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Time Management and Dealing with People who are Overextended

04/28/2015

My fiancé is in a class with one of those teachers. You know the one. We’ve all had at least one. This person tells you to do things for your assignments that just don’t work. They aren’t clear on instructions. Due dates are ridiculous. They barely show up to class and are terrible at getting back to you. You are terrified that you are going to fail the class not because you don’t get the subject or haven’t been putting forth enough effort, but because your teacher is just that bad.

This teacher, though, has a very good reason for being so scattered. She has a full time job, she is currently taking three Masters level classes (which is full time for graduate level classes) and she’s teaching this class as well. Essentially she’s doing two full time jobs and a part time gig all at the same time. She once said that she’s answering class emails at 2am when she’s so tired she can’t even see the letters let alone check for typos.

I understand the feeling, and I’m sure all of us took on way too much at one time or another. My second semester in my MBA program I was doing online coursework at a full time level, working at my nearly-full-time job, and working at another part time job all at the same time. I had very little spare time, but I still managed to have a social life and get a full night of sleep. Thinking about this, I realized the problem that my Sweetie’s teacher hasn’t:

I can say no to stuff.

Seriously, I can tell people that I don’t want to do certain things. I know how to schedule my week so that I can work in school around my day job, and my second job around the other two. I can prioritize, and things that don’t rank in the top five priorities don’t see the light of day. Ultimately, I know what my limits are and I very rarely blow past them.

But… that doesn’t mean that other people I have to deal with know how to do any of that. I’ve found that often the overextended person can’t tell people to bugger off. They often don’t realize what they’ve committed themselves to until after they start doing it. These things tend to creep up on them until all they can do is struggle to breathe. This makes these other people unreliable, and dealing with them often takes more time and energy than I’m willing to spend. How do I deal with them?

First option: don’t bother with them. There are many people in our lives who just waste our time because they can’t get themselves in order. If they become a detriment to you on more than just the rare occasion, then why are you still bothering with them? You don’t have to break up with them, but maybe don’t put forth any energy until they’ve got themselves under control again.

But then, there are people you simply can’t get rid of. Parents or teachers are like that. Good luck with your parents – you know them best! But for everyone else… Second option: Do everything you can to simplify and minimize their involvement in your business. Have a teacher who is so busy that they’re freaking out at you and your classmates because people aren’t posting to the discussion forum until the last minute? Tell them that in your girlfriend’s classes the initial post was due two days before the responses, so people had time to respond. Have an employer who will not pay you on time? Give them notice the day before that you will be there to pick up your check and tell them how much they owe you. Make their job require as little brain power as possible, and they will not only respond well, but think positively of you!

But most of all: overextended people aren’t worth your emotions. I’ve noticed that in life there is never a time where there aren’t any other options. Sure, they may not be convenient or they may be much more costly – which makes sense since you didn’t choose that option to start off with – but you are never as truly trapped as you make yourself.

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From → Business, Serious

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