You can hear the digital clock ticking above the whir of your blow dryer. Time is running out. That’s right. It’s only 7 in the morning, but you are already overwhelmed by your page long schedule and to-do list for the day. Just looking at it scares you. You already know you won’t be able to get to half of those neat little bullet points you’ve written out.
Does this sound familiar at all? Don’t worry! There’s hope. And I should know. I am the queen bee of all type-A, go getter personalities, always trying to do more, achieve more, and be more. And if I don’t consciously set an intention to be mindful every day (and keep reminding myself of that intention) I fall back into the same pattern of planning way too much for myself each day and then accomplishing even less than I am capable of simply because I am so overwhelmed by the list in front of me.
(If you haven’t read the first two posts in my creative mindfulness series, you can find them here, and here. If you haven’t read them yet, please do! They will help you get so much more out of your journey.)
But I Want to Do It All!
Trust me, I feel you. I’ve always wanted to do it all. Which is why I graduated college at age 19 and then, without any break, jumped right into my freelance writing business. It’s one of the reasons I dove back into my freelance business 3 months after my daughter was born. While staying home full time with her and moving to a new house. And it’s also why I’ve faced burnout multiple times in the last three years. Until I discovered this principle of mindfulness (and yoga and meditation).
Growing up, we’ve all been taught that we can, and should, do it all. Say yes, don’t disappoint, multitask… And this hasn’t always been taught explicitly. Mostly, we’ve picked up these thought processes from watching our parents do exactly that as they tried to provide an even better life for us than what they had.
The Fact of the Matter Is, Though…
You can’t do everything. Well, at least not all at once. Not all in one day. When you try to, you are only able to give a fraction of your attention to each task (project, activity, etc.), and as a result everything you do and everyone around you suffers. That’s right. They suffer. And so do you. You get frustrated because though it seems like you are doing a bazillion things at once only one or two things actually get done. And they do not get done to the standard you want them to because you weren’t focused. So you try to work harder and do more….and the cycle continues. In the meantime, you lose a personal life and your family life can (and most likely does) take a hit. You feel like you aren’t really living. Because you’re not.
It’s time to pare down! (And I say this as much to myself as anyone else.) It’s time to do our best work every time by focusing on one thing at a time. And it is time to live our best life all the time by focusing on each moment. Making the most of each moment. But you can’t do this if your schedule remains insanely overwhelming! Which means (you know what I’m going to say – I see you cringing already!) it is time to let things go.
Let’s take a good, long look at our to-do lists together. What do you see? Are there tasks that are constantly getting shifted to another day? I know I’m answering yes right now. (Paring down and being mindful requires constant updates and tweaks as our lives change.) Well, those tasks that we aren’t getting done and just shifting from day to day just might be the tasks we can cut out. So we need to ask ourselves, do we really need to do them? (Yes, if the task is buy new pens because you know your old ones are due to run out. No, if the task is practice French and you haven’t once crossed it off your list in the last two weeks.)
Right now, we aren’t looking at what we need to cut out of our entire lives, our dreams, or even our years. Instead, we are looking at what we can pare down today. Not procrastinate. Pare down. Don’t put the laundry off, it’s necessary. Do put off organizing the spice cabinet if that means you will not be able to take a moment for yourself to breath during the day. Do you have the idea? Good! I know it’s really hard. But it is oh so worth it! For me personally, paring down (for this month) has taken the form of ignoring personal social media except for an hour on weekends, cooking simple dinners (I’m in love with quinoa bowls!) instead of a normal more involved fare, cutting my French lessons out until we get back from vacation, and (gasp!) not vacuuming the floors every single night. I have also had to pare down my outings with friends, because finishing my work projects before my family’s vacation has been a higher priority to me.
Which is where the next section comes in.
It is Actually Possible to Do Everything!
You can actually do everything that you both need to do and that you really want to do…..if you prioritize. Granted, that doesn’t mean you can do everything in one day, but if the activity or task is really important to you, you can do it in time.
What do your priorities look like? You can even draw them out on your list (one of the reasons I have gotten into bullet journaling – you should check the list/journaling method out of you haven’t already). Personally, I like to put a symbol beside tasks that are really important (aka, priorities!) and another symbol beside tasks that I can do mostly brainlessly while focusing on my daughter (for example, doing the dishes or vacuuming the floor while she “helps”). That way, with a quick glance at my list, I can constantly maximize my time without panicking and while staying mindful. Because cleaning with your daughter is completely fun for her, so it doesn’t count as multitasking.
Remember, mindfulness isn’t just some catch phrase that has caught on recently. It is a practice that will change the way you live so you can have an enriched, fuller life. A life full of the things you are passionate about, full of peace, and full of true productivity. And without meaningless distractions. The first (and hardest step) down the beautiful path of mindfulness is paring your day down to the essentials. How can you do that today? What about starting a prioritized list organized with colors or symbols? As you write out each task, ask yourself two questions: “Is this essential to my life (such as shopping for the week’s groceries or working).” And, “Is this adding meaning/pleasure to my day.” If the answer is no to both those questions, it’s time to get rid of that task no matter what affection you might hold for it! For your creativity cannot thrive in a hectic life. Which means that you cannot, either.
Are you ready? Let’s pare down our days so we can live fuller, more beautiful, creative lives!
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