DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been working on about four freelance projects at the same time ever since I lost my job late last year. I am doing my best, but I am exhausted. Recently I have been messing up, and I’m sure it’s because I am tired. I’m afraid to let go of any of these jobs, though, because I am worried about being able to pay my bills. How can I manage my time better so I don’t lose everything in the process? -- Stretched Too Thin, Brooklyn, New York
DEAR STRETCHED TOO THIN: Operating on fear will not serve you long-term, as you are experiencing. It is completely understandable that you would have accepted all these projects in your effort to work after you were laid off. What you need to do now is step back. Take a day or two off so that you can rest and evaluate where you are and what you need to do. To step off wisely, do a quick review of your imminent deadlines. Communicate with your clients and let them know you are not feeling well and may need to negotiate your timeline or simply be unavailable to speak for a specific period of time.
When you step away, first get some rest. Literally go to sleep. After at least eight hours of sleep, get up and look at each of your projects, what is left to do, what your compensation is and how you can complete it successfully. If there is a project that is in jeopardy of falling apart or that isn’t worth your energy to complete, be prepared to speak to your client and apologize as you admit you don’t have the bandwidth to finish the job.
Finally, look to the big picture. What do you want to do? Evaluate if the projects you are working on will lead you any closer to your goals. If not, look for other things to do.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I’m part of a group that takes an annual trip to a wonderful location. I have been traveling with them for about 15 years, and it’s lots of fun. This year is different for me. I have been diagnosed with a serious health condition, and my doctors do not want me to travel. I am so upset because I look forward to spending time with my friends every year. Plus, I don’t really want to talk about my medical problems. Should I go and risk what may happen? After all, life is short. If I decide not to go, how do I tell my friends without getting too detailed about my situation? -- Torn, Silver Spring, Maryland
DEAR TORN: You should follow your doctor’s orders as far as travel goes. Throwing caution to the wind when traveling with a group of friends who would be unaware of your health condition would be selfish and potentially catastrophic, not just for you, but for them if they have to care for you should you fall ill while you are traveling.
What do you tell them? As much as you would love to join them, you are dealing with a health matter that requires you to stay at home this time. You don’t have to say more. When asked, say you would rather not talk about it at this time.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)