The last few days have been a bit on the hectic side. I’ve been working diligently to meet various deadlines, attempting to strike a nice balance between turning in my very best work and keeping an eye on the clock.
I actually prefer working under a little bit of pressure. It keeps me on top of my game. But what I’ve been noticing is an increase in well-meaning people trying to tell me what I should be working on and even, in some cases, telling people I’d be available for specific (volunteer) tasks which I’d have a hard time squeezing into an already stacked schedule–at least for the next week or so.
Here’s what I’ve been reminding myself of. I thought it may be useful for you, too.
1. Arguing is futile. In the past, I have spent a lot of time trying to explain to people why their idea of what I should be doing won’t work with my schedule (or budget, or long-term plans, or past results, or experiences). At the end of the day, this is wasted time. Nobody should have to prove themselves to people, or justify how they choose to work. Well-meaning friends and strangers are not de facto business consultants. Even if they were, business consultants are wrong sometimes, too.
An exception to this might be if you are in the public limelight. Then, an explanation may be in order. Just don’t spend all day reiterating the same thing when you should be working on something else.
2. Guilt is wasted energy. Worrying about people thinking less of me because I charge for certain services they think should be provided for free or sometimes have prior commitments I can’t reschedule… wasted energy.
Again, this may be a bit different if you’re an internet celebrity. A simple explanation (even in writing–on an FAQ page or something) can work wonders.
3. Beware manipulation. On several occasions, people have given me some worst-case scenarios of what could happen if I *didn’t* work on a project, work with a certain person or jump head-first into activities I either didn’t have time for or don’t want to do. I can smell coercion from a mile away, and am hardwired to reject any proposition which smacks of manipulation, but some people are very susceptible! Reflecting on your reasons for doing something is always time well-spent.
4. You are an expert, too. Without closing yourself off to useful feedback from others, remember that you also have a lot of knowledge in your line of work. Someone could explain to me why a certain project could help with “exposure” or lead to future opportunities–and I could look at that opportunity against the backdrop of my own experience and knowledge before making a decision. (I also don’t necessarily have to explain or justify this to anyone.)
5. Have them pick up the phone. This really makes things easy. You don’t have to worry (at least, as much) about promises you never made getting relayed through an intermediary, or not being told the full details of a project, or explain something multiple times. They can just call you and you can feel it out. It’s also easier to tell people you’ll call them back in a week or so than it is to tell people to tell their friends that.
Some related posts:
7 Tips On Working With Someone You Can’t Afford is a blog post I wrote up a couple months ago.
Five Tips To Prevent E-mail Overload is my guest post on Problogger.
What are your favorite tips for retaining sanity under deadlines?