In today’s culture, the pressure to do it all and have it all is overwhelming. We believe that we are at our best when we are multitasking and available to everyone. However, does constantly being “on” leave room for assessing and prioritizing what is best for ourselves? In today’s post, I explain why you shouldn’t do it all. Take a break from leaning in, to lean back and consider your needs.
How do you feel about your to do list?
What is your default attitude towards your to-do list? Are you excited in the morning that you GET to do everything you have set out to do? I’m generally a positive person, but that is NOT my response!
For me, it is “I have to do this? All of this?” and then I slog myself through the tyranny of trying to accomplish it all. I don’t stop myself to question why I am doing it, or if I have the correct approach to getting things done. Again, this is my default behavior.
Do you know why you are doing each item?
When I take the time to think about the reasons behind WHY I am setting out to accomplish each task, I find it easier to narrow down my to do list to what really needs to get done. Anything that I am doing to impress others or holding out as a carrot for self-acceptance is first to be challenged. I’m doing it for the wrong reasons. My options are to either find a better WHY, or to let them go.
I’m no longer telling myself “Just do it” or “Because you have to” or “Because you should”. I find each of these to be demotivational at best! No wonder I often find myself five minutes later checking out the pantry or cruising the internet for distraction.
My achilles heel: exercise
One of the areas that is on my to do list most consistently is exercise. I decided about six months ago that I wanted to start working out regularly because I wanted to lower my cholesterol and BMI as a preventive measure. However, those were not reason enough for me to slog out of bed on most mornings. In fact, I went at least three months without visiting the gym at all. I lacked the energy and the motivation, and had no short term benefits to motivate me.I had to learn over time that exercise HAD to make me feel better, and be realistic for my life. Click To Tweet
Several times in the past year or two, I’ve gotten myself into a new workout routine only to be hit with post-exertional malaise that lasts for weeks, followed by a fear of exercise (no, seriously). I have to be realistic about my needs and capabilities, and make sure that I select appropriate challenges for where I am. Additionally, exercise either has to be quick and a realistic part of my schedule, or it has to be fun, enjoyable, and refreshing for me.
When my husband showed me this article, I was sold on the idea that I could get a workout done in 10 minutes. I started with three 20 second bouts of high intensity on a recumbent bicycle, and have worked myself up to four intervals in a 12 minute span. I have only been doing this two to three times a week for about three weeks, and I have already seen major differences:
1) I no longer think it is impossible to work out at least 3 times per week, no matter how crazy my schedule is. I can’t say no to 10 minutes of exercise.
2) I have energy throughout the day following my workout. I’m not pushing myself beyond my limits. Rather, I am benefitting from increased energy.
3) I am open to doing different types of exercise on the days that I am not doing interval training, which means that I am now entertaining the idea of working out 4-6 times per week.
Recently, I finally decided to try out Barre workouts, and discovered a new love. They are challenging, but appropriate for my fitness needs at this time. So, I try to attend Barre or another group fitness class once or twice per week.
My WHY for exercise
I do HIIT because it is quick and effective. I do Barre because it reminds me of dance, and I like what I get out of it. It feels good to strengthen my core and posture, without pushing myself beyond my limits.
Try to think about how one area of your life benefits you. Focus on what you can see in the short-term as beneficial, rather than long-term results.
What would motivate you to do this today? Tomorrow? The week after that?
Resist the temptation to do it all
Even if you are enthusiastic about everything you do, resist the temptation to do it all. While this can feel affirming in the early stages, it is only a matter of time before it becomes overwhelming and you sense that you are out of control.
In what areas are YOU tempted to do it all?
Why do you want to do it all?
For me, it feels like a badge of acceptance. I love being able to tell people, “No problem, I’ve got it!” or “My pleasure!”. On doing it all: I'm getting in over my head and I don't even know it, because it feels SO good Click To Tweet
How does doing it all benefit you?
Focus on what you do best
It has taken me years to learn the importance of harnessing my strengths. When I focus on what I do well, I feel less stress and cognitive dissonance. When there is a huge gap between what needs to be done, and my current level of ability, I feel immensely stressed and it takes very little for me to feel fatigued or overwhelmed.
What do you do best? In what areas do you find yourself struggling?
Put your pride in its place
I hate admitting that I am not the best at something. I hate asking for help. This has always been a pattern for me. However, a few situations have humbled and positioned me to be open to receive help.
I had a conversation with my grandmother a few years ago, where I was open with her about my reluctance towards accepting from others. She told me, My grandmother's wisdom: 'In order to have something to give, you have to be willing to receive' Click To Tweet
I realize now that I am only effective in serving others to the extent that I admit where I am not strong and ask for help. That is what frees me up to be the most effective, and positions me to give my best.
Weaknesses ARE opportunities
Seeing my weaknesses and vulnerabilities as areas of opportunities has revitalized my resilience and ability to stand when life gets rough. Instead of wondering why I am not sufficient in a particular area, I am accepting of several possibilities:
1) Perhaps I am to let go to make room for something that is more appropriate for me
2) Perhaps the situation will change or I will receive the help I need to navigate this situation
3) Perhaps this is here to strengthen me, and teach me a valuable lesson
If I have determined that the solutions have to come from within me, my problems (and my frustrations!) stack up. However, when I’m humble enough to admit that I don’t have all of the answers, I am open to solutions that may not have occurred to me.
The hardest part is giving up on a project or a task that is not working for me. It might be someone else’s gift to accomplish that goal, but I have to grieve the fact that the answer is not always within me. That, I know, is pride. But, the most valuable thing I have learned in return is this:If you are everything to everyone, you will be nothing to yourself Click To Tweet
Define your identity
When my identity is defined by what I do for others, there is no end to the demands I will make of myself. However, when I center myself (which for me, means rooting myself in God’s love for me), I am free from the tyranny of having to do it all. I am affirmed in who I am, rather than being defined by what I do. I am able to care for myself by assessing what is a good opportunity based on my unique gifts and strengths, and what is a stretch that will take a hit on my overall efficiency and effectiveness in my work.
What defines you? What is your identity rooted in?
The Bottom line
If you identify as an overachiever (which I clearly do), this may be hard for you to hear, much less apply. You want to believe that you are an exception to the rule, that you can do it all. I understand. Please know that if you struggle with this, you are not alone.
There are many things I am not good at, but some of them still have to be done. When that is the case, I must admit that while I am in my zone in this area, I am capable. I give myself permission to apply tactics (such as working for five or 15 minutes at a time) that help me to work through a difficult task. I grant myself freedom from my own expectations.
When this fails, I get back up. I take a break. And then, I try again.
Try re-writing your to do list in terms of why you do what you do. Does this change your priorities? Is there anything that you realize you are doing for the wrong reasons? What will you change?