If you are like me then I’m sure you are your harshest critic. It spills into many areas of my life including the fact that I never seem to get enough done. I’m always chasing something and always behind where I think I should be. I start my day with the best intentions and the most impressive lists. On days where I make it through my list, I feel energized and proud of myself. On the days that I don’t (which are more days than I care to admit) I feel defeated, ashamed, and critical of my drive, initiative, and passion.
It’s not that I’m not a hard worker. It’s usually because I’ve created such an unrealistic plan for myself that the slightest interruption or fire completely derails the day. How many of you can relate?
So, what if we stopped beating ourselves up over what we are not getting done and instead get to a place where we are okay with knowing we are doing the best we can? What if you learned how to give yourself grace when things just don’t come together? How would that make you feel at the end of the day? Sound impossible? I think these two practices can help.
1. Be realistic
Usually the biggest reason we feel we haven’t gotten enough done is because our expectations for what to accomplish every day are completely unrealistic. To be fair, if there were no interruptions and we could keep our brain completely focused and on task for 9 hours straight, we could probably get it all done. But that isn’t real life. There are and always will be fires, unplanned meetings, unexpected client calls, unforeseeable requests, and mental fatigue.
I’ll address mental fatigue in the next practice but here is one tip I’ve adopted to help me be more realistic with my time. I’ve started dividing my life to-dos into three categories. Now, notice that I said “life” to-dos and not just work to-dos. I believe that the line between work and home/personal has become so blurred that you really need to include both when planning your day.
Here are the categories that I use:
· Must do
· Would like to do but not mandatory
· Can’t do
The must dos are tasks, projects, assignments, errands, etc. that have to be done today and have to be done by you. Meaning, you can’t delegate them to someone else…unless the must do is to delegate a task to someone else J. I try to limit my number of must dos to about three per day – which takes some planning and thought. Which also means I can’t leave everything until the very last second or I may end up with fifteen things that must be done in one day. It also means that if my day is full of coaching sessions, then I may only be able to tackle one item instead of three. Limiting the number of must dos you have each day will increase the chance that you are able to mark all of them off your list regardless of how many interruptions or fires you face. It will also leave you feeling accomplished at the end of the day. Some may argue that this is just lowering your expectations. I agree. But in a good way. You aren’t lowering your productivity expectations because you are giving yourself permission to not accomplish anything, you are simply being more realistic about what you can really accomplish based upon the known and unknown components of your day.
In addition to your must do list, keep a list of things you would like to accomplish but aren’t mandatory for completion today. If by chance you happen to experience a day with fewer interruptions or one full of extreme focus, you can pull items out of this category and make the most of the extra time or focus. Eventually, these items will end up on your must do list, so taking care of them ahead of time when you can will result is a smaller must do list.
And finally, there are simply items that you just aren’t going to be able to do. Knowing when to eliminate items from your list is just as important as knowing when to add items to your list. If a task or project is not moving you closer to your goal or destination, then it’s not serving you and it needs to go. If an item is outside of your wheelhouse, then give it to someone who can do it better – and be okay with that. It will save you time, money, and frustration.
2. Do something that energizes you every day
Getting things done takes focus, physical energy, and emotional energy. In order to perform at a high level, you must make deposits into your emotional bank account in order to keep from being overdrawn. So, do something that energizes you every day. For some, it may be doing something creative like writing. For others, it may be escaping outdoors or into a book. Having time to dabble and experiment can be energizing. For me, a great client session gets me pumped and ready to tackle more.
The point is that everyone re-energizes differently but you have to make this part of your day. A car can’t operate with no fuel in the gas tank and you can’t operate without refueling your physical and emotional tank.
Knowing and accepting you are doing the best that you can is not the same thing as settling. We are smart, driven, and far from settling for less than. But beating yourself up for not getting enough done is not healthy and will never lead to contentment and happiness. Sometimes a little grace and forgiveness for doing your best even when it doesn’t come together as scripted every day is the nicest thing you can do for your own success.