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You Can Do More Than You Think When You Aren’t Thinking More

By Sandra Francesca Bones, CPSM

As the Vice President for the Symposium and Exhibition for the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering Delaware Valley Chapter (#ISPEDVC), I have found that with the right planning and mindset, you can achieve anything you set your mind to. I learned this firsthand while organizing the Philadelphia region’s largest tradeshow in the life sciences industry, which I do as a volunteer after my day job. Despite the enormous scope of the event, with over 125 vendors and ~1,000 attendees, and the short planning timeline of just six months, we were able to execute it successfully with a small team. Here are some tips I learned along the way that can help you tackle any challenge:

1. Plan Backwards

Working from the event date backward, write down everything, and I mean everything you need to do, from each social media post to each task and action item, as medial as it may seem. Include the time you need to start each item and when it is due. This will ensure you truly give yourself enough time to do everything in a manageable timeframe. When you start backward, you can afford to give yourself the extra breathing room to get something done when the inevitable request in your inbox derails your plans. If you think you may be cutting the timing close when planning, you are. Push it out, so you can thank your future self for leaving work at 5:00 and sleeping easy.

2. Reduce the Mental Load

Organization and proper scheduling aren’t the only reasons to document your tasks. Many of us also carry an incessant, exhausting mental load in our heads of everything we have to do to run a household, take care of our families, and be a good friend. Thoughts like: “we’re running out of paper towels; I need to schedule a doctor’s appointment for my child; I am concerned about my mom; how are we going to pay for this; when can I go shopping and make a dish for the party; the lock to the garage is broken; what birthday gift am I going to buy them; and how can I find time and energy to lose my holiday weight.” 

The last thing we want on our minds is the nagging list of everything we need to do for work too. When everything is written down, it gives you the space and permission to think about work less. Do yourself a favor and put in the upfront work to feel more in control and confident to complete your tasks on time.

3. Create SMART Goals

Before starting any project or schedule, first define your SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable/achievable, realistic/relevant, and timely/time-bound. Being realistic about how much time a task takes to complete is essential. This is often the most overlooked part of planning. You know what you want to get done, but how much can you accomplish without overextending yourself?

I sometimes feel self-induced pressure to have the most mind-blowingly productive day, and when I don’t, I feel disappointed in myself. But the reality is, that’s not possible. We aren’t machines. Sometimes, I feel guilty about shutting down at the end of the day. This is proceeded by bargaining all night, wondering if I should stay up late to get everything done. But then, I’d never enjoy my time off. Never permitting yourself to shut down creates more exhaustion. Taking breaks is productive. If you find the goals and workload you created are unattainable, that’s ok. Change the plan. Give yourself a break because your mental health is more important than your productivity. By following these tips, you can do more than you think, even when you aren’t thinking more.

Originally published on the SMPS Philadelphia Blog:


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