Wednesdays are simplicity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
Did you ever feel so overloaded that you simply want to shut down? Or perhaps you need to be at least two places at the same time?
It gets worse at this time of year, too, with all the holiday activities added on top of everything else.
It may be time for you to perform an activity audit.
Why Is Auditing So Important?
Most firms, concerned with waste, will have an audit done. Waste can be found in many different forms — it can be too much of something used for a job, or the wrong resources used. An audit can also determine if a job or function has a good return on investment (ROI).
By applying these concepts to our activities, we can find out if we are wasting energy or time for an activity; if we are the best people fro the job; or if the payback for an activity is worth the effort.
How To Do An Activity Audit
List Your Activities
First you must make a list of your activities. If you are truly feeling overwhelmed, it must include everything, such as household tasks. It must also list activities that require your effort on a tangential level, such as taking a child to soccer practice.
This list should also include things that you have committed to but haven’t started, such as a backlog of reading, an e-course you purchased, but haven’t started, or miles of unread RSS feeds.
List The Benefits
For each of the activities you listed in the last step, you must also write out the benefits you receive. For a volunteer position, the benefit may be a sense of accomplishment. For bringing your child to soccer, it may be a feeling of satisfaction for providing your child with opportunities. For a household task, it may be a sense of a job well done.
Don’t downplay your benefits. It may seem negligible to feel good about enjoying doing laundry, but it is important to know what you enjoy and what you don’t.
Figure Out The Cost
For each of the activities, you must now figure out the cost. This may be in actual currency, but it may also be in time, emotion, or energy.
For example: you may volunteer at a homeless shelter, but your are finding yourself resenting the amount of hours you have been asked to put in, or by a sense of approaching burnout.
While you are looking at costs, you must also consider if there is a way to reduce those costs. For example, you might be able to set up a carpool to ease the burden of taking your child to every practice.
Figure Out If You Are The Right Person
For each of the activities, ask yourself if you are the right person for the job. Your interests and abilities should match what you are doing. I know for a fact that it is easiest to ask volunteers to take on more, than to find new volunteers.
It might be that you have taken on a job that you are not the best person for. I once found myself putting together an organization’s weekly newsletter — not because I knew how to use the software or because I had experience — but because I was in a meeting where the current editor quit.
Analyze Your Data
Now for each of the activities, analyze the amount of effort, the use of resources, and the benefits of each activity. You will find one of three outcomes:
- The activity will continue, unchanged.
- The activity will continue, with changes to your part in it.
- The activity will not continue.
How To Get Rid of Activities
Dealing with the first two activities is not difficult. If you must make changes, chances are you will be asking for help or redirection.
Dropping activities can be hard, though, for many people.
There are several ways that you can transition out of activities: you can quit without notice, which may leave people in the lurch; you can quit with notice, which will still leave a gap; or you can find someone to replace you.
Each activity you choose to leave will have a different outcome. The last time I did a big purge, I made a promise to jettison 30% of my outside activities. Most of these were volunteer positions shared with other people. So I politely gave notice. One, which required my technical expertise, I transitioned by finding a replacement and then training him in the job.
Others I just said, “sorry, I’m overwhelmed, and I can’t do this anymore.” It was this last case that I was most worried about, but the funny thing was I found everything went on without me. I realized that no one can pick up the ball if it never gets put down.
Over the next few weeks I will be scrutinizing my schedule and rearranging things. At some point I hope to give a detailed report on the results.
Does this sound like something you need or want to do? Share below.
Photo by Mike Bailey-Gates