Just the other day I was working with a highly competent, high-achieving executive, whose penchant for overscheduling and overcommitting was running him into the ground. He was the classic multitasking perfectionist, trying to jam 25 hours into a 24-hour day—scheduling meetings unrealistically close to one another, and obsessively packing so many meetings, activities, conversations, and training sessions into a single day that he was constantly running behind schedule.
In some ways, he was living the classic entrepreneurial lifestyle, but he was deeply concerned about his health, well-being, and ability to be a good parent for his children. We spoke for an hour, and I thought I’d share some of the tips we came up with for having a healthier lifestyle.
1. Work on how you “frame” the idea of a more relaxed schedule in the first place. Instead of feeling like a slacker for having a more reasonable, relaxed, and humane daily schedule, think of a more reasonable schedule as a gift you’re giving yourself. Of course, easing up a bit may be detrimental to your business in the short term. But chances are that in the long term, it may decrease the likelihood of burnout or health concerns.
2. Find (and embrace) your conviction to change. To make a change like this, the effort has to be worth it. In the case of the entrepreneur I was working with, the source of conviction was his health. His father had died of a heart attack, and so he was afraid he might be heading for the same outcome. There was also his family. He was truly dedicated to his family, but work obsession was taking its toll—on the time he spent with the family and on his ability to be “present” when he was in the room.
3. Think of one or two concrete changes to make and make them. It’s one thing to commit to a new style in your mind, but it’s another thing entirely to actually make the change. So, the concrete change we worked on was for him to have a 30-minute buffer between all scheduled meetings. In other words, if there was a meeting from 10 to 11, the next meeting would begin at 11:30. We also made a second rule, which was that every day he was going to schedule a meeting with himself. And this meeting time would be sacrosanct. In other words, he couldn’t just bump the meeting if something else came up. During this meeting, he would do something to help his personal well-being, such as a bit of yoga, a meditation, or a walk.
Being busy, stressed out, and overscheduled is a choice. No one forces you to make your life miserable. But it’s also something that’s not so easy to change. We’re actually still in week one of this particular experiment, and I can’t wait to hear how it goes. Are you so overextended with activities, events, meetings, and responsibilities that you can’t seem to catch up?
Andy Molinsky is the author of Reach and Global Dexterity.
Previously published at Inc.com.