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Time Management Worst Practice: Attempting Too Much

In time management, the word ‘overload’ describes the condition of having too much work; more work than what we can normally handle. Overload can be the result of external circumstances such as a big deadline, a coworker’s resignation, or a major crisis, but it is often self-inflicted.

There are times when we get overloaded due to extenuating circumstances beyond our control and we have to put in extra time and effort to get through it; but these should be exceptions and not the rule. If you are consistently getting overloaded at work or in your other activities, the most likely cause is you.

One of the self‑inflicted causes of overload is attempting to do too much. People attempt too much for three main reasons.

The first is the same one that leads to overly optimistic schedules: underestimating how much time tasks will really take and overestimating how much we can do.

This has been called the superman (or supermom) syndrome and comes from a sense of 'I can do it all myself, now get out of my way!'

Recent research suggests that many people believe they will have more free time in the future to accomplish their work because they don't expect to be as busy as they are now. They cannot foresee all the tasks they will be working on and tend to ignore the fact that new and pressing demands on their time may also "pop-up" unexpectedly in the future.

As a result, they over-commit their time and end up attempting to do too much. 

Other major psychological factors that play a role in attempting too much are an unhealthy need for overachievement, wanting to be productive all the time (with no downtime), insecurity outside of work, a desire to please others, perfectionism and gold-plating.

The second main reason people attempt too much is the related worst practice of always saying 'yes' to requests for your time. As more and more commitments start to pile up, your inability to say 'no' to new requests eventually leads you to attempt to do too much.

The third main reason people attempt to do too much is guilt. Guilt is a powerful emotion that can have a great deal of influence over our thoughts and actions. Guilt is not always a bad emotion: it can warn you that you are doing something that is weighing on your conscience and deserves further consideration.

The problem with tasks that are only done out of guilt is that they often don’t really resolve the underlying problem, and can lead you to sacrifice your own long-term well-being for the temporary relief from the guilt you are feeling. Since all these extra tasks you are doing can keep you very busy, they can be a way to avoid facing the real issue.

The first step in overcoming the worst practice of attempting too much is to realize that you can do almost anything you want, but you cannot do everything. At some point, you have to choose what you are going to give up in order to accomplish what is truly important and meaningful in your life.

Unless you accept the fact that you cannot do everything as a fundamental truth, you will continue falling into the worst practice of attempting too much and all the negative consequences that come with it.

The best practices of prioritizing and Workload Management are valuable tools that can help you decide which tasks are truly important and which tasks need to go.

If you are constantly overloaded and you don’t think that you are attempting too much, you could still be partially at fault. Even when it seems that all the causes of your overload are external circumstances such as impeding deadlines, too many demands from your boss or co‑workers, or a big crisis, if overload keeps happening to you over and over again you have some responsibility in the matter.

Overload is an unfortunate side‑effect of many of the other worst practices discussed here. You may need to address some of the other worst practices before your workload will stabilize to normal levels.


The Time Management  eBook contains much more information on setting priorities. Get it now!

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