I have a pretty bad habit. Maybe you do too…
When I’m working towards a big goal or event (project deadline, release, exam, performance etc) I often defer requests and demands on my time until after it. The period after the event is like a promised land where I believe time will be somehow infinite and my energy supplies, limitless. It appears to be a magical time when I can do ANYTHING and EVERYTHING.
But obviously this is not true and I end up creating an even more stressful season by agreeing to do everything ‘once this is all over’. Not a good habit. It’s something I’m getting better at and in this episode of the podcast I share some of the questions I now filter requests through when I am unable to complete them in the present.
1. Would I want to do it if my diary was empty and I was able to say yes now?
Far too often I use the word ‘maybe’ when I mean ‘no’. Many of us do; and ‘perhaps’, or ‘possibly’.
These words are closer to no when you use them, but closer to yes when you hear them.
Beware when you respond to someone or something that requests your time. Don’t say maybe when you mean no. If you wouldn’t do it now then don’t pretend to yourself and the other person that you might want to do it the other side of this event or season.
2. Why would it be better in the future?
If you haven’t discounted it completely then ask yourself why not. Is it just because it’s the future and it saves you worrying about it right now?
I’ve arranged to do an interview with someone who has been really influential to me and this website. He taught me an interesting and inspiring lesson when agreeing to the interview. He’s very busy, runs multiple businesses and is on a tight schedule.
He replied to my initial email and said that he was really snowed under but that if I get in touch again in the first week of October he might have more flexibility in his schedule. So I set a reminder in the Calendar app and a note about the email.
So October arrived and I sent another quick email to follow up. A day or so later he replied agreeing to do the interview. He was still very busy but said that because of my persistence and the fact that I had been true to my word he felt compelled to do the interview.
When deferring requests and tasks we can use tests like this to see how serious the other person is and also to leave the door open so that if it is something that appeals to us at a later date we can agree to do it.
3. How can I deal with this now?
Although you’re not doing it now there are things to do to process requests so that you don’t need to think about them again until later.
If you say yes then schedule a time for your next action. You are either going to prepare for whatever it is you’re committed to or you’re just going to do it. And something that really caught my attention recently was a blog post by Chris Guillebeau who mentioned the idea of deferring worry.
One of the big causes of overwhelm is when we carry around an underlying level of worry about something that is happening in the future. It can bubble unconsciously just below the surface without you realising. Chris says you can alleviate this by actively scheduling a time to allow yourself to worry.
“If the talk is on Tuesday, I’ll start to focus on it during the previous weekend, and it can officially take over my life on Monday. Until then, my time was my own and I wasn’t going to let it disrupt the other commitments I’d made”.
He says that the objective isn’t to remove the worry because that’s impossible. But it is rather to own it, to allow it to happen, but to make sure that it wasn’t disrupting other things.