Bandwidth: In computing, the amount of data that can be transmitted in a fixed amount of time. 

The first time I saw the red flags was during a conversation with a vendor, who is also a friend. We were discussing the next steps of an integration he was doing on my website. The next step was work I needed to do so he could move forward. 

His words were simple and direct. “Rhonda, are you OK? You seem distracted, stressed. You’re not yourself.” 

That was the beginning of my realization that I’d stretched beyond my bandwidth. I committed to “one more project” on my calendar and nearly crashed and burned. In a moment of pressure, I committed to complete a project without consulting my calendar first.  

I already had commitments in several other areas. My bandwidth was already full. Had I taken time to reflect on my current commitments and where I would make changes if I was to complete this project, I could have negotiated a more reasonable deadline. 

Add in technology struggles and I hit the wall. The cost of this crash was not only missing the deadline on this project, but incomplete projects in other areas. AND the personal toll of not being fully present for some family events that were important to me. 

Here are the lessons I take away from this time and energy management fail: 

  • Budget Your Time  Each of us has 24 hours in a day. What we choose to do with these 24 hours is our responsibility. The decisions that drive our time and energy management require more than committing on the fly. It’s important to learn the phrase, “I’ll get back to you.” Use it when someone pressures you for a commitment. 
  • Set Good Boundaries  Knowing your most important priorities today provides a boundary for decision making. Each of us has a level of productivity where we feel most comfortable. We make the most of our time and energy when we’re in our zone. Knowing my bandwidth allows me reach my highest priority goals. I can confidently say no to things that aren’t those goals for right now. 
  • Wear Blinders  Be very clear about what it takes for you to accomplish your goals. “Shiny bauble syndrome” and people pleasing are lethal struggles when I have important goals to attain. I’ve learned I have to put on blinders to avoid the shiny baubles. When I’m very clear about what I need to accomplish, I can say no more easily because I know what’s at stake. That overrides pleasing someone who has a request that’s off goal for me. I may be able to help them, but not right now. 
  • Estimate Time Commitments Realistically  Are you realistic in what you can accomplish right now? I struggle with underestimating the amount of time it will take to complete a project. Knowing this about myself, I add extra time onto project timelines so I’m more likely to accomplish my goals in a timely fashion. 
  • Rhythms of Productivity  Is the amount of work you believe you can do in this period of time reasonable? Referring back to the definition of Bandwidth that starts this blog post, it measures the amount of data that can be transmitted in a fixed amount of time. Oprah Winfrey says, “You can have it all, but not all at once.” When you recognize this fact, you accomplish far more than trying to push all the results at the same time. 

Remember the story I told earlier? If I’d taken the time to evaluate the importance of what I currently had on my to do list and the new item I was considering adding, I would have discerned two things.  

  1. Was the new item what I needed and wanted to do for my business at this time?
  2. What priority needed to shift to later so I could accomplish this goal? 

How do you manage your bandwidth? What strategies help you stay focused on your most important priorities?

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