If you’re anything like me, you’ve got your to-do list.
Check. Check. Check.
But somehow, no matter how many checks, that to-do list keeps growing.
There always seems to be a million things to do, but never enough time to do them. And it makes us feel…overwhelmed…stressed…inadequate…angry…irritable…anxious…resentful. And perhaps the worst…feeling guilty that we aren’t managing it all with as much grace as those other awesome ladies that we see on social media.
Maybe I’m not working hard enough. I should work harder and longer. Maybe I’m just not efficient enough. I should get better at managing my calendar. Maybe I’m just not as good a person. I should be kinder, nicer, more loving, more patient.
I see this ALL THE TIME with the women I work with in my coaching practice, and ladies, this has been weighing heavily on my heart. I totally feel you, because gosh this used to be me. As a mom, a wife, and a teacher, I felt this constant pressure to DO IT ALL…and PERFECTLY…all the time!
I always thought, “If I say no, they’ll think I’m lazy.” or “If I say no, that means I’m not contributing enough.” or “If I say no my kids will miss out.” or “If I say no I’ll look like an uninvolved parent.”
I’d wake up at 5:30am, run on a hamster wheel all day, and crash into bed at 11pm with that damn unfinished to-do list flashing in my brain! As a teacher, I gave and gave and gave all day long, and when my day ended, I came home to give some more. At the end of the day, there was nothing left for me.
That constant pushing and striving and trying to do it all left me feeling emotionally depleted and contributed to my autoimmunity and on-going battle with health issues. My stress and sex hormones were depleted and my GI system was a wreck. I was sick, exhausted and run down all the time, and yet…I kept pushing and doing it all.
And this is what I see all the time with my female clients.
As women today, we have expectations placed upon us (many of them self-imposed) like never before in the history of our species. We are working full-time jobs while still fulfilling all the roles that we would be if we weren’t working outside of the home. And then some. Even women who are not mothers, or those who stay at home with children have demands on them like never before.
We have technology to contend with, a growing number of extracurricular activities that we feel obligated to get our kids involved in so as to not be the parent who deprives her children of what all the other kids are doing, elaborate birthday parties to compete with and on and on! And we feel like we must do it ALL, and that if we ask for HELP there must be something wrong with us.
Can I tell you something ladies? Never, until very recent history did we live in isolated family units like we do today. For all of human history, we lived in cooperative groups in which we had the support of other women to help us out with childcare, food gathering and preparation, etc. We never went at it alone. And can I tell you something else? During that period of human history there was FAR LESS to do than there is now AND WE STILL HAD HELP!
There were no school, work, & extracurricular activity schedules to contend with. There was no holiday shopping, decorating or wrapping. There were no doctor appointments to coordinate. There were no vacations to plan and coordinate. There were no bills to pay. No errands to run. And still, we had the help and support of our fellow women to gather and prepare the food and to care for our children. We didn’t go it alone. Until now.
Of course you’re overwhelmed with your long list of things to do that you’re trying to do all by yourself! Ladies, there is no shame in asking for help. Asking for help does not mean you are insufficient or lazy. It means that you care enough about your own wellbeing to to put your needs FIRST! If you’re not taking care of you, then you can’t be there fully for those who depend on you.
- Remember to stop at the store to buy the birthday gift for the party Suzy is going to this weekend.
- Make the appetizer for the school party
- Volunteer for the PTA event
- Shuttle kids to doctor/dentist appointments
- Plan the meals, make a shopping list, get the groceries
- Cook dinner
- Don’t forget to schedule the appointments
- Wash the laundry
- Schedule the play dates
- Juggle the sports schedules
- Volunteer in the classroom
- Help with fundraisers
- Research and plan the vacations
- Chaperone the field trip
- Decorate for the holidays
- Order the holiday cards
- Shop for the holidays
- Do all the holiday wrapping
- Don’t forget to stop at the post office to ship the holiday packages!
- Pay the bills
- Juggle the weekend sports, playdates, etc.
- Nurture everyone
- Walk the dog
What about that long to-do list though? All that stuff has to get done.
How about considering a “Not-to-Do” list?
What’s a Not-to-Do list? It’s a list of things that you choose NOT to say yes to that will free up some time to make you feel less stressed, less overwhelmed and give you more time to take care of YOU.
Here are the steps to making your Not-to-Do list:
Step One: Make a list of ALL the things that currently take up your time as well as potential things that are likely to come up or be asked of you. Be sure to include before & after work/school activities, volunteer work for school, sports teams, community, committees, holiday planning, etc.
Step Two: Identify the big HELL YES items on your list. These are the things you LOVE to do. Things that light you on fire and feed your soul. Put your feelings of guilt aside here…if you don’t TRULY enjoy something, but feel it’s an obligation, then it is NOT a HELL YES! For example, if you currently volunteer in your child’s classroom each week, but you dread each and every moment of it, it is perfectly okay to kiss that burden goodbye. Your child will not be scarred for life, and being true to yourself does not make you a bad person. You’ll feel better about having that extra hour to care for yourself or doing something for your family that you really love!
Step Three: Identify the items on your list that are big HELL NOs! These are things that are sucking away your time and making your schedule crazy that aren’t absolutely essential. Some examples include: invites to social events that you aren’t excited about, having your child enrolled in two sports, music lessons, and drama club all simultaneously, volunteering for field trips, classroom activities, sports activities, work committees, play dates, birthday parties, etc. I know, I know. Some of these examples seem like priorities, but that’s the story you’ve told yourself or have been told. Ask yourself if that story is actually true. What is actually essential, and what is not?
Step Four: Make saying NO a habit. When something comes up that is not an immediate HELL YES, then it becomes a HELL NO. If you know that saying yes to that thing is going to spread you thin and make you feel overwhelmed and over-scheduled, if saying yes isn’t going to light you on fire and feed your soul, if saying yes feels like an obligation rather than inspiration, then, my friend it’s time to say NO. When it comes to holiday planning, decorating, shopping, etc, is all you’re doing really essential? How can you simplify? You officially have permission to say NO to all the things that are sucking away your time.
Step Five: DELEGATE! Remember above when I talked about how until relatively recent history we had help even though we had FAR LESS to do? We now have more to do than ever before in history, yet we are trying to do it all alone! My friend, it is time to ASK FOR HELP!
Look at all the things on your list that are absolutely essential: grocery shopping, feeding your family, doctor appointments, laundry, cleaning, etc. Of those items, which ones could you automate or seek help for? Could you ask your spouse/partner, a neighbor, a friend, a family member, etc to help with appointments, childcare, etc? Could you automate some of your grocery shopping by ordering online and doing curb-side pick-up, or sign up for a monthly meat service such as Butcher Box, which delivers frozen grass fed meat directly to my door each month? Could you hire someone to come and clean your house a couple times per month?
By making a Not-to-Do list and sticking to it by making a habit of saying NO to the things that are sucking away at your time and leading to overwhelm, stress, anger and resentment, you will have more time to focus on the things that light you on fire and feed your soul. You will have more time to prioritize sleep and exercise, which are essential to your health and wellbeing. You will feel less stressed and able to be the best version of the beautiful person you were put here to be.
Being selfish is not always a bad thing. It is okay to say no. It is okay if someone else is disappointed that you said no. It is okay to be true to you because your health and wellbeing depend on it.