The Myth of Doing it All

A lesson I learned from Lean In, (check out my previous blog post where I review the book), is the myth of “doing it all”.  As I shared last week, I am extremely busy but enjoy my work because it also feels like play; I never truly feel like I am working.  However, I have a tendency to do this with the rest of my life.  I put others before myself, say yes to everything, and realize when it is too late that I probably have taken on too much. I know for a fact that I have learned how to be selfless from my own mom, because no matter where you are or what you need, she drops everything to do whatever it is you need done.  This is a great quality to possess, to a fault.  To top it all off, I am highly perfectionistic, meaning that I best be making sure everything I have taken on is done exactly so, or else I will become stressed out about it.  

Now, some of you are probably thinking “YES!!” I do the exact same thing! Or sometimes as our lives change, what we used to accomplish isn’t as realistic anymore.  Below are tips that I have learned to help me overcome the overwhelming ‘so much to do, so little time’ feeling.

  1. You can’t do it all.  This is probably the most difficult statement for me to grasp personally, but I am beginning to learn this as more and more opportunities come up in my life.  As we get busier, we need to prioritize what truly is the most important to us and focus our time and energy there.  Remember that although certain opportunities sound great, if you are stressed out about other things, you can never truly enjoy them anyways.  Weigh out the pros and cons and choose a few projects, tasks, or events to focus on.  As we continue on through life, this needs to be re-evalutated as we add in partners, children, career changes, etc.
  2. Accept what is less than perfect.  This statement used to be the hardest one for me to understand but since coming to university I have improved this concept significantly.  Life gets busy and we have to learn that if the dishes get done, the laundry is washed and folded, and dinner is cooked, my essay may not be completely proof-read but will still earn a decent mark. In this example, my grades won’t be perfect but good enough for me and I feel more organized with my household errands done for the week ahead.  Now, this isn’t to say that we should all stop caring about everything and not put our best foot forward, but it is saying that everyone, regardless of the situation, can learn that spending the extra time worrying over minor details to make things perfect simply put, wastes our time, when we can spend it doing other things.  The skill of multi-tasking is something all humans can work at and being able to accept out imperfections can allow us to move onto the next task or manage a few at once without as much stress.
  3. Say no.  Another hard lesson to learn and depending on the situation, even harder! Now you are probably thinking that these tips are the most difficult and unrealistic ones to work but trust me that even if you can work on one of the four, that overwhelming feeling will subside.  Some of us, especially mothers, are givers.  Like I said above, this is a great attribute, yet can be our biggest fault.  When we agree to everything, we tend to forget to put ourselves first, and this sense of “doing it all” seems like a job.  It is okay to tell your kids no or that they have to wait (yes mom, we really don’t need you to drop everything and do it now!), because they will learn from it and manage their own lives better, and it will alleviate some of the stress that comes with that feeling of doing it all.
  4. Have fun.  Like I talked about last week, I absolutely LOVE what I do, and yes it deserves the capital letters! If we have fun and enjoy what we are doing, regardless of the job, hobby, or activity we are involved in, when that part of our life pulls a little harder and demands more from us, we can cope and deal with the challenges more easily.  I know from personal experience, when I like what I am doing and where I am, the work that goes into it seems worth it and I have less stress and worry.

Next time you are feeling overwhelmed and trying to “do it all”, try to implement one of these tips.  Whether it be with your kids, career, partner, or school, remember that these helpful tips are all about remembering to put yourself first and make life more manageable.  Life can get busy but if we take the time to work at it, it gets easier.

Be fierce. Be strong. Be vibrant.