After years of struggling with how to “do it all”, I’ve finally figured out a simple idea (though still not easy in practice) for how to get everything done.
Being a mom is busy. It may not seem like a big deal to keep the house relatively clean, make sure everyone has clean clothes, and get some form of nourishment on the table three times a day, but try doing all of that with multiple small children in tow…and it turns into an Olympic event.
That’s not counting all the teaching that comes with mothering…teaching manners, reading, arithmetic, appropriate social behavior, personal care, and a slew of other little and big lessons that need to be addressed regularly.
That’s also not counting the need to take care of our own minds, bodies, and spirits, too—pursuing personal goals and hobbies, building relationships with friends and spouses, and contributing to the community.
Add in birthday parties, PTA meetings, church activities, family vacations, yard work, home décor…and the list could go on forever.
Have I stressed you out yet? I’m starting to get a little shaky here myself.
There is simply so much to DO in life. How can we possibly manage it all?
This is something I’ve struggled with for a long time. I’m a perfectionist by nature, and I get a lot of satisfaction out of accomplishing productive and measurable tasks…and doing them well. The problem is that I end up feeling stressed and overwhelmed sometimes often because I simply can’t find the time to do everything.
Thankfully, I had an epiphany recently, and I’ve now discovered the secret to getting everything done.
It’s so simple really!
Are you ready?
The secret of how to get everything done:
In order to get everything done in your limited time, you have to redefine what constitutes “everything” until you reduce the “everything” to an amount that is humanly possible to achieve.
I have been looking for an easier solution for years, but I’m finally realizing that the hard truth is that you can’t get “everything” done until you have whittled away all the non-essentials that don’t fit with your primary goals in life.
I can’t control how many hours are in a day, but I can control where I place my priorities in life and how I spend that time.
In his book Essentialism, Greg McKeown asserts, “Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.”
I love this! Basically, he’s saying that we have to make a value judgement about what things are really worth the time we’re putting into them. We’re not being less productive by doing less; we’re doing the important things better and allowing ourselves to let go of the things that don’t mesh with our purpose in life.
McKeown asks, “What if we stopped celebrating being busy as a measurement of importance? What if instead we celebrated how much time we had spent listening, pondering, meditating, and enjoying time with the most important people in our lives?”
I’m SO guilty of this. I get a little high from crossing items off of my to-do list, no matter how small or mundane they may be. But too often, those tasks distract me from the things that really bring me the most fulfillment in life. It’s hard to cross off “raise healthy happy, children” because it’s never completed. So, instead I search for more tangible tasks that “prove” that I’m doing my job as a mom, like “do the laundry” or “organize the toy closet”. The problem is that these tangible tasks take me away from the more abstract–but essential—tasks of loving my kids and giving them my undivided attention for at least a little while.
How can we change our addiction to so-called “productivity”?
Writing about this at all makes me feel totally hypocritical, because I’m so NOT great at doing it, but I’ve felt really strongly lately about the need to improve in this are of my life, so I’ve make a little plan for myself to put these ideas into action.
Step One: Ask yourself, what are my primary goals in life right now?
For myself, I thought of three:
- To care for my family & teach my children
- To have new experiences and learn new skills (currently writing and photography are the top of the list)
- To develop my faith and live my beliefs more fully (with an emphasis on serving others within my sphere of influence)
Step Two: Make a mental list (or an actual written one) of everything you did yesterday. How many of the things on your list did NOT contribute toward one of your main goals. Now, my goals are pretty broad, so I could try to make some things fit into a category. However, if I’m honest with myself, I know that I’m not always spending my time on things that correlate with my goals.
Step Three: Cross everything off your to-do list that doesn’t fit with your goals. For me, it is really liberating to visually let go of those things that have been hanging over my head by actually marking a line through them.
Step Four: Move forward with your lighter load. Now that you’ve cut out all the excess stuff, you can get to work on the things that matter most without the distractions of all the minutiae.
The great part about this method is that it doesn’t mean that you CAN’T ever do anything beyond your main goals. You absolutely can. The point is that you want to focus on doing those essential things first. Then, if you feel so inclined, you can use any available time left over to paint your toe nails, scroll through Facebook, or deep clean the fridge.
When I was in college, I was really stressed out about everything on my plate at the time and complaining about how I just didn’t have time to do it all. One of my best friends responded, “Do you have time, find time, or make time?”
In that moment, her comment just made me even crankier, but as I reflected on her words, I’ve realized how true they are.
We all “have” the same amount of time, and we can’t be passive about how we spend it. We have to proactively carve out and “make” time for the things that will really help up make for ourselves the life that we want to live. For me, that’s a life where I spend my time savoring my little boys (and my awesome husband), experiencing life and learning new things, and trying to lighten the burdens of others. When I think of all that I do (or want to do) in terms of these ideals, it’s easier to let the less important things drop off in favor of building memories with the people I love most.
What do you think? Are there things you find take your time and attention away from pursuing your ideal life? How do you stay focused?
I regularly link up here.
Oh this is such wonderful encouragement 🙂 Focus on what is actually important more than production. Thank you for sharing!
What a GREAT post! My dad once reacted to a comment I made about not having enough hours in a day by saying, “You have the same 24 hours as everyone else”. Uhhhh…true.
I don’t believe I’ve run across you at Tuesday Talk, but I’m so glad I did because I like your style – and your blog! Thanks for sharing with us over there. Be sure to come back next week – I want to read more!
Meg, I think these are great tips. You are so right…it is just impossible to get everything done and to be all things for all people. We have to let some of it go and we also have to realize that the effectiveness of our lives is not measured by how much we do, but by how we accomplish the really important things. Thanks for sharing.
I love how you put that…we have to focus on doing the important things WELL, instead of focusing on how MANY check marks there are on our list. Ooh. Food for thought. Thanks for sharing.
I think brain dumping is so important. Get it all out so you can then cross off or at least put on a list for later. It is even good for your health to redefine everything so you aren’t stressed about not getting everything done.
I agree about brain dumping. Once I have it out of my head, I feel like there is more room and energy to focus on the things that really need my attention. Thanks for your thoughts!
Megan this is one of the most helpful posts I’ve found on this subject. I recently added teaching yoga to my to-do list without taking anything off that list. I’ve been trying to figure out how to make it all work and keep my sanity. You’ve given me something to think about. Another way of looking at this. Thanks.
I host a weekly link up Living a Life of Fitness Health & Happiness and I would love to have you join. If you’re interested you can check out the latest link up here http://jillconyers.com/2016/08/4-reasons-youre-having-a-hard-time-with-mindfulness/
Have a wonderful Sunday Megan!
What a helpful post! I have been struggling with depression and anxiety ever since my son was born in July of 2015, and half of it is because I put so much pressure on myself to get everything done. What results is that I am continuously in a “one step forward, two steps back” situation, and I know a lot of that is only in my mind. I’m taking this post to heart and I’m deciding right now to apply it to my life; I need to focus on what’s really important, big time. Thanks, Megan!
Megan, I hear you! Becoming a stay at home was the right choice and one that I would never change, but the first year of my son’s life was one of the hardest and loneliest of my life. It was hard to get used to the new normal, redefine myself, find meaning in all of my daily (mundane responsibilities), and find new avenues to develop myself personally so I could enjoy my role as mom still. I still struggle often with balancing everything, wanting to be “productive” and also wanting to be present with my kids. I love connecting with other moms, like you, who are trying to figure it all out, too! Thanks for sharing your experience.