In last week’s essay, I talked about labeling the loss of my morning workouts as a sign that I was heading into a heavy creative period or that my work was generally feeling overloaded.

I’ve been working on identifying other red flags that signal oncoming busy and/or stressful work periods and I thought it might be helpful to share them here.

There are a couple reasons why I think it’s important to identify the signs in my life that things are about to get super busy.

First, it helps me prepare to shift into a productive space.

Second, it also helps me to prepare the people around me, such as my partner, that I’m headed into a busy period. This can mean that he takes on more tasks and responsibilities to lighten my load.

Third, I’ve found that identifying these signs helps me to set a time limit on that busy time so that I avoid burnout. I can mark my calendar for when the busy period begins and try to decide at what point in the future I need to bring that busy period to a close (usually this is within 6–8 weeks) so that I can rest and recover.

Here are some of the signs I’ve identified that tell me things are about to get busy:

  1. As I mentioned, I start to trade morning workout time for just regular work time.
  2. I read less for fun. I think that, in part, this happens because I feel too tired at the end of the day.
  3. I scroll through social media more. Because I’m tired from working, it’s the most low-energy thing I can do at the end of the day.
  4. I work more in the evenings and I also multitask more when I’m doing things like watching television at the end of the day.
  5. I start to go into hyper-organization mode with my to-do list to make sure that I’m not going to miss or drop anything important.
  6. I fall behind on basic maintenance of cleaning my house.
  7. I struggle to fit in walks during the middle of the day.
  8. I stop doing proactive steps like packing lunches in advance and eat out a lot more.

This list of red flags works almost like a checklist. Once a certain number of these items are happening, I know I’m in a busy period and need to plan accordingly to make sure I’m staying rested and healthy.

To think on:

  • What are your signs that you’re entering into a busy or stressful period?
  • In what ways, if any, do you adjust your life to accommodate busy seasons?