We are constantly bombarded with opportunities – good opportunities. In isolation, they seem feasible and even fun, but when we start to think about them in the context of everything we say is important or essential, we suddenly have WAY too much to do any given day, week, month or year. Something has to give and something has to go — or many things. So how do we figure out those essentials and how in the world do we keep from getting caught up in the “Yes” overload?
I don’t know about you, but this is something I have struggled with off and on since I was in college – maybe even before that! And it doesn’t really matter what stage of life or season I am in – although I will say that now that I have a young daughter at home – the struggle has increased to an overwhelming point. When we are maxed out, we are not able to do anything well – even those things that we say are most important. So what do we do?
Here are the first 3 of 5 steps to take in moving toward the essential (I’ll discuss the other 3 next week!).
- Reflect on what is essential for you in your life right now. Think about those things that you really want to be a priority in your life. It cannot be everything and it doesn’t need to be what OTHERS think should be essential for you. This is what YOU think is essential. Keep the list fairly short because any one of the essentials can be time consuming if you really invest in them. I also encourage you to put yourself and things that recharge YOU as essential. This could be as simple as taking a walk at the end of your work day, spending 15 minutes journaling, going to a yoga class once a week, or actually taking a lunch break to do personal errands. And although work-related things will likely be part of this list, it doesn’t need to be everything. Maybe it’s family or friend-related, maybe it’s community service or church-related. Again, there could be a lot here, but try to think about your current season and what truly can give you peace and joy. You may have to revise or rework the list several times to get to a comfortable place.
- Schedule what is essential for you in your life right now. This may mean putting things on your calendar and it may also mean blocking your calendar during certain times of the day or week. And just because you don’t have something on your calendar, it doesn’t mean you are truly available for any request that comes your way! Last week I gave up several hours on multiple evenings to things other than my family (which is on my essential list). While they were good things and definitely important, they didn’t all have to happen during those times. I found myself getting frustrated and even more exhausted, but then I really could only blame myself for saying “yes” to being available at those times. Within any given work day, it can also be very easy to be reactive to others – especially if you are monitoring your email or social media accounts. There are a ton of important things that come across your desk that align with your work and may be extremely important to others but they are not essential to you. Schedule time for your essentials and recognize that you might need to allow for more time than you expect. An essential project I was working on last week that I thought might take one day took almost 3 days to complete.
- Refer people and current opportunities to others or to another time. While you may think it will only take a few minutes or a few hours to help out a friend, colleague or family member, it often takes much more time than you anticipate and then those essential areas will suffer. They always do. Rather than taking it on yourself, try to think about someone else who might be able to provide support to this friend, colleague or family member for their current situation. Or, if you do think it’s essential for you, but you are working on other essential things at the moment or the week, schedule them at another time.
Ok, so you probably have a lot to think about – if you have even had a chance to read this right now! 🙂 Which of these three steps do you need to focus on right now?
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