We all get overly enthusiastic. When you’re really excited about what’s coming your way, be it a new project, a new class, or a new person in your life, it’s easy to become too optimistic about everything you can take on. But it’s important to remember that it’s great to be enthusiastic, but it’s better to be prepared.
When you’re irrationally optimistic, you might end up taking on more than you can handle. For example, let’s say you just got a full scholarship for a new graduate program. Let’s pretend it’s at Harvard Business School. During your first year at Harvard, you are required to take core business courses, and must spend a designated amount of time in basic finance, marketing, economics, leadership, etc. classes.
That’s all well and good, but being a first-year student, you also want to get to know your classmates. After all, isn’t half the point of going to business school to build up your network? This means going to parties and networking events, having coffee with classmates, and maybe joining some clubs.
But what about your family? What about your old friends? What about your part-time job? Your internship? What about sleeping? Eating? You might go into Harvard thinking you can do it all – and at the start of something new and exciting, you probably want to!
Hold your horses.
The bad news is you probably can’t do it all (certainly not while staying healthy)…and that’s ok. This is where managing expectations comes in.
Make a list of things you NEED to do. On your list should be things like attending classes, but also things that keep you healthy and happy (like sleeping, eating, and exercising). Estimate (realistically) how long each of those things will take you. Then make a list of things you WANT to do. Ideally, there should be some kind of balance. And if there isn’t a balance, make one. This might involve some sacrificing, but it’s important to be happy, right? Or maybe it means recognizing that for a few weeks, you’ll only be able to do things you NEED to do. Then, once you get a handle on everything else, you can start adding in the things you WANT to do.
Here at MPOWER, every morning as a team, each one of us goes through the list of things we NEED to do that day, and we’re realistic about how much we can actually accomplish in one working day. At the end of the day, we circle up as a team and go over what we’ve completed. That way, we can manage our team’s expectations of us, but, more importantly, we can manage our own. Assessing our productivity on a daily basis gives us perspective about our tasks and our ability to stay realistic. On the days that we have extra time, then, we’ll add some things we WANT to do (maybe start a new project or make our student lending website look a little prettier). This whole process still allows us to be optimistic, but rationally so.
Try evaluating your needs against your wants in terms of the time you have available. Let us know how it goes!