This is a challenge and a dilemma that SO many people are asking and worrying about. It comes up alot in therapy. So let’s talk this through…
As humans we started out as cave dwellers. We were living in line with the seasons and the natural light. We would sleep when the sun went down and we would wake when the sun came up. We would gather and hunt when the seasons were right and we would take shelter when the seasons weren’t. There was a natural rhythm of life. We would work when there was light and sleep/rest when there was dark.
Slowly across time we started to evolve and ‘develop’ as a species.
We found more powerful tools. We found more effective ways of storing and gathering. More effective ways of hunting. We found better ways to communicate, to trade, to build and to travel. Our life as humans evolved exponentially in the pursuit of efficiency.
Over millennia we have worked out ways to do more and more things in less and less time.
So it appears that over time and with our evolution, even though we have been able to do things more efficiently, we have made that mean that we should be able to fit in even more stuff.
We feel this never-ending expectation on ourselves to keep on “doing.”
We have become accustomed to being human’s doing rather than human beings and our culture supports that.
Just because we can do more, does it mean we should?
At the same time as this shift in efficiency we have also moved away from living in communities to living in separate silos alongside each other. We have moved away from “having a village to raise our children” to having two (if we are lucky) parents in the same house to raise our children. We also have rising costs of living, less resources and we have to work harder to survive economically. Working longer hours to make ends meet.
We can do far more things that we ever thought imaginable but have far less time available for us to get everything done!
We weren’t designed to live this way:
– To live in separate silos without a village of extra hands on deck.
– To extend our waking hours beyond when the sun went down and sun came up.
– To hold such intense economic pressure forcing us to work longer and harder
but this is where we are at.
What it all means is that we now face a chronic challenge which maintains a crippling sense of pressure – “How do I get it all done?”
The answer is… you don’t.
The situation is flawed. You aren’t.
Let’s do the math:
We have 24 hours in the day (24hr x 7 days) which means 168 hours a week.
Ideally we sleep for 8 hours a day (8hrs x 7 days = 56hrs) which means we have (168 – 56) 112 hours of awake time.
Of that 112 hours we may spend about 2-3 hours a day cooking, preparing, managing meals? (3hrs x 7 days = 21hrs) so that’s 112 – 21 = 91 hours left.
Of that 91hrs we may spend 1hours a day getting ourselves groomed, showered etc?
(1hrs x 7 days = 7hrs) so that’s 91 – 7 = 84 hours left
Of that 84hrs we may spend maybe 2-3 hours a day doing domestic stuff (cleaning up after ourselves, groceries, following up phonecalls, bills, washing clothes, filling up petrol, life admin stuff etc) (3hrs x 7 = 21hrs) so that’s 84 – 21 = 63 hours left.
So that works out to be about 9hrs a day to get everything else done beyond the basics of eating, sleeping, basic admin/upkeep and cleaning ourselves.
In this available 9hrs per day we are trying to have time for ourselves, time with our kids, time in our jobs, time with our partner, time to exercise, time to plan things for the future, time to talk to extended family, time with friends, time to get creative, time to get sexy, time for nothingness….. Basically, it’s not practically possible to do it all.
It is a scientific fact. There is LITERALLY not enough time to get it all done to perfection 100% of the time to 100% capacity.
You aren’t flawed. The situation we find ourselves in is unsustainable and unrealistic if we are attempting to be everything to everyone and everything all of the time.
So here is the thing:
Knowing this, doing the math and seeing this mapped out can hopefully be relieving not harrowing. The expectations we put on ourselves needs to change. Unless we are shape-shifting Marvel characters that can be in numerous places at once, we have to let ourselves off the hook!
It’s not that we are “getting it wrong” but our expectations of ourselves are wrong.
The tasks we set for ourselves can feel like “the packet of Tim Tams that never run out” (like that advertisement in the 90s) without the joy factor.
So here are FOUR STEPS to make life manageable:
Write a long list of all the things that are on your mental TO DO list. Do a HUGE and exhaustive brain vomit and write it ALL down. Every Single Task you are holding in your mental list. Get it all down. This is your TOTAL TO DO LIST
Take a separate sheet of paper and write on the top “TODAY’S TO DO LIST.”
Pick a maximum of 3 things from that TOTAL list and write down ONLY “The next ONE step” towards these 3 items and write these onto the Daily List.
Make these next steps SMART Steps (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Limited). Only work on these tasks each day. If you complete them – yay you. You can find the next ONE step to add to the day from the TOTAL list to the DAILY List.
(Note: If one of the steps you have written down seems too large or overwhelming, then break that step into a smaller step that feels manageable).
Now that you have your far more realistic set of tasks for the day, I want you to also take some steps to ground yourself and calm your nervous system. To do this, I want you to take on my 10, 5, 2 Rule:
We have two jobs – to reduce the amount of expectation on ourselves (to reduce stress) and to increase the amount of self support we provide for ourselves and our nervous system (to increase wellbeing).
Celebrate yourself for being realistic with yourself and unhooking yourself from the unreasonable expectations that we so often marinate ourselves in.
Celebrate yourself for giving yourself permission to unsubscribe from the unending To Do List we put on ourselves.
Just kidding, I know I said there was only four steps but IF I was to suggest Step 5 it would be to make a NOT TO DO LIST of all the things you AREN’T going to do today and feel bloody fantastic about it!
This could be “I am not going to punish myself for not getting back to x email today” or “I am not going to berate myself that I didn’t get any washing done today.”
So I am inviting you to notice that you don’t need a strategy for getting it ALL done because …news flash… WE CAN’T.
Here is a sober thought: We will all die with shit left undone.
That being the case, the quicker we realise that we will never do it all, the sooner we can start to find a more realistic way for ourselves and get back to more balance.
The sooner we can carve out some time for things that nourish us instead of waiting till that mythical day when “everything I need to do is done and NOW I can have some fun.”
Spoiler Alert – That day doesn’t arrive because there will always be some way of filling up time. We actually need to put “rest and nourish myself” on our daily list too alongside all the other stuff.
Let’s try and get back to being human beings and not just humans doing.
Let’s change the culture and the expectations and be more gentle with ourselves as we live in a flawed system.
Warmly on Wednesday,
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