One of the most frequent comments I hear this time of year deals with feelings of being overwhelmed. Too much to do, and just not enough hours in the day. When I ask if this is a seasonal condition or a chronic one, I’m rarely surprised at the answer. Most people who feel overwhelmed during the holidays feel the same way throughout the year. It just becomes magnified during this season with so many mandatory deadlines.
If this sounds familiar to you, you might like to try an exercise I recently learned from one of my coaches, Trina Gray. (Yes, coaches do have coaches.) This exercise is for people who have way too much on their plates and end each day exhausted and stressed about what remains to be done. I admit my to-do list is usually way too long, and thus self-defeating, but this exercise really helped me gain some perspective.
We all have roles we play throughout the day. Parent, boss, supervisor, son, cook, dog walker, volunteer, caregiver–well, you get the idea. At any given time we have a multitude of responsibilities in different facets of our lives. It’s no wonder that our to-do lists can feel longer than the jet stream. But here’s the problem. Although we all like to believe that we can multi-task–and most pride ourselves on it–the truth is no one multi-tasks well. The human brain is not equipped to split focus for long periods of time, at least not if you want to have a superior outcome.
So how can you shorten your list, be more effective, and feel more satisfied at the end of the day?
Simple–chose the roles which best suit you and focus on them. Okay, not really so simple but the truth is we cannot be all things to all people, nor can we do all things well. If you are looking to eliminate that overwhelmed feeling, take some time and write down all the roles you play throughout the day. Everything. Personal and professional. You will probably fill up a sheet of paper once you start. These are the areas where your energy is going at any given time of the day. It’s no wonder that you can’t seem to get anything accomplished.
Next, choose between five and seven roles that mean the most to you at this time. “At this time” is a key component. As with all things in life, this list is fluid and can change as needed, so don’t feel locked into it. The best thing about the list is that is all your choice. What roles matter to you, and what will move you forward in your life at this point? What will really move your needle if you apply focused energy to it? Choosing your top roles really isn’t easy. There are some many things we do that we care about, but not everything serves us well. Some roles are simply distractions, and others are ways we find to procrastinate and avoid facing what frightens us.
I think the hardest part of this exercise is letting go of the rest of the roles. However, there is a kind of peace that comes with those choices because they align with what is really important to you–your core values. Once you have those roles down, you can use them as a guide when planning your to-do list. Does the activity fall within one of those roles? Does it benefit you and move you forward? If so, put it on the list and go for it. If not, perhaps it can wait for another time, or doesn’t need to be done at all. One of the most important skills we can develop, and one that is perhaps the least honed, is the ability to say no. We want to appear to be a team player and able to do it all, but we just can’t. It’s not humanly possible.
Once you develop this list, you have a guideline for deciding what is really important to accomplish at any point. When you stop putting everything on your list, you can breathe and give yourself a little space. Best of all, you can end the day feeling fulfilled instead of exhausted.
As you plan your resolutions for 2014, why not give this exercise a try. It may just help you decide where you want to focus your energy for the coming year. It will also help you clarify what is really important and what needs your attention so you don’t feel like you are letting yourself or others down.
Want some help deciding which roles are important to you? Contact me for a complimentary consultation. Thirty minutes later you will have a guide to know where to focus your energy and make 2014 your best year yet.