When we ask ourselves the question “How will I know when I have enough?” many of us think of all the “stuff” we have. We think of exploding closets and drawers, overstuffed garages or storage units, bathroom cabinets overflowing with bottles and tubes. This month we are going to change the question just a bit to “How will I know when I am doing enough?” When I ask some people, and particularly women, to consider this question, the first thing I hear is a long groan, followed by an emphatic “I AM doing too much NOW!!!” When I ask them how they know this, they again say emphatically things like “I have no time for myself! Not even 5 minutes a day!!” Or “I haven’t been to the gym for 4 months!” Or “I see my very best friends once in a great while, and then we often are too tired to really enjoy our time together.” Or “My partner and I have not done anything by ourselves for months and months. . .maybe longer.” So, it is not that many of us do not know we are trying to do too much, we seemingly do not have any idea what to do about it.
Is that really true? Is it really true that we have no idea what to do about our feelings of being completely overwhelmed with things to do and places to go, or is it that we have not spent any focused time trying to figure out what to do about it? My hunch is that it is the latter for many of us. I believe that most of us do what we really want to do most of the time. Now I know many of you will be disagreeing with this very strongly. But let us take a closer look.
If this idea is resonating with you, then take a minute now and do the following:
- Make a list of all the things you have done so far today and all the things you still are going to do today. Include everything you can think of. . .phone calls to make, errands to run, meetings to attend, etc.
- When you are finished, go back and circle all the things you really do not want to do. Now go back and put an “x” on all the circled things that HAVE to be done.
- For each of these things ask yourself “Is it true that this HAS to be done?”
- If the answer is no, then just cross it off the list.
- If the answer is yes, then explain to your invisible listener your reasons for thinking it is true that this thing HAS to be done. Make sure you include all the reasons why you think it is true.
- After you have done that, review your reasons. Are they factual or is it your opinion? What is your evidence for thinking each is true?
- If at this point you have convinced your invisible listener that it is true this thing HAS to be done, then consider if there is another way of getting it done. For example, I really dislike taking my clothes to the dry cleaners. It takes time to get them all together so I am sure I have not forgotten anything, which would mean I would have to go back! It takes time to drive to the cleaners because I want to use environmentally safe dry cleaners, both for my health and for the health of the planet, and this is the only one I know about that is not too far away. It is often times hard to find a parking place close to the cleaners, which means sometimes I need to carry one load of clothes and then go back to the car for another load.
You get the idea.
- What might be an alternative? Does the dry cleaners I like offer a pickup and delivery service? Is it free? Is it easy to book a time that works for me? If any of the answers are “no,” (and I can determine all this in one quick phone call) then can I take just a couple of minutes to check to see if there is another environmentally friendly cleaners in my area and make a quick call to them? Now I know this seems as if it will take time and it will, but imagine the amount of time I ultimately will save when I find one that meets my needs.
- We have taken some time with this example just to give you an idea of what might be possible. First, I suspect many of us will discover that at least several of the things we have circled really do not have to be done. We may see ourselves as the kind of person who does do them, but in reality they do not have to be done. I can just let go of them. And for the circled things that we decide really do have to be done, I suspect there are alternatives to getting at least some of them done that we simply have not considered.
I find this is a very hard thing for many women to do because we are so used to taking responsibility for EVERYTHING, and since we see ourselves that way, we end up thinking WE have to continue to do everything. I invite you to spend this month examining if you believe this to some extent, and if so, what can you let go of?