Risks of being over-programmed

Author:   |   Date: 01/11/2015   |   Categories: Balancing work and life, Coaching, Strategic Planning

Are you worried about burning out? Do you answer “busy” whenever anyone asks you how you are? Do you regularly work weekends and nights and eat lunch (if you get it) at your desk? Have you forgotten what it is like to have time to rest, reflect and simply play?

Then you are probably “over-programmed”?

Right now I am working really hard: My business is booming, I am working in house for a client and I sit on a community arts company board.

 I answer yes to all the questions above, except I sometimes eat lunch in my car rather than at my desk.  

The tricky thing is, is that I love this feeling.  I literally get an adrenalin rush from having too much to do.  I love being in demand, being important, getting things done.

Whilst the adrenaline rush of being “very busy and important” can kick you along for a while, it comes at a huge cost to your personal wellbeing. 

If you are leading an organisation, it is critical to build in time for reflection and review.

For me the key difference between being a leader and being a great “do-er” is your capacity to recognise the need and then create space for reflection and renewal.

So before you say “Yes” to yet another great idea, opportunity or obligation, pause and consider some ideas on how to move out of the world of being “over-programmed”.              

Regularly review your commitments

Individuals and organisations can get caught in the trap of needing to be “all things to all people”.  This is especially true in the world of SME arts organisations, who feel the need to “tick the boxes” of their funding partners. 

Develop a framework so you can say “No” more easily

Have a checklist of three or four key questions to ask before you say “yes”:  Will it further our mission; can we do it within our resources; what will we need to stop doing to do this: will it return to our bottom line.

Cost in getting support: then outsource

Everyone does some things great and somethings just OK.  Focus on what you do great, outsource the “OK” stuff to others who are great at it; and then find the opportunities to do more of what you are an expert in. 


Taking some time to address your need to be “over-programmed” will prevent the pain and loss that comes from burnout.  Kick the adrenalin habit before it costs you more than a bit of indigestion.

We all have the right to a bit of space in our lives.  

Judith Bowtell of Albany Lane is an executive coach offering workshops, mentoring and coaching to individuals and organisations in the arts. Her background includes more than 20 years’ experience in arts strategy and policy, in funding and cultural agencies, as well as leading small arts organisations.

Contact us if you want to find that strategic space in your working life.




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