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What do I do when I cannot do it all well?

When we are passionate about our work and we really care about others, one of the most challenging things to admit is that we cannot do it all. While we may intuitively know this, our calendars and our to-do lists may suggest a different reality. Once we begin prioritizing what we do, we also have to recognize that not everything needs to be done perfectly – or even really well!  One of my two greatest challenges is the tendency to both do too much and try to do each of those things really well. Can anyone else relate to this? 🙂 When I am living in rhythm, I am in a continual practice of letting go – and I mean continual practice!  If you are struggling with trying to do everything well and know you cannot keep it up (and keep your sanity!) then this post is for you! Join me for three questions that will help guide your decision-making in those moments when you know you cannot do it all well.

What is most important for me to do right now?

This is a question that only you can answer. In many situations, we have many other people who would like to answer this question for us. When you are faced with a lot of priorities from several different people, you have to take some time to pause and reflect on what is truly most important for you right now. Recognize that what is more important for you right now may have nothing to do with work. You may need to go for a walk, take a nap, incorporate rest or play and leave space in your day for rejuvenation. Fall is always particularly challenging for me to navigate because I teach a course and I still have other commitments. As much as I would like to work on all of the projects that require my attention, I have to make choices. I can quickly review and comment on some of those projects, but my primary attention is to prepare for my class. I also have to decide how much effort I spend in each area for the class development. For instance, when making decisions about assignments and expectations for both the students and myself, I have to be realistic on what really needs to be done. As much as I would like for my students to become more proficient writers, that is not a primary competency for my course, and it requires significant time and effort for me to invest in grading. This year, I have removed the final paper from the course and will focus on small group discussions as the most important thing for both me and my students right now.

What is important right now that someone else can do?

Although you may be very proficient in an area, you may not be the right person to work on it right now. As you find yourself struggling with decision-making on how you spend your time and energy, reflect on “who else” could be a good fit. When you are willing to pause and even say “no” you provide new opportunities for others. Even if you have worked with this partner for a long time and they really want you to be the person doing it, you can clearly and honestly share with them that you are not able to do this right now. If you are able to connect them with someone else, you can offer that possibility. If you are not in a position where you have capacity to make the connections, you can also just directly say you are not available. By honoring them with a response and yourself by creating boundaries, everyone wins! You also maintain the relationship by not overcommitting to things you are not actually able to fulfill.

What can I do that is “good enough” right now?

Every day we make decisions that impact our daily rhythm and routine. You may not even realize that you have decided to do everything well until you find yourself feeling overloaded, weary, frustrated or even angry. When you get to this place, pausing and reflecting is the most important thing you can do. As an example, last week, I wanted to get the grocery shopping done on Friday but ended up delaying until Sunday afternoon. I really did not want to do it on Sunday, but we needed to be ready for the week. My usual pattern is to go to two (or sometimes three) different grocery stores in order to get the items that we most often eat. This week, I decided that I would just get what I could get at one store and make it work. For a moment, I thought about going to one other store to get the apple juice I knew my daughter would drink. After reflection, I realized that it is not necessary for me to spend the extra time needed to go to another store. I could get the “good enough” apple juice! This decision was incredibly freeing and helped me have time to enjoy my family and not become irritated because I was trying to do too many things well.

So what about you? What are some areas that are particularly important for you to do well right now? What are some areas of your life that you can do “good enough” this week?

One of the free resources that you can download related to this topic is my “Escape the Overwhelm” Checklist. Check it out here!

Photo by Eunice Lituañas on Unsplash

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