Do you sometimes (or always) feel like you’re on a treadmill of chores and to-do’s and you can’t a) get off or b) keep up? I know I do. The “stuff” of life – your home, your family, your job, your friends, even your hobbies – all take some effort to keep up with. Some of this stuff we enjoy, some of it not so much. While we don’t often have the chance to get off the treadmill – maybe on a far away and unplugged vacation – we can and should take control of the speed. Sometimes it feels good to be running – getting lots done at a fast pace. But you can’t keep it up all the time – eventually you’ll fall off – and that’ll probably hurt!
So what can you do if you feel like your treadmill is going too fast?
1) Make a list. Taking time to stop and list out everything you need/should/want to do might be a little nauseating at first, but it has some major benefits. First, it gets it all out of your head and onto a reliable/non-emotional piece of paper (or wherever you choose to make your list). Second, putting it all down in one place is the only way can intelligently prioritize your to-do’s, deciding what needs to be done sooner rather than later and what can wait. And last but not least, having a list allows you that oh-so-wonderful feeling of crossing things off.
2) Prioritize Your List. Now that you can see all your to-do’s in one place, it’s time to prioritize. While it often seems easier, and maybe faster, to work on what comes to mind first, or what seems easiest to take care of (the “low hanging fruit”), this way of operating often means that important tasks are continually left un-done. And those are the tasks that subconsciously nag you and may be making you feel like you don’t have your stuff together, even if you’re taking care of immediate needs like laundry and food shopping. Prioritizing your list into a few categories is often a good strategy. I like to define to-do’s as category 1, 2 or 3. Category 1 is top priority (usually within the week), category 2 needs to be done soon, but not immediately. And category 3 can can wait for now. Try to focus your efforts on finishing all your category 1 to-do’s before moving on to category 2.
3) Reduce Your List or Get Some Help. Chronically feeling like your treadmill is going too fast is usually a sign that you’re trying to do too much. If you’re like me, your automatic response to this is to say that you can’t take anything off your list – none of it is fluff. While this may be true, make sure you look at your list with a critical eye. Maybe even pretend to be someone else looking at your list. Do you really have to do it all? Force yourself to defend why you have to do something, or why you’ve marked it as a top priority. You may have perfectly good reasons, but if not, consider taking it off your list or at least putting it on hold. You can also enlist help for some items on your list – from family, friends, or professional services. This help could be temporary or a permanent delegation to someone else.
When I get feeling like my treadmill is at a sprint and I can’t keep up, I always try to take a deep breath and remember these two things: 1) It doesn’t all have to get done today and 2) It can’t all get done today – I only have so much time and energy. So take a deep breath with me, get a glass of wine and make that list – trust me, it’ll help.