I have come to the realization that I can’t do it all. No matter how organized I am, how many lists I make, or how well I manage my time, I will never be able to do all the things in the time that I have.
I have felt this way for a while. Years. Probably most of my adult life, but more since the birth of my daughter.
I have noticed this in my clients (successful small business owners) as well. They have long lists of tasks that don’t get completed, leaving them feeling overwhelmed and defeated.
Recently, I began telling myself and my clients that we can’t do it all. We have bought into the expectation that we can and should. But we can’t. And maybe we shouldn’t.
The first time I relayed this message to a client, her immediate response was, “Yes, I can do it all.” Yet she had called me because her office was cluttered and she often stayed late at work, missing time with her husband and children. In her quest to have it all, she felt she was shortchanging herself, her job, and her family.
So what is the answer?
This week a landscaping service team came to prune and remove trees and shrubs in my back yard. In the three months since we had moved in, we hadn’t trimmed anything, and the previous owners had let many plants grow unchecked.
From the window my two-year-old daughter and I watched as the workmen cut perfectly healthy branches, letting them fall to the ground in a heap. They also hacked out overgrown bushes with a pick, pulling out dried branches and long-dead leaves. As I explained what the workmen were doing, it hit me that my life is often like my back yard. Too many things planted too closely together had turned into one big jumbled mess. Pruning was needed in order to see and enjoy each individual plant.
Recently, I have begun the pruning process in my own life and schedule. My goal is to live a less hurried life, having time for the people and activities I love. “Better is one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind,” wrote King Solomon. In order to get that one handful with tranquility, I have given myself permission to do the following:
Focus my energy on what is truly important to me. I can’t do everything, but I can do fewer things with excellence.
Control the amounts of reading material. Without even opening them, I delete emails that say forward, look unimportant, or are unsolicited. If I haven’t read magazines or newsletters within two months, I recycle them. I can always find the information later.
Limit business events outside normal business hours. I can’t attend every seminar, mixer, or teleclass. I designate slots in my schedule each month. When the slots are full, I say no. It is tough to do, but I have to remember my goal.
Carefully consider personal invitations. When scheduling, I look at each week as a whole in order to not overbook. Do we really want to go? Will this activity be relaxing for my family or me? Will it help us spend time with those we love?
Refuse any new commitments until (you set the date). We are still settling into our house, which takes up more time than expected. I don’t have the energy to start something new, no matter how good it sounds. I have pulled out of a book club and business group in the last month because there simply isn’t time to commit.
Postpone tasks that don’t need to be done. If there is not a deadline and my home and/or business is running well without it, the task may not be important. I have two folders (home and business) where I file those “I really should…” tasks. Eventually, either I will complete them or decide they don’t need to be done at all.
Get help with things I can’t or don’t want to do. I happily write checks to my web guy, accountant, and house painter. Yes, I could probably do those tasks myself, but why not have an expert do it better in less time?
Things are getting better, but I still struggle each day to keep from adding more to my already busy schedule. I continually ask myself, “What can I let go?”
What about you? Are you tired of trying to do it all? What are some things you can begin to prune out of your life? Where would you like to focus your time and energy?
After the branches were hauled away and the leaves swept up, my yard actually looked bigger. What was once a tangle of bushes are now separate and distinct plants. There is space to plant new things. But not now. I need time to consider what should be planted. Not every empty space needs to be filled.