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Taking On Too Much Can Stop You From Writing

by The Procrastinating Writer on July 15, 2009

courtesy of Leeni!

courtesy of Leeni!

By Jennifer Blanchard

Writing takes time.

There is no way around it. Writing doesn’t just happen. You can’t coax writing out of thin air. Writing requires you to put your butt in a chair in front of your computer and stay there until you have words on a page.

So if you want to be a writer (and eventually an author), you need to write.

But how can you write if your schedule is over-packed, especially with things that might not be in alignment with your goals?

Taking on too much is a very common problem. And sometimes people take on too much without even realizing it’s too much.

Here are some common symptoms of people who take on too much:

  • Rarely ever say no to someone’s request, no matter if you actually have time for it or not.
  • You schedule is packed from the minute you wake up until the second your head hits the pillow at night.
  • You often feel tired/exhausted/over-worked and like you have no time to relax.
  • You feel like you never really accomplish anything, yet you’re always so busy.
  • You often feel stressed out.
  • You think you can do it all.
  • You think you have to do it all.

The truth of the matter is: You can’t do it all and you don’t have to do it all.

If you’re someone who finds yourself overloaded all the time, barely leaving yourself any time to do the things you want to do, like write, it’s time for you to simplify and outsource.

Take a look at your to-do list (if you have one. If you don’t, I highly recommend you make one.). What on there is something you don’t have to do yourself? Is there anything you can have your spouse do? Or can you outsource it (for example, hire a cleaning company to clean your house so you can spend time writing?)

An effective technique for simplifying your life comes from one of my favorite productivity bloggers, Leo Babauta. Leo came up with a simple technique he calls “Most Important Task (MIT).”

The idea behind the MIT is to decide the night before each day what task(s) is the most important one you need to complete. Write it down, then make it a point to complete it, regardless of what else you get done that day.

Leo recommends having three MITs for each day. (An example of this can be seen on the blog, Tenacious Me, where blogger Laura Lee Bloor details at the bottom of each post her three most important things for the day.)

I highly recommend that one of your three MITs be related to your writing goals.

This simple technique can help you prioritize your to do list.

And if you find that you have been taking on too much, you need to start saying no. It might be difficult at first, but it will save you your sanity and keep you from burning out and/or never getting your writing done. 

Tip: Consider outsourcing all the tasks for the day that don’t fit on your MIT list.

Do you ever take on too much? How do you remedy it?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Laura Lee Bloor July 15, 2009 at 11:54 am

Thanks for the shout-out Jennifer! I’ve lost track of all the times I’ve felt overwhelmed by taking on too much. For me, the remedy is actually quite simple.

Normally, I have three MITs per day, but if that becomes too much, first I just take a day and do the bare minimum, which on most days is to simply go to my job, come home and make a healthy dinner and clean up. After a day of that, I build back up. I add one MIT. If it goes well for a couple of days, then I add another one. (That’s why I’ve stopped doing my three MITs at the end of each blog recently.)

Because I work full-time, I hardly ever have more than three MITs. Just to go to work, exercise, make healthy meals and get as close to eight hours of sleep per night as possible leaves me with only a couple of hours of free time per night.

So I recommend the MIT list, but remember not to push yourself too hard. Sometimes you won’t get everything finished, and that’s OK. You’ll get a new chance tomorrow.

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