All the time right?!
Talk about setting ourselves up for a day of stress – it’s the inevitable result of that kind of start. If we are running late and overwhelmed whilst we are still in our pyjamas, then there is only one way that day is going to unfold!
I have a lot of very cool projects on right now – and it’s fair to say I’m working hard, which is fine because I love what I do. But I was starting to notice I was getting really cross with myself for not getting through all I wanted to at the end of each day – loads of outstanding tasks and items. And yes – before you ask – I am a wicked delegator – I have Justine and a team of elves helping me – so I am already REALLY GOOD at delegating stuff that’s not my aptitude. Techy stuff, bookkeeping, scheduling, all that kind of stuff I am very lucky not to have to do – so I can keep myself clear for the stuff I love – coaching my VIP Happiness Hackers, working with my amazing Wellbeing Warriors and writing and speaking – the creative stuff – that’s where I am best spending my time. So – I ALREADY have a ruthlessly structured diary with set hours for coaching, writing, meetings and so on – even so – I was starting to feel increasingly under the gun. Behind before I even started the day! What was THAT about?
Turns out is a very common trap to fall into – and I bet you do it sometimes too?
Here’s a quote to illustrate my point from Through The Looking-Glass by Lewis Carol, part of the Alice in Wonderland series from our youth:
“I’m just one hundred and one, five months and a day.”
“I can’t believe that!” said Alice.
“Can’t you?” the Queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”
Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
Well it turns out I was believing AT LEAST 6 impossible things before breakfast each morning – maybe more! I was believing I had time for writing Wellbeing Wednesday, coaching 4 amazing clients, clearing my email and prepping a speaking presentation for the following day, as well as changing the bed linen, calling a supplier to iron out a problem, and a heap of unexpected little bits and bobs that just crop up during a normal business day.
So, I started breaking it down properly – simple, one sheet of paper – line down the middle – task on the left, how long it REALISTICALLY takes on the right:
Write Wellbeing Wednesday for my beautiful peeps 1 ½ hours – 2 hours
4 x Happiness Hacking clients, prep sessions, coach and send their homework 90 mins x 4 = 6 hours
Clear email 1 – 1/2 hours
Wellbeing Warriors – set daily wellbeing challenge plus coaching with members ½ hour – 1 hour
Call with supplier 15-20 mins
Laundry 15 mins
Prepping new corporate wellbeing workshop 2-3 hours
Boxing class, incl. time to change, drive, class, shower 90mins
Right…so this all starts to become clear doesn’t it? I am trying to get 14 hours of work into 8 hours. NO WONDER IT DOESN’T FIT! It’s not that I am lazy/slow/unproductive/an idiot – IT’S JUST MATHS!! It just doesn’t fit. That is literally me believing 6 impossible things before breakfast. That 14 can equal 8.
I am willing to bet you have days like this too.
Feeling under the gun from the moment you open your eyes.
That feeling is a clue that you are trying to believe 6 impossible things before breakfast.
The other thing that this simple exercise highlighted was that I had left NO SLACK for the unexpected. Call from my bestie needing a hand with a thing. Message from my brother in Africa. Bumping into my neighbour and having a quick chat. Having lunch. Having a pee!
Unexpected stuff ALWAYS CROPS UP – therefore it’s actually not unexpected – is it? It’s COMPLETELY PREDICTABLE. You got to factor that shit IN to your day or you will feel behind from the get-go. Looking at it I think we need to schedule an HOUR A DAY for expected unexpected stuff.
Feeling stressed and like you are racing from one thing to the next each day is a result of over scheduling yourself. IT’S JUST BAD MATHS!
And here is the other thing about that. It doesn’t necessarily mean you are overscheduling a load of stuff you don’t like – you could very well be like me and be scheduling stuff you LOVE! Just too much of it to fit into the time available.
It can be 6 impossible but really nice things before breakfast. However nice they are it’s still an impossible ask!
Clearly the solution isn’t rocket science – it’s a case of reprioritising, and restructuring my week so that I start each day with a POSSIBLE To Do list, rather than an impossible one. It’s also a case of building some slack time in for the expected unexpected that is always going to come up. I won’t know what it will comprise in advance, but I do know it’s going to happen – so I need to plan for that.
Getting this stuff down IN BLACK AND WHITE ON PAPER is incredibly powerful and illuminating. Whilst all these To Do’s are in your head all you feel is stressed and under pressure. When all they are is a looooong list of things to To Do, it can make you feel not good enough/productive enough/on to it enough/permanently behind – THE KEY TO DIFFUSING THE STRESS is to log a realistic estimated time next to the task. That changes EVERYTHING. It allows you to make some well informed decisions and to let your day unfold with focus rather than stress.
So – if you are feeling behind before you even start your day – WRITE DOWN WHAT YOU WANT TO GET DONE WITH A TIME ESTIMATE NEXT TO IT, and then prioritise accordingly. Stop expecting yourself to do the impossible.
I’ve made you a cool little spreadsheet to help you do this – to see if you are expecting the impossible before breakfast. It’s simple and easy to use – just click here to download it. Just start adding in your tasks for the day – and then you will see in black and white where you are expecting the impossible.
Yes, this is like the simplest tool EVER – but believe me it makes a significant difference to how you feel as you move through your day. Getting it in black and white makes it a simple MATHS PROBLEM to solve, rather than a crushing indictment that you are not efficient/smart/productive enough. That’s a very good feeling indeed. Get back in charge. Start the day with purpose and focus rather than stress and overwhelm. Take control and do the math.