ASK US WEDNESDAY: “I’ve taken on too much work – any tips on staying sane?”

by Leo Wiles
07 February 2018

I am my own worst enemy when it comes to projects – I just can never say no. What do you do when you miscalculate and end up with too much work than you can handle? How do you manage life, family AND work? Jen

If you were to knock on my door and find me under a pile of carrots, shallots, ginger and chilli, would I be a) procrastinating b) heading off a cold c) gearing up for a new contract?

Probably c. Because as regular readers will know, as a single mum to three kids (and let’s not forget the dogs and Carmel the guinea pig), military planning is the cornerstone of my ‘success’. Filling the fridge and freezers to breaking point is the first step – and means no matter how strung out or busy there’s a nutritious meal available any given day.

Other ways I deal with a large workload heading my way is call in the troops. I ask for support from friends/family if I need it. I book childcare for before and after school care in the weeks out from deadlines. I also try to plan meetings out of hours if I can, and pull weekend work when necessary. And I outsource whatever I can afford to which helps me channel more time into getting my work done.

My large personal planner also goes into overdrive, with all milestones plotted here AND on a Gantt chart. I ignore things that can wait (going for inbox zero, for example, is just going to suck away more time that should be focussed on my deadlines).

More importantly, perhaps, is that I begin to say no.  No to my volunteer work for the local sports clubs, newspaper and Soquilichi Rescue Ranch.  That way I pretend to keep my sanity.

Other ways I’ve managed to meet deadlines and avoid family conflict are here, here, here and here.

What do you do to stay sane when you hit a busy period?

Leo Wiles

Leo Wiles has worked as an editor, journalist and PR for over 20 years before recently retraining as a photographer. These days, she spends her time behind a lens, juggling her own clients with her work at Rachel's List, and her three gorgeous but lively kids.
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4 responses on "ASK US WEDNESDAY: “I’ve taken on too much work – any tips on staying sane?”"

  1. I try and concentrate on one task at a time. Sometimes when my To Do list is overflowing I am tempted to start multiple projects and get muddled. I try and find the one with the first deadline and just do that. Then slowly move down the list. Once you feel you have control of it all, everything feels a little more manageable.

    1. Rachel Smith says:

      Totally agree with the one thing at a time, hard as it is to do. I’m constantly multi-tasking for RL stuff especially when a popular job comes through (which is high stress), but when it comes to my own freelance work I’ve recently started turning everything off (email, social media etc) and using the ‘focus’ function on Word when I’m writing. It just gives you a clean screen to write. I’ve found it makes me heaps faster in getting through those dreaded first drafts.

  2. Breathe. Deeply. Not that hyper-stress breath. Deep and slow. And remember, sometimes sleep is over-rated:)

    1. Leo Wiles says:

      You’re so right. Shallow breathing is my first sign that not everything may be going to plan. That and sighing like an out of breath carthorse! I’ll have to endeavour to listen to Calm and breathe….

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