• Shellene Drakes

Listen, set reasonable expectations so you get to sleep



For the month of September, I’ve been focusing on planning—especially planning editorial and social media content because I’m tired.

Let me rewind for a minute…

I haven’t been sleeping well. I can fall asleep, but staying asleep is a problem. My brain just can’t quiet down enough to let me blissfully relax and snooze. Each night, my house is silent, aside from the snoring of my husband, and I’m thinking about what I need to accomplish the next day, what I didn’t accomplish, what mistakes I made, what I could have done better, etc.

Pretty much beating myself up throughout the night until I fall into a fitful sleep.

Then my alarm goes off at 6:45 am and I’m off to the races getting the girls ready for school and focusing on my day’s work.

I was talking to my sister-in-law and she said, “maybe you’re not setting reasonable expectations for yourself and what you can do in a day.”

Hmmm…possibly.

From others setting unreasonable expectations to doing it to yourself

From my experiences, corporate was the land of the unreasonable expectation.

“We need a newsletter created and sent by tomorrow at 9 am. Do you have the bandwidth?”

“I need you to review and edit 100 pages of content by lunch. Yes, it’s 10:18 am, but it’s urgent.”

“Yes, it’s 4:36 pm, but this email needs to be written and sent by 5 pm.”

These unreasonable requests usually came from someone else. Someone who didn’t understand how strategic communications worked, but unreasonable requests for myself…from myself?

“It’s 10:15 am, can create and send a newsletter by noon. I can’t forget, I have to post content on social media and update my LinkedIn profile. Oh, while I’m doing that, I should send those four follow-up emails to those people I met last week. Before I do that, go online and register for that design webinar. Oh, I have an accountability meeting at 11 am. I can do it all. Why can’t I do it all?”

Why can’t I do it all? Because I’m only one person.

And that, my friends, is why I’m waking up at 1:46 am thinking about all the things I need to do and haven’t done as yet. We can be our own worst enemy especially when we’re trying to prove that we can do it. We can push ourselves so hard to prove that we’re capable and worthy that we will burn ourselves out.

You can’t be of any use to anyone if you’re balled up in a corner, stressed out, and overwhelmed because you aren’t setting reasonable expectations for yourself.

Now, some days are going to be crazy busy and there’s nothing you can do about that, but I cannot stress how necessary setting and managing expectations is offering your clients more strategic communications—and, removing stress. Whether you’re a business owner or you’re working for someone else, you have got to set reasonable expectations to create a business or career that works for you.

Five tips for setting and managing expectations

1. Everything must be based in strategy. We have strategized and prioritized certain messages and projects. This isn’t set in stone, but it’s to help us focus our communications efforts so we don’t end up throwing things against a wall and praying that something sticks.

2. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. Yes, this project sounds great, but we have communications planned for the next three weeks. It’s not time-sensitive, so we can do it in a few weeks. Oh, it is time-sensitive? OK, what can we push three weeks to ensure we do your project properly?

3. Does it have to happen RIGHT NOW? Why is this so urgent? Why does this communication need to get done right now? Because the CEO thinks it should be done right now? Well, if it was so important, why was it not part of our strategic planning. It would irk my spirit to hear communications managers says that they had to do something RIGHT NOW just because a higher-up decided that tomorrow was the best day. No thought of strategy or the bigger picture, just that it would be cool to do it RIGHT NOW. Yeah, no. Let’s think about this.

4. Do we have the time to do this right? It’s not just about doing it, it’s about doing it well and making sure that this communication has a strong return on investment. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been surprised by clients wanting something like a newsletter created overnight. Yes, you can get a newsletter by tomorrow morning, but will this newsletter hit the mark? Hurry, hurry, done fast is rarely done right.

5. You need to chill. OK, you can’t tell your client or supervisor to chill in so many words, but you can tell them that we need to reassess the situation based on your bandwidth. A lot of people have a lot of great ideas, but we can’t execute every ‘great’ idea. What can I push to the back burner to ensure that this communications idea is executed? And executed well? Do we have buy-in from other team members that I’d need to connect with to get this done in the timeframe you’re requesting?


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