you too, if you’ve experienced burnout or feel overwhelmed with your work responsibilities!
1) Make an honest assessment of which tasks really need to get done now.
As my editor can attest, there have been plenty of times I’ve squeaked in a column the night before, or the morning of, my deadline. Writing here is something I take very seriously, and I try my hardest to honor the agreement I made to deliver my columns each week. But as my editor can also attest, I’ve asked for small extensions here and there, or let him know when something simply won’t come through on time. Because at the end of the day, when I feel like all my life’s responsibilities are crowding in on me until my head is about to explode, I realize that no one’s going to die if Bad Advice appears a few hours late.
When responsibilities crowd in on you, the answer is not to take on everything at once and kill yourself trying to do it all. The answer is to prioritize, then get through things to the best of your ability while keeping a clear eye on what’s extremely urgent, and what can wait. Then don’t waste your time beating yourself up over what is essentially the reality of the situation: you can’t do everything.