Jayne is a high achiever, perfectionist. This girl aims super high and has a million things on her to-do list even though she admits she can never get through it. She came to me for coaching because she felt she lacked balance and joy.
During our first session, Jayne was pretty apprehensive about cutting back on her to do list because she thought high achievement equalled value… she just didn’t consciously know that yet.
Growing up, Jayne was often neglected and verbally abused. The only time she felt valued was if she accomplished something. Years went by and she found herself overwhelmed. She needed that to-do list and accomplishment after accomplishment to momentarily fill that void. But nothing she did felt good enough. So she’d pile more onto her plate until she was so overwhelmed that it froze her. Now she didn’t know what to do. The more things she tried, the less she finished, and the worse she felt. It was like throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping that something would stick. That somehow, she would find that one thing that would finally make her feel whole.
Have you ever felt that way? Felt lost? Out of control? Overwhelmed? Frozen? The best way to turn the corner is to let it all go.
Visually slough everything off and start afresh.
Sit down in a quiet place and close your eyes. Visualize yourself holding onto your to-do list. But instead of it being a list on paper, imagine that every item you have on their is a fragile China plate.
Feel the weight of each plate and the amount of strength and energy it takes to hold them all. Visually see yourself standing up, trying to balance them all.
Now take one plate down at a time and lay them on a table.
Some you’ll need to take off by yourself. Others will need to be taken by asking other people in your imagination to help you take them off.
Now pile them into different categories.
How you define your categories is totally up to you but there should be some semblance of priority as you do this. Some ideas:
- Absolutely must do. Need to do soon. Eventually get to do. Like to do, but not necessary. Why do I have this on my plate?
- Do today. Do in the next few days. Doesn’t matter when I get to it.
- I must do this. Is there someone who could help me with this? I should definitely delegate this to someone else.
- You always have your A List, B List, C List, and possibly a D and E List.
What do you need to do TODAY?
The problem with an overwhelming to-do list is that it’s overwhelming. And when we’re overwhelmed, instead of doing something meaningful we either do nothing at all or we do things that don’t matter.
So decide what you need to do right now, today. What are the top 2-3 things that, if they’re not done today, will have negative consequences? Let me give you a hint: chances are surfing Facebook or Googling ways to avoid procrastination aren’t it. Laundry and making your bed probably aren’t either. They may need to be done eventually so your house doesn’t start to look like an episode of hoarders, but that stuff doesn’t go in your A pile. Only the top 2-3 things that will propel you forward do.
Use your goals to set your priorities.
In 6 Steps to Set Your Winter Intentions, I talked about the importance of setting your goals. Ultimately, your goals are what you should be using to prioritize anything and everything that you are thinking about adding to your to-do list. If that thing doesn’t jive with your goals, it doesn’t go on your to-do list.
Don’t overthink this. If you give yourself the time, space, and permission to let go of the things that don’t really matter, you will know what to keep on your list and what to put off to the side.
What about Jayne???
Jayne was reluctant to follow my advice but now, she’s so happy she did. At our last session, she described how much more at peace she feels and how much clearer her thinking is because she’s no longer overwhelmed by her to-do list.
She is less stressed, less bothered by things that used to suck the energy right out of her, and coping with things more effectively.
Can I let you in on a little secret? It didn’t take months of work for this to happen. It wasn’t rocket science. She didn’t need to follow a complicated math formula to change. Jayne was simply open to trying something different. More importantly, she was open to recognizing that what she had been doing wasn’t working and that it was time to do something new and uncomfortable.
Within just a couple of weeks of consistent work, Jayne began to experience more peace and calm in her life. You can have this same experience. Simply be open to it.