You feel like you are doing all of the things. You sacrifice time at home to work long hours, networking to attract new leads, and on as many projects as possible. There is an unrelenting desire to prove that you can be effective and remain competitive in the consulting field. You have never thought about personal bandwidth, but you have tried to put everything you have read in the 10,000 books on your bookcase to use. The hope is that at least one tactic or strategy will deliver a breakthrough. Just one key opportunity would help to propel your career and business to the next level. After all, you aren’t afraid of hard work, and you have always been successful in the past.
However, this time it is a little different. Now, it seems like you aren’t making much progress towards achieving your goal. The fear of failure causes you to push harder and harder until you feel overwhelmed and frustrated. You can see that it may not be long before burnout becomes a reality if you aren’t there already.
FACT. This experience is not uncommon.
Burnout is still a problem in consulting.
A 2017 article by Eric Garton in the Harvard Business Review described the impact of employee burnout. It details a cost of up to an estimated $190 billion a year in U.S. healthcare spending. Burnout is attributed to heavy workloads, job insecurity, and frustrating work routines. This negative impact contributes to productivity and profitability drain in most organizations. The common practice of overloading the most capable employees can cause organizations to lose some of their best talent.
It seems natural to think that this problem would be alleviated by deciding to venture out on your own. It is appealing to pursue entrepreneurship where you can set your own rules. However, most entrepreneurs still feel some level of burnout. This was shown in a survey of 326 members of Business Networking International (BNI), the largest entrepreneur networking organization globally. A total of 25% of entrepreneurs felt moderately burned out, while 3% reported being strongly burned out. Entrepreneurship was not a complete solution to this common problem.
💡 More work is rarely the solution.
The stress and anxiety that arises from a constant heavy workload can have a negative impact mentally. It can also impact us physically as well. Scientific studies have shown that chronic stress at work can lead to numerous physical consequences. The impact can range from heart disease to death and lead to insomnia, depression, and other mental illness. In the worst-case scenario, it can be completely life-changing. Adding more and more work to try and continually perform at a high level is rarely the solution. At some point, it becomes physically impossible. The adverse effects and complications derail this well-intentioned pursuit. The problem is that there is no more room to take on more. You are maxed out.
What is Personal Bandwidth?
Well, let’s talk about technology first. I promise it will make sense in a minute.
In the world of digital technology, there is a concept called bandwidth. Bandwidth refers to the transmission capacity. It is defined as the maximum amount of data transmitted over an internet connection in a given amount of time. It is how much information you receive every second. This is key to our ability to enjoy a high-speed, non-stop digital world. The more devices we have in use simultaneously competing for data, the more bandwidth is required to maintain speed without interruption.
When we talk about PERSONAL BANDWIDTH, we refer to a person’s work capacity. It is the ability of an individual to handle more than one thing at the same time. The similarity in concept highlights that there is a capacity or limit to the amount of work that can be done. We are all limited in our ability to take in, process, and use information. These limits vary from person to person but remain a finite concept.
Why does personal bandwidth matter?
To increase the amount or quality of work done, we have to have room for growth and expansion. Without the space to grow and expand, we are limited. It is impossible to successfully continue to take on project after project or client after client. Not without adjusting your ability to manage it healthily and productively. You will hit a wall, and this wall looks like:
- Increased error
- Compromised memory
- Work-life imbalance
It is a wall of adverse physical and mental outcomes that derail our best efforts. To overcome these limits and achieve more in our career and business, we must first expand our personal bandwidth. Doing so will increase our capacity to perform more successfully. It becomes essential to reduce the mental and physical impact of other competing demands and responsibilities. That allows us to free up time and increase our ability to focus on other high priority work.
Can you expand your personal bandwidth?
Yes! Of course, you can. I did write this article for a reason. But, there’s a catch.
Although personal bandwidth is not infinite, there is the ability to expand and increase your work capacity. It is similar to what we achieve digitally with our local phone or cable provider’s help. This process includes more than just stretching your ability. It also requires you to strategically decrease your workload to create space for the most critical activities and projects. More specifically, you can expand personal bandwidth through:
- Proper prioritization
- Effective time and project management
- Improved productivity
- Leadership and delegation
The step-by-step process to expand your personal bandwidth.
1. Prioritize your work.
Start by prioritizing all of your goals, projects, and tasks. Identify the goals and activities which are most closely tied to achieving your ultimate career and business goal. It will help clarify what is most important now. You can focus your time and energy on what matters most.
Create a list of high priority items. These are the things that you know must be accomplished. Do a complete brain dump. Write each one of these things down on paper so that you can see this visually.
Quick Tip: One of the benefits of writing your high priority list on paper is seeing it visually. The visual check helps guard against overwhelm. If your list is too long, you must work to remove things that are not necessary. Everything is not a high priority. The key to effectively managing your workload is understanding how to prioritize your workload and responsibilities properly.
Next, add more structure to this process by moving urgent tasks and activities to the top of your list. You can quickly identify these critical tasks. Think of things you must do to keep your job or keep your business up and running. These are the vital tasks that are non-negotiable. They must always remain a top priority, followed by anything directly tied to your career and business growth.
2. Master your time and project management to improve productivity.
With insight into what items are of the highest priority, you can use time and project management skills to adjust your schedule and workflow. The goal is to create the space and time you need to tackle your list’s highest priority items. The ability to divide your time wisely between tasks, activities, and projects increases the likelihood that they will be accomplished.
There are several tools and techniques that can help you use your time more effectively and manage multiple projects with ease. Everything from time blocking and task batching to the use of project management tools and applications can help you use the 24 hours we are given in a day systematically and strategically to accomplish more in less time. The resulting increase in productivity can lead to:
- Greater self-discipline
- Reduced stress
- Increased clarity
- Improved performance
- Higher quality of work
- An improved professional reputation
- Greater opportunity for advancement
3. Put your leadership into action and DELEGATE.
In 2014, Gallup conducted a study of entrepreneurial talent profiles for 143 CEOs included on the Inc. 500 list. This study found that CEOs with a high Delegator talent achieved an average growth rate that was 112 percentage points higher than those with low Delegator talent. They were also found to generate 33% greater revenue and created a greater number of jobs. Effective leadership and business success require delegation.
You may feel that remaining hands-on in as many projects, and aspects of your business as possible is of great benefit. However, the numbers don’t add up. The desire to do so is commendable, yet the reality is that you can’t do everything by yourself. As you grow and advance in your career and business, the challenges will become more complex. They will require more of your time and dedicated focus. This high-level work is what needs your unique expertise and leadership. On the other hand, while important, other tasks do not require your intimate involvement.
One challenge that many may face when trying to expand their personal bandwidth is releasing themselves from the desire to hold on to all aspects of the project or business over time. Being unwilling to release and expand will become a weight that will hold you in your present state. It can prevent you from achieving your goals because you won’t have the time, energy, or resources to do more. Part of the growth is understanding the importance of letting go. Release the tasks and activities that you have not previously identified as meaningful work.
Need help figuring out what tasks you can delegate? Here’s a quick guide:
- Things that you are just not good at doing. Stop wasting time trying to figure it out. Find someone who can complete the task with ease.
- Time-consuming yet straightforward tasks that can be easily taught or assigned to others (i.e., data entry, meeting minutes, website updates, administrative tasks).
- Small tasks that don’t require a specific skill set to complete (i.e., scheduling meetings, booking flights, registering for conferences). Rule of thumb, if a Siri can do most of the work, it can be delegated.
- Smaller components of a larger project that do not require a high-level skill set. If any part of the project meets any of the above criteria, go ahead and add it to this list.
By identifying what can potentially be delegated and completed by other individuals and team members, you will further reduce your current workload. If you are a one-person machine or solopreneur, this still applies to you. Virtual assistants, freelancers, and other service providers can also be used to provide the relief and assistance that you need.
Increasing your personal bandwidth requires a commitment to the process.
The process of increasing your personal bandwidth is not a one-time fix. It requires a commitment to continue the process to create more room and space in your life. AND, you cannot allow other unrelated projects and tasks to creep into your schedule. Whether you use daily affirmations, calendar reminders, vision boards, or another way to trigger your memory, remain focused on your goals and your desire to achieve more.
Your career and business growth depend on your ability to do more high-quality, high-level, and transformative work. You have to create time in your busy and hectic schedule to move to the next level. Don’t let the little, insignificant things hijack your dreams. Your talent deserves attention, and your career and business deserve the opportunity to advance and grow to new heights.
Create space. Do the hard work. Achieve your wildest dreams.