From time to time, everyone gets so ridiculously busy than they need to make cuts on some of their activities. If these cuts aren't consciously chosen, they'll happen anyways - we've only got 24 hours a day.
Interestingly, I hit a massively busy patch last week. I came onboard as a partner at a new company that's growing fast, but we haven't hired the staff to take over a lot of the mid-level tasks that need done. So we were jamming on everything for a week, plus I have a lot of other things going on.
What shocks me is how poorly the cuts I made at first were. The things that weren't getting done were some of the most valuable. Here's three that I wasn't doing, that I've now reversed even though this week is still busy -
1. Planning/organizing: There's been a bit of an anti-planning backlash the last few years in response to stupid bureaucracy in big companies. But the more experience I get and the more I interact with people performing on a really high level, the more planning and organizing I see.
Think about it - many activities and tasks only get 5-10 minutes of planning, but then take 3-10 hours to do. If you double your planning and make a task only 10% more efficient, you've got a net gain. Yeah, it can feel like "shit, I've got to get to work" when you're super busy, but being frantic leads to waste. Don't stop planning if you have too much going on. Arguably, that's when you should plan more carefully at the start of each day and week.
2. Fitness: I'm doing a wonderful set of bodyweight exercises put together by my friend who is a top biomechanist. I've started doing handstands, even! I always feel great after my quick workout and for the rest of the day.
But when time crunch came on, what was the first thing that got cut for me? That's right, fitness. Now I'm explicitly scheduling fitness into my daily schedule, and holding it just as sacred as an important business meeting. Whatever kind of fitness you normally prefer, make sure you're giving it the proper amount of time. Again, this is where planning/organizing helps - you recognize that you need to make cuts on the demands on your time to do your fitness, because it's going to lead to everything going much better.
3. Sleep: So I'd been running at a low level for a while, which is fine for high stimulation activities where you're on the go, but I was hazy when doing things solo that require continuous concentration.
I'm all for sleeping less if possible to do in a healthy and pragmatic way, but once you feel the drag coming on, it's time to schedule some sleep. Opt out of something else, and actually schedule a bedtime or long nap, or plan to sleep if you've got a significant train or taxi ride coming up.
These are all activities that no one is going to get on your case about if you neglect them, but your work quality will suffer and you'll move closer to breaking point.
You do need to know what you're up against - you might have to make cuts to an area that people will be unhappy with you in order to plan, exercise, and sleep. They might be vocally unhappy. Still, getting a rote task that isn't mission critical done 2 days earlier by skipping your workout is a fool's bargain. Try to explain to people calmly when things can be done. Some people will be upset anyways, and that's fine. It's not good, but it's probably necessary if you want to keep producing at high levels.
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