It is remarkably easy to do too much, particularly when you love what you do. Does work not feel like work? You may be fortunate enough to be in that situation, but that also means you are less likely to know when you are tilting towards burnout, physically in need of rest, or pushing yourself too hard. Entrepreneurs may have more passion around their career than most, so we are more susceptible to losing ourselves in the excitement of work.
Self care is a part of taking care of our business, because if we break down, then our business will break down, too. Here are some solid ways to help stave off overextension:
1. Wait to commit: We feel pressure to say "Yes" to opportunities right away because we're afraid of missing the boat or, worse, our measured response will scare away the person who's offering the opportunity itself. I've found that some opportunities are fleeting, but nowhere near the number of opportunities that we think are fleeting. In other words, when it comes to determining the rarity of an opportunity, we tend to sit on the paranoid side. Unfortunately, that means we are more likely to say "Yes" to things even when we don't have the resources to take them on. And... suddenly we're overextended.
Instead, try taking a moment to consider letting go of the opportunity being offered. It could be five minutes, it could be an entire evening. Give yourself as much space as can be allotted. You may be surprised at the new considerations that suddenly pop up, ideas that would not have otherwise crossed your mind until, perhaps, it was too late.
2. Check your gut: Some opportunities can feel particularly rare because they are actually a little too ideal. Fortunately, our gut can give us the warning that we should look deeper. For myself, I may get a feeling that someone is holding back information or that the deal may end up in a different place than intended. It is often right, but the most important part to understand is that your gut isn't specific - it just realizes when something feels off with a situation. And it very well may be telling you that a new opportunity will be too much of a strain on your resources.
3. Ask a colleague: Sometimes the one to help you stay in check is a trusted confidant. If you have your brain trust in order, then you already have people around you who know your goals, your intentions and your weaknesses. An objective party can warn you when you are veering off your path or potentially falling prey to one of your blind spots.
4. Look back a year from now: One of the best ways to prevent overextending yourself is to envision how you'd like to spend your time, energy and focus a year from now. What will you be doing? How will you be doing it? What seeds do you need to plant to get there?
There are few reality checks bigger than realizing the work you are doing now won't get you to where you want to be. No one intends to be unproductive towards their dreams. It's just that, when we overextend ourselves, we are too overcommitted and scattered to prioritize the things that will move us closer to our goal over the busy work we're already doing. Think about where you want to go and plan on saying "No" to plans that don't move you forward. "No" should be your default, and seemingly nonessential opportunities should have to be important enough to convince you otherwise.