Have you ever had something unexpected happen in your workweek that you knew would set you back?
I sure have!
Right now, I normally work a 5 day (or at least 4 day workweek). Because my husband and I toggle our work schedules (sometimes with the help of childcare providers), occasionally things don’t line up as planned and I may come upon a day or two that is no longer available just for work. Every now and then, I will realize I’m going to lose a day in my workweek and just be “mom” for the day. That can be challenging when you have made plans to work during that time! But this need for flexibility (which is also a HUGE perk of the Virtual Assistant/online business life) has taught me a lot.
When I know that I’m going to lose out these days, I have two options:
1. Hustle hard today.
2. Push some timelines out.
Let’s be real, sometimes it’s both!
One thing I’ve found out about my to-do list is that it grows all on its own. It’s like the weeds in the backyard!
They need a lot of attention to get them sorted, and to get under control and looking good!
My to-do’s get out of control (and I probably need some better systems in place for my own sanity!), but I know that everyone can relate to this. We place way too many expectations on ourselves and create more unrealistic or unhealthy amounts of work for ourselves, often much more than we should!
Why is this? Have you ever thought about that? What motivates your growing to-do’s?
Does this list become unmanageable emotionally or impact your ability to enforce the boundaries you want or know you need?
Maybe it’s sheer dedication and desire, that has somehow managed to grow complicated and heavy…
But could this growing and unmanageable list be snowballing from some other fear, such as fear or failure, or the fear of not having enough (money, reputation, etc.)?
These questions can be important to reflect on from time to time, because they affect every area of your life – your cycles of productivity, how you feel about your accomplishments, how you feel about others’ accomplishments, being content with where you are, and ultimately, reaching your goals.
I’ve learned that 99% of the time, my timelines and to-do lists are self inflicted expectations that keep me busy or even in a state of anxiety.
Yes, often we do have due dates and timelines that can’t be moved, but that should never be a problem when we have been working on schedule, or ahead of schedule and playing a proactive role in those projects. That’s not what I’m talking about here today.
What I’m talking about today is the inner world of anxiety that we cultivate by idolizing our to-do lists and achievements.
Working this way doesn’t work well…
I have learned that I have an emotional attachment with my list of to-do’s. I may not always realize it when I have my head down or tell myself that I should keep working, but I do. I think we are especially guilty of this as business owners and soloprenuers.
Does that resonate with you? Do you ever feel like you have an emotional attachment to your list of to-do’s?
Maybe you feel like you can’t stop working.
Maybe you feel like you need to skip your workout. Or skip lunch.
Maybe you get impatient or testy with others, those you work with or those who are closest to you each day.
Have you ever thought about or noticed how this list affects your self-worth?
Do you experience ups and downs emotionally based on how you perform with your items on that list?
I believe that when this kind of behavior begins, we start feeding a very unhealthy cycle, one in which we trade true responsibility for a false responsibility. What I mean by this is that we create internal measurements for our to-do lists, neglecting the real boundaries that would support them as we abuse ourselves emotionally in an effort to simply complete them.
Well, let me tell you some good news (that I hope you already know!)
YOU are not the items on your list!! You are also not defined by how well you do them.
I’ve got a challenge for you today.
Draw the line. Reassign some due dates. Clear the air.
Make room for your soul to BREATHE!
Take a moment right now to look at your list and pick at least ONE thing you can move to tomorrow or later in the week. Come on, there has to be at least one thing!! Move that one thing and instead take a break and enjoy the day, or work on something you are passionate about!
Accept yourself with kindness and grace, knowing that your to-do list will feel better when you do.
There’s always going to be something else for you to do.
When we are forced to push back our list of “to-do’s”, here’s what happens…
1. We Work More Intentionally
If we are required to be selective about our list of priorities, we will work on what really needs to get done on schedule, or what will really move the needle in our business. We will be more efficient with our time and make more deliberate and impactful decisions about the projects we are working on. Time is a resource that we take for granted all too frequently. We understand the fleeting resource of finance — when we are on a budget, we can make things stretch and be frugal because we have to, but we must be frugal with our time too. I believe that includes the time we invest in our relationships as we work together. When we de-clutter our to-do lists, we give ourselves permission to be more intentional with those around us. We are willing to take more time on a call to connect, or to check in on a personal level. Taking the time to work intentionally is a “cost” of doing business. If we do not budget for it, we’ll end up in debt. Think about how it feels when others run over you with their lack of intention. Have you ever been cut off on the highway? The person who cut you off did not care a single bit about you…they were just trying to get where they were going, and as fast as possible. We must put things into perspective and take the pressure off. Is it really that urgent? Is this really worth my rest or peace of mind? Is this worth negatively impacting someone else about? Probably, the answer to all of those questions is “No”. When we deny the sense or urgency, we finally have the permission to be intentional, instead of letting a fleeting feeling rule our world.
2. We Relax and Work Restfully
On occasion, (and especially depending upon your personality and strengths) there’s nothing better than having someone light a fire under you. If you need to get moving, a sense of urgency may help. After all, our human instinctive of survival keeps us alive! However, if we operate this way day in and day out, we’ll burnout and run around frazzled, with little reward for all of our efforts. Not only do we suffer ourselves, but we also create an atmosphere of “frazzled” everywhere we go! We may burnout those we work with or repel them with our unstable working habits. When we work frantically or under a sense of urgency with emotional decision-making, we increase room for error and the stressful environment we have created for ourselves. This negatively impacts our work, our relationships and even our health. We’re after longevity and sustainable habits for restful working. Innovation and creativity thrive in an atmosphere of rest! Sure, we may have an idea come in the middle of the night on occasion, but we still need to recharge if we’re going to execute it. It’s plain and simple, it all comes down to your health. When I put my kids to bed at night and they get upset about ending their day and going to sleep, I always tell them, “It’s good to get rest.” I affirm my two-year old toddler that it’s good. We need to rest and we need to honor the role that rest plays in our lives, in our communities and in our work.
3. We Get a Grip on Reality
With our heads down in the sand, it’s impossible to see the bigger picture. Have you ever experienced those moments in your life when you have been trucking along, and suddenly it occurs to you that things are not how you’d like them to be? When we put a limit on our list of to-do’s, we can step back and gain clarity again about what truly matters to us. You can think about it like this…you may sit at your computer all day, hunched over and working away until dark, but the moment you step outside to stretch your legs and get some fresh air, you feel better. It’s crucial to return to wide open space and get a grip on what our goals truly are. Whether it’s more time with family, or time to pursue other passions, you need to let your work take a back seat from time to time. When you look at your problems with a magnifying glass during all working hours, your cortisol will spike and you’ll begin manifesting more problems. Hmm, that seems counterproductive, doesn’t it? Get a grip, and get away! Change the pace and get to some open space so that you are able to reset the way you feel and behave. Respect others enough to make sure they can embrace this lifestyle too.
This all gets me thinking…
Often our to-do lists become something that we are enslaved to instead of something that should serve us and our vision.
- I’ve seen projects become more important than the people who support them.
- I’ve seen people fearful that they are unable to say no and ask for more time.
- I’ve seen projects crash and burn because everything needed to be done “asap”.
- I’ve seen discouragement and far less performance because of the pressure to do, do, do.
The harmony of our projects with our people requires that we recollect ourselves with a right perspective.
- The person is worth more than the item on your list. (Even if it was done wrong.)
- Your mental and emotional health is more valuable than the things you planned to get done. (Even if it comes at a cost.)
- The projects we plan can always find themselves a new timeline. (We are the masters of our projects and timelines.)
I like to talk about this on a broad scale, but the truth is that this will be most impactful for YOU today if you decide to protect your emotions from the growing weeds.
How often do you find yourself mentally entangled with your to-do list?
I know that if you’re still reading this article, maybe you are burnt out and exhausted from the work on your plate.
Now is the time to change. Work life balance is not something you get when you hit x, y or z in your life or business. Work life balance is something YOU commit to because YOU are worth it.
If you haven’t already, complete this exercise before you move on with your day…
Pretend that tomorrow gets completely hijacked. What did you have on your list of to-do’s for tomorrow?
As you review what you have to do, begin to clear out your list for tomorrow. Try to clear off everything. Either complete some of those items today or move them to another day in the week.
Afterwards, think about what time you get back in your day tomorrow.
How does that feel?
Would you be able to get more rest with this time your cleared up, or might you be able to invest creatively in something you are passionate about?
Maybe you just have a more realistic workload for your day tomorrow, and instead of trying to hack away at a list that’s too long, you can proudly accomplish just the few items you had on your list.
I hope that if nothing else, you feel relief.
Here’s to work that supports our emotions instead of robbing or sabotaging them.