Watch Out for Expectation Escalation!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Expectation Escalation. Sometimes, we have to go above-and-beyond the usual amount we accomplish in one day. That’s natural. But just the mere fact that we could do it one day can sometimes lead to the expectation that you can always operate at that level. It’s like being able to sprint fast for 50 meters, and then having everyone expect you to run that fast all the time.

On my weekly calendar, I write down what I want to accomplish each week. Then, I break it down by day to fit those tasks in with my daily client work. Some days, I accomplish everything on the To-Do list and then have time to spare. Some days, I add to the To-Do list, figuring I must not have done enough, or I was too easy on myself.

That’s where the danger lies in constantly escalating your expectations, without allowing yourself some breathing room. Remember to take a little time to relax.

A little backstory

Many years ago, at the beginning of my professional career, I worked for a public relations firm. My job was to create pre-packaged audio news reports and offer them to radio stations to use in their news broadcasts.

When I first began working there, sales people pitched our services with a two-week turnaround time. In those heady, pre-internet days, I cut and spliced ¼-inch reel-to-reel audio tape. Interviews for “quotes” were recorded over the telephone line. I pulled lists of radio stations to target from a database and printed sheets of phone numbers that temps used for calling newsroom directors. It was a time consuming process.

Then, one day, a client had a project they needed within one week. Could we possibly do it? The sales person said yes.

Suddenly, every project from that client was required within one week. Soon, that became 3-day turnaround time. The salesperson said, “If you can do this as a 3-day turnaround, then why should we require two weeks?” There were more and more “rush” projects. Some days, we couldn’t fit all the temps in to work both the rush projects, as well as the projects for the few clients who had actually planned their projects in advance.

Then the clients started paying later and later. My company was late in paying the temp agencies. I had to find new agencies, which meant training all new temps at what was expected.

And then came the 1-day turnaround project. And then the overnighter.

No. Just no.

That’s when I quit.

I don’t want to do that to myself again. Especially since – as a freelancer – I am theoretically my own boss.

Yes, there will be days when I have to squeeze in some extra work, but I have to remember that a sprinter cannot keep that pace for an entire marathon. She will burn herself out. I know how to sprint, but I also have to ensure that – when I’m running a marathon – I pace myself properly to not burn out.

Expectation Escalation