Do you struggle with figuring out how to get things done? Do you feel as if there are endless items on your to-do list? Do you wake up overwhelmed or go to bed feeling as if you didn’t accomplish much during your day?
I understand your struggle.
I’m the official coordinator of the universe and an A-type personality who likes to check things off. I run out of time long before I run out of tasks to be completed. I have a tendency to beat myself up for perceived “failures” – no matter how big or small. I tend to focus on the “still to be done” list rather than the “you rocked that” list.
A few months ago, I realized I wasn’t sleeping well or nearly enough. I was working eighteen hours a day, from the moment I startled awake until I dropped exhausted into my bed. I wasn’t making “progress” as I measured it and assumed I needed to work harder for more hours. I was literally working myself to death and was no longer handling my life in a rational way.
Naturally, I hit a wall. It was only a matter of time and I weathered it better than most. I was burnt out and exhausted. I felt completely out of control, as if I was drowning, and I experienced my very first anxiety attack. To stop it from happening again, I knew such behavior had to stop. I couldn’t believe I’d let things get so out of hand.
It was up to me to change my thinking.
I needed smart goals that worked in tandem with adequate sleep, time to recoup, and clean eating. I knew I had to get up from the computer, get my body moving, and remember that working around the clock was going to kill me eventually as a result of physical and mental stress. I needed to back off the two pots of coffee I was consuming every day to psyche my body out and stay awake.
I stopped lying to myself. “You don’t have time to sleep.” “You love your job so it’s okay to work 120 hours a week.” “I’ll focus on time off once I’m caught up.” “I’m fine.”
None of those things were true. Once I accepted the reality of my personal situation, I did an evaluation of everything around me. I examined where I was professionally, emotionally, financially, and physically. It was eye-opening. Here are the things I’ve learned…
Smart Goal #1: Set boundaries for yourself and others.
This was the single most difficult lesson for me to learn and I still have to fight responses that have become reflex over the years. Not only did I demand a lot from myself, there were no limits in place for the demands of others on my time.
I constantly said “YES” when I wanted and needed to say “NO.” For women especially, the art of saying no is a skill that can decades to acquire.
Before you say yes to a client, a family member, a friend, or anyone else (including you), pause for ten minutes. Step away from the issue by taking a walk, going to the bathroom, washing your face and hands with cool water, drinking a glass of water, or simply finding a quiet place to calm your mind.
Think carefully and ask yourself these questions:
- Do you have time, money, energy, or resources for the requested task?
- Is it something that will grow your life?
- Would you have chosen it for yourself if the other person wasn’t part of the equation?
If the answer to any of these questions is no…that is the answer to the question. Don’t allow anyone to abuse your time, take advantage of your nature, or coerce you into doing something you don’t want to do out of obligation, fear, or guilt. Draw the line and refuse to cross it.
Smart Goal #2: You are not the world’s babysitter.
Sure, you can juggle family and work and play dates and parties and…everything. You’ve done it for years and a lot of it is on autopilot. You’re used to working hard, to handling issues before they become problems, and thinking outside the box.
Multitasking is my personal forte. I can cook dinner, start laundry, answer emails, catch up with my kids, and make appointments for my dogs in the same thirty-minute time span.
Until the one day you really don’t have a chance to do one of the many things you “always” do. Suddenly, one of those dozen plates you’re spinning in the air hits the floor and there is a gasp of shock from the people around you.
Before you start your day, recognize those things that you must do on your own. There are many aspects of my business that require my personal, loving attention. However, there are “daily grind” tasks that anyone can do and that doesn’t always mean you get the job.
If you live alone, find shortcuts and be nice to yourself if you can’t get everything finished before the sun goes down.
If you live with a significant other or children, split some responsibilities. Be fair and take ages into consideration – but anyone over age five can help with picking up, over the age of ten can learn to use a washer and dryer, and over the age of sixteen can take care of their own errands.
If you live with other adults (yes, your children count), stop enabling them to take advantage of you. Be firm in what you can take on and don’t negotiate past what you can handle. Grown people are capable of being responsible for their own messes, their own meals, and can even be tapped for assistance with some of the tasks on your list!
Smart Goal #3: Stop setting ridiculous expectations for yourself!
You want to be the perfect spouse, the world’s best parent, the best at your job, and a size six to boot. Stop it right now.
No matter how you strive, perfection is an illusion that is forever out of reach. Refusing to give yourself any breaks is the quickest path to self-doubt, frustration, depression, and having your mind, body, heart, and spirit quit on you.
The first step to reaching any goal is determining exactly what you want. The more specific you are, the better your chance of outlining a plan that works.
For instance, simply saying, “I want to save money for a house” leaves too many variables open to sabotage you. Instead, “I want to save $10,000 toward the down payment on a house by this date.” That helps you determine not only what you want to save but how you will do it. Dividing that number into your paychecks or figuring out how many client hours you need to work to get there is easy to determine.
- Instead of saying, “I need to be healthier” try narrowing that down into smaller pieces. “I will quit smoking.” Figure out the method that works for you and give yourself a goal date to quit.
- “I will drink 75 ounces of water daily.” If you don’t drink any water, add a cup each day to your goal ounces. Infuse it with lemon if you don’t typically like the taste.
- “I will not eat from a fast food restaurant for one month.” Make sure you have other options available to help you stick to your goal. Take your lunch or buy food ahead to make for dinner.
The more you define your goals, the more likely you will be to reach them. Start slowly and gradually increase your expectations. For instance, if you save $20 a paycheck comfortably for a month, increase that number by another $5 for the next month.
Keep leveling up in small increments to assure success without making you feel overwhelmed. This simple strategy works in many areas.
I’m currently using the reverse technique to quit smoking without drugs, patches, gum, or vapor cigarettes. As a pack-and-a half-a-day (30 cigarettes) smoker, I’m currently down to 14-per-day. I try to focus on the fact that “I’m halfway there” rather than “I’m still smoking.”
How to Get Things Done – Identify, Modify, and Forgive
- Identify where your life is out of control. Be honest about your role in the chaos – and the role of others. This is the moment where brutal honesty is crucial to change.
- Modify the way you’ve always done things. A bad habit is formed through repetition and so is a good habit. Outline your new path and get to work.
- Forgive yourself for setbacks. It isn’t easy to change a lifetime of doing things a certain way. Know that you are working toward a life that will be calmer, more fulfilling, and joyful.
To live the life you are meant to live, you have to change the way you think.
Shayne McClendon is an author and positivity practitioner. Shayne believes love crosses all boundaries, social castes, races, genders, and belief systems. If you are lucky enough to find soul-deep love, you should fight for it. Life-certified, reader approved.