I don’t know exactly when it happened. It’s not the kind thing that occurs dramatically enough to note on a calendar. A few years ago I realized that I had reached the point of no return, and I was never going to catch up with everything that I have to do. I’ll never be able to arrange my schedule so that I have enough free time. I’ll never spend as much time with my wife and family as I would like and they deserve. I’ll never get my office really organized. I’ll never get enough sleep. I’ll never get to travel to all the places that I want to see. I’ll never read all the books that I want to read. I’ll never become a good golfer. I’ll never really stay on top of my limited number of investments. And I’ll never have time to develop all the hobbies that interest me.
Until that point, I held out the hope that I would some day catch up. But once I realized that I wouldn’t, I started building my life and my attitudes around the acceptance of that fact. Not catching up became a fact of life. I recognized that it was a function of choosing an active lifestyle that led to me putting more on my plate without being able to increase the number of hours in a day. The fact is that busy people are busy. That’s why they are called busy people. Accepting that fact within myself has actually made me more tolerant of other folks who are busy. For example, when I leave an important but not critical message, and I don’t get called back right away, I try to be accepting of the fact that my issue may not be the only important thing on that person’s schedule. Before I criticize the appearance of a business or office, I try to be tolerant of the fact that there may be other priorities and limited resources that come ahead of housekeeping – and the appearance may not be the result of laziness.
The major change in this regard, however, has to do with myself. I haven’t given up my various activities and goals. I just haven’t made catching up and accomplishing them a necessary factor in determining whether I can take on another challenge, and I haven’t made it a necessary factor in determining how I feel about myself. I recognize that some things need to be completed in a timely manner, while it would be nice but not necessary to accomplish everything that I have or would like to do – and some of those things won’t get done quickly and some will never get done. My goal has become to fall behind as little as possible. I try to control the pace of my falling behind, but I can’t totally stop it so long as I maintain activities and interests.
Since coming to this realization, I have added lots of things to my schedule. My wife and I have become grandparents twice – and found out that we are pretty good at it. We’ve traveled more than we had ever done before. I started training interns in my psychology practice and have continued to do so. I’ve written an e-book that is about to be published. I’ve started this website and blog. And I’ve become more faithful about exercising several times a week. These things have been added to my schedule, and I can’t think of any previously time-consuming thing that I’ve given up. I doubt that I could have accomplished nearly as much or felt as good if I’d have devoted myself to catching up rather than doing as much as I could possibly do – until I found out that I could do something more.
How about you? What do you think about my approach to overload? I’d love to have you respond to my comments, and I’d really like to hear your suggestions for how to cope. You may have some ideas that can help us all – especially me. I’m obviously OK with falling behind as little as possible, but I’m hopeful that some of you may have suggestions for proactive steps to cutting into the busy person’s backlog.