HSP solutions for too much work & too little time

In the workplace, this means that we naturally tend to take in and do everything with more attention to detail. As a result, we tend to deliver higher quality work… and we also run out of time more easily. (For an article on running out of time in your private life, see here)

Workplaces in general have “productivity” as their ultimate standard. Service jobs tend to have a certain amount of clients or customers that need to be dealt with in a limited amount of time. When it comes to developing products of any kind, then there needs to be a good profit margin, which means, don’t take too long! For us HSP’s this can be frustrating. We tend to enjoy attending to details. In workplaces, this often results in a conflict between what we see as doing our job versus the time we have for it.

On the one hand, we tend to want to get on with things just like everyone else, yet on the other hand, we know that something about that doesn’t work very well for us.

While there are definitely workplaces that are plain ill-suited to HSP’s (and if you hate your job then please intend to find something that is a better match for you!) there are ways to…

So, first things first. The goal is not for you to act like a non-HSP. It’s important to keep doing some things your way. For otherwise, what would be left of your work for you to enjoy?

Prioritizing however is a must. There are things that your boss wants you to do, there are things that your colleagues and/or customers want you to do and there are things that you want to do. These three areas may coincide, or they may be miles apart. Either way, it’s up to you to meet job standards and maintain your job satisfaction.

Sacrificing all your job satifaction in order to meet requirements is a sure fire way to burn yourself out.

Sacrificing all job requirements for job satisfaction however is a surefire way to get fired.

This means that, if you find yourself running out of time consistently, then you must find ways to be more efficient without going to extremes. Here are some suggestions:

  • Are you doing everything at your best? If so, consider whether this is what your boss expects from you or whether is what you expect from you. As HSP’s we often don’t think twice about working at something until we think it’s done. The question is, do others even notice or appreciate how good a job you did? If they don’t, then start doing more things for 60%. Stop when you feel that you’ve only finished something for 60%. Chances are, it’s more than good enough already (and if it isn’t, stop at 70% etc).


  • Get clear on what the prime things are that you truly enjoy doing well. Don’t compromise on those things that give you true job satisfaction. Yet, prioritize. Allow yourself to do the things you love most for 100%, the rest, do only as much as is strictly required. Chances are, you can be perfectly happy doing less your way as long as you can keep doing what matters the most to you.


  • Delegate. Negotiate. If you finish every task you are given, then management will likely assume that the workload is fine even if you’re working 80 hours a week to get everything done. Look around at what others are doing. Compare workload and results. When there is just too much work on your plate then negotiate and delegate. Don’t go to your boss crying helplessly without a plan, and don’t wait until you’ve nearly had a heartattack. Instead, figure out how you can best meet company requirements: what are your main tasks that must be done by you? What are tasks that can be delegated to someone else or just be ignored for the time being? Then go and talk to your superiors. 


  • One of our HSP qualities is taking responsibility. In workplaces, this quality can easily wear us out if we are not careful. Saying enough is enough, asking for help and keeping an eye on our own well-being are all needed to avoid taking more responsibility than is good for us. Instead of letting your sense of responsibility drag you into over-working, use it to brainstorm solutions and frame a proposal. It will be much easier for a boss to accept a suggestion that takes the bigger picture into account, than it will be to make changes that benefit only you.


  • Stick to your own tasks. As HSP’s we have a radar for group dynamics. We spot people in need, notice when certain processes don’t run smoothly and tend to want to help. In the workplace this can translate to doing what needs doing regardless of whether the job is ours to do. If you are helping out at the cost of finishing your own tasks, then you are probably better off letting things “go wrong” instead of chipping in. 


  • Unfortunately, the looming disasters that are blatently obvious to us HSP’s, are not necessarily obvious to others. Many times, nothing will be done about issues until they are big and ugly. If speaking up about things doesn’t help, then allowing those things to go wrong helps them to become big, ugly and visible to others. While standing by like this may be incredibly uncomfortable (if not to say excruciating), it will allow others to step up and take responsibility, hence lifting a huge weight off your shoulders.


  • What is your worplace like? Is quality work appreciated? If you’re working at a place where “fast” and “cheap” are the prime values, then you probably won’t ever feel at home. If on the other hand you know that quality work is appreciated, then you know that your work is appreciated and that you can talk to your boss when quality suffers due to lack of time. Knowing where you stand is important. Recognizing inconsistencies in superiors is important too. Sometimes we need to explain that you can’t have high quality at the speed of crap.  


  • Join forces. If change needs to happen, then this will be much easier with many people on board. In practice this often means planning ahead. Is there an important meeting coming up? Do you fear that you may be the lone cowboy once again? Start talking to colleagues well before the meeting. If they agree with your standpoint, then ask them to support you. Explain that, if management concludes that it’s just you who wants change then nothing will happen, but if they know that they are dealing with a majority request, then you have a much better chance of having influence. Know that, a natural role of HSP’s is the one of “advisor”. We naturally look ahead. However, we can’t advise if we’re not being heard. In the workplace, being heard requires joining forces.


  • Know whether you’re being valued. If you’re seen as easily replacable, then you have very little to no influence at all. Standing your ground would probably lead to getting fired. Yet, in that case, your priority needs to lie with getting a better job and not with making the current one work. 


  • Assuming that you are being valued as an employee though, it’s still important to remember that one of the PRIME human tactics for “making problems go away” is to dismiss, deny and ignore them. Don’t take this personally. If you’re bringing up a tough company issue (like: there’s not enough time to do what needs doing!) then people will try to dismiss the problem by dismissing you. As HSP’s it’s easy to crawl into the “nobody understands me” hole at this point, but that just proves to others that the problem wasn’t real in the first place. People will come around when they have to. If they ignore you when you’re sounding the alarm, don’t give in. Bring the topic up from time to time until it sticks. Human tendency is to accept things more easily when they’ve been heard before. Meanwhile, do what you need to do to guarantee your own well-being. Sure, in an ideal society, we all work together to create an optimal environment. In real life however, we often have to find ways to make things work for ourself. Sometimes that involves going against the grain, making someone mad or not doing the best job possible.


  • Last but not least, walk your talk. If you’ve talked to your boss about delegating some tasks, then by all means, delegate! If ýou’ve indicated that you can’t finish all your tasks in the given time, then by all means, don’t work more hours to finish them anyway! There is a writing adage that applies here: “show, don’t tell”. We all pay much more attention to what someone actually does than what they say they do. So, be true to how things are. Speak up and stand your ground. If people won’t listen, let them see what the problem is for themselves, in their own time.
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1 Crystal August 23, 2014

Excellent article – I never read it, but this reminds me of the old book Women Who Love Too Much. Same principle, but I think it was geared more toward martyrs (to men), as opposed to this much more accurate personality-tendency model.

Thanks for such a great wealth of advice!

2 Caroline van Kimmenade August 24, 2014

Hi Crystal, you’re very welcome! Glad you enjoyed the article.

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