Our modern American culture glorifies busyness. In fact, the Journal of Consumer Research has found that “Those devoting more time to work and less time to leisure are often viewed as having more status.” But even the most packed schedule is not an automatic sign of productivity. A long to-do list might look impressive at first. However, the number of tasks, deadlines and appointments on your calendar does not always mean those obligations are done with excellence.
“A question worth asking yourself is, ‘Am I working on something that’s a priority in my life or business, or am I filling time with activities?’ There’s a difference between activity and performance […] Rather than making time for everything, prioritize your time for what is truly important,” says Sean Kim, the CEO of Rype and Pulsing.
If you’re not sure whether you’ve fallen into the mindset of equating busyness with accomplishment and effectiveness, these are three indicators that your calendar should be reorganized.
You don’t allocate time for self-care
Around 50 percent of employees in the U.S. report work-related stress three or more days a week, according to a survey from Paychex. These respondents also confirm that much of their stress results from working overtime and on weekends. And this comes in addition to not being at home with their families and only using a fraction of their vacation time.
If the demands of your schedule have interfered with a work-life balance, then you need to reorganize your calendar to make self-care part of the daily routine. This doesn’t require you to soak in the bathtub with scented candles for an hour if that’s not your treat. It simply means that you need to find a way to nourish your mental, emotional and physical health on a daily basis.
Recommendation: Make a list of things you love to do, find the ones you can enjoy regularly, and add them to your newly organized calendar.
You start running behind on your commitments
If you notice that you’ve become uncharacteristically tardy for client meetings, project deadlines, team communications and other responsibilities, you’ve over-committed yourself. Whereas punctuality communicates respect and value for other people’s time, delays and tardiness indicate you are unreliable or stretched too thin.
In fact, over-commitment is the “alpha and omega of [a] punctuality problem,” says Kelsey Manning, of Levo League. What’s more, Christina Hidek, owner of Streamlined Living and professional organizer adds:
“I’ve found that with professionals who are educated and smart, there’s a tendency to think they can do it all, and this leads to people trying to do more than time can allow for, causing lateness.”
Recommendation: This is where you need to get honest with yourself and your calendar. If you don’t have the bandwidth for a task, delegate it out. If there’s no one to delegate to, speak with your boss about offloading some work or bringing on someone else, like an intern, junior employee or assistant.
You work longer hours with fewer results
A misconception in today’s bottom-line culture is that the house you put in determines your level of output and success. However, professionals who clock at least 60 hours in the office are more susceptible to “decreased productivity and increased absences, accidents and labor turnover,” says Stanford University.
While it might seem profitable—and even necessary—to extend your schedule past the usual nine-to-five, in addition to checking emails at night and working weekends, it’s not.
“Employees at work for a long time experience fatigue or stress that not only reduces productivity, but also increases the probability of errors, accidents and sickness that impose costs on the employer,” continues Stanford.
Recommendation: If it can’t get your work done on time, consider where your schedule is hurting your productivity. Put boundaries in place and respect your own deadlines by blocking off time on your calendar.
For example, if you’re being pulled into too many meetings where your presence isn’t necessary. Knock those meetings off your schedule so you can get your work done in a reasonable time frame. Then, add in work blocks, stopping anyone from scheduling you during those hours.
Start managing your calendar effectively
Busyness is an American epidemic, but it doesn’t automatically make you successful. In fact, it makes you burnt out, less creative and less available to the people who need you, including your family and your co-workers.
Set yourself up for success by:
- taking on a reasonable workload
- making time for self-care
- taking meetings that aren’t necessary off your calendar.
If you feel your calendar has gotten out of control: pause, review and make changes where necessary so you can better manage your time and show up as your best self.