If you’re a high achiever, you are probably really good at getting things done, that’s why you got really good grades, got into great universities, and landed good jobs. However, as you embark on new challenges, like advancing your career without a set schedule, taking on additional courses on top of balancing adulthood, or starting a side business alongside a full-time job, planning gets more and more difficult.
There is no “perfect” way to do it because everyone’s life and goals are different, but this is especially for high achievers, because we are so used to excelling in ways that other people can’t.
It can be so easy to wear “busy” as a badge of honour because especially as a high achiever, you might also have a sense of impostor syndrome and fear you don’t live up to the expectations of others or yourself.
This combination of being a high achiever, always being busy, and impostor syndrome leads to a lot of planning mistakes which ultimately leads to….
- Extreme stress as you try to cope with your overwhelming schedule
- Beating yourself up because you can’t live up to your commitments
- Irritability as you put your health and relationships on the backburner
- And ultimately burnout.
That’s why today, I want to talk to you about the 4 planning mistakes every high achiever makes (including me!) and the solution that has greatly helped me. Let’s get started!
1) Leaving Things To the Last Minute Because You Believe You Work Best Under Pressure
Now, when I was younger I used to always leave everything to the last minute because I thought I worked best under pressure. And here’s the thing, I got away with it, a lot. In school, you are not usually rewarded for your effort, you are rewarded for the result. I never submitted an assignment in early because I wanted to wait to make sure I had all the information; I was a perfectionist when it came to my papers.
However, as a high achiever with impostor syndrome, what I was doing was not wanting to face the fact that I might not be “good enough” or “smart enough.” Now I understand that what I was doing was wanting to ensure that I wasn’t “wasting effort” and actually giving something 100% for fear of failure. How embarrassing would it be if I actually spent 2 full weeks working on a paper and only got a “C.” That would crush my belief in myself that I was “naturally” smart because that’s what everyone thought of me. I liked being able to credit my success to my natural abilities and not my ability to grow. I was heavily in the fixed mindset in my high school and university days.
This is a huge planning mistake that all high achievers make, is planning things for the absolute last minute because we believe that is how we will perform. The idea of wasted effort can be so uncomfortable but it’s important to understand that in life, there is no bar anymore. So by leaving things to the last minute, not only is it extremely stressful and overwhelming (not to mention physically impossible because I can’t pull all-nighters now that I’m over 30), but it doesn’t really work anywhere.
In school, there are only a limited number of factors that can impact your success, when you are an adult, there can be hundreds of factors that impact your planning, and if you have kids, it can be thousands of factors. That’s why, as a high achiever, it’s so important to understand and challenge your belief that you work best at the last minute.
- I am currently still in school and now, I actually plan the deadline ahead of time.
Who doesn’t love efficiency right? And as a high achiever, one of the planning mistakes you might have told yourself that you are excellent at multi-tasking, but the thing is, above-average results are not enough anymore. When you are in school, the bar is set, so yes it was easier to multi-task, but as a high achiever mid-way through your career, the one thing you might not realize about multi-tasking, is you are already multi-tasking when you are an adult. Being an adult is a juggling act within itself. You have to plan what to eat for dinner, what your kids are doing, bills, finances, taking care of sick loved ones…the list goes on and on.
And still, we think we can multi-task because we believe that we can accomplish multiple things at once. And this is what I believe is so vital about the Work Life Money balance framework that I talk about so much and what I work with my clients on.
One of the biggest mistakes that high achievers make is an all-or-nothing mindset that we have to be in perfect balance all of the time, with 20% dedicated to working, 20% dedicated to family, etc. in a perfect pie chart. But life doesn’t work that way. At any given point in time, there will be many different things happening all at the same time.
Multi-tasking can work in certain cases, like being able to wash dishes and listen to podcasts (one of my favourite things to do), but it’s really important not to over-exert yourself and sometimes that is coming to terms with the fact that you are a human, you are not a robot, and there are things that affect how you do each task.
You are not going to feel productive all the time, as you go through life there will only be more and more factors that impact your work-life balance, and it’s important to be able to focus your time effectively instead of efficiently to ensure that you have work-life balance overall. And sometimes that will mean spending 100% of your time with your family and not “multi-tasking” by also sending work emails or truly enjoying your favourite Netflix show without scrolling through Instagram because you can’t fully enjoy your “me” time if you can’t follow the plotline.
Multi-tasking is not all or nothing either, you don’t have to do it or never do it, but there’s a time a place and it’s important to plan using an effective method (more on that in #4!)
3) Not Planning To Be Tired or Human
Speaking about not being a robot, you will be tired. You are a human and you need to eat, sleep, shower, and possibly nap intermittently. You will not be productive 100% of the time. You will also need to veg out and let your brain do nothing.
When you are a high achiever, this can be extremely hard to admit, because you might have felt like you have been living in a high productivity mode when you were younger, why can’t you just continue?
Well, the thing that we tend to forget is that when you get older, when you advance your career, make bigger investments in your life and self, and grow as a person, you have more responsibilities….and that can be tiring.
When you are younger, you probably had a parent that helped with making dinner, cleaning up, and dealing with the things that can actually go wrong in life (isn’t adulthood just learning about a whole lot of responsibilities you didn’t even know could exist?). Not accounting for this type of change is one of the critical planning mistakes holding you back.
Especially if you decide to have kids or pets or become a homeowner, all of these take on additional responsibilities and additional things in your mind that can be exhausting. And as a high achiever, it can be hard to admit that we actually can’t do it all, we need to rest, we need to fully re-charge and get a good nights sleep, eat well, and take care of ourselves, but it’s so essential to our overall success and it needs to be planned for.
- not going out clubbing anymore
4) Using A One-Size Fits All Planning Method
The last thing I want to talk about today is how to plan. One of the planning mistakes most high achievers make is using a “one-size-fits-all” approach to it. Now, I’ve tried basically every type of planning. I’ve done physical planners, digital planners, bullet journalling and also experimented with different types of planners like simple dateless books to really bougie, luxurious planners (it was on sale).
And one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that as a high achiever, it’s not the method of planning that is critical, it’s how you approach it and adjust to the tendencies of a high achiever and perfectionist which include the all-or-nothing mindset, not planning to be human, not incorporating work-life balance, people-pleasing and so much more.
That’s why I’ve currently been developing my own planning method that allows me to approach planning with a growth mindset, and how to improve over time while still being productive. This is a method I am currently working on developing for my client portal and with my clients, because I think planning for high achievers hits different. It’s so easy to make these planning mistakes. No, we are not inherently “lazy” so we don’t need to be motivated by a to-do list, but your innate reaction will probably be to overachieve in a to-do list and put on more to impress yourself! As a high achiever, it can also be easy to want to take on more to avoid failure in the big scary goals.
So if you are having difficulties with actually following through with your plans, remember it might not be a motivation issue or something “wrong” with you, it might be in the planning mistakes themselves and how you approach it.
This is why I’m so passionate about talking about personal growth because once you develop the personal growth skills to overcome impostor syndrome, create boundaries and really have work-life balance, it ripples to other parts of your life. If this is something you’re struggling with, I would love to help! I’m confident that it’s not just you and there are so many layers to maintaining work-life balance which is a skill that makes the rest of your life easier. Make sure to book your free Career Clarity Call to see if 1:1 coaching is for you!