My clients are always asking me how they can feel less overwhelmed. One client shared with me recently how she got frustrated with the basket of sheets sitting in her hallway, waiting to be folded. Every time she walked past the basket she’d think to herself, “I should fold those” and then she’d feel overwhelmed. She already had 100 other things on her to-do list! When I asked her how she normally deals with laundry, she shared that they actually have a system in place where every weekend her husband and her kids fold the laundry in order to share the load. She realized that even though they actually have a good system in place, she still obsesses about the basket. She decided that from now on she will leave the basket inside the laundry room and close the door, trusting in her family members and the system, and choosing to release responsibility over it.
What’s the secret to feel less overwhelmed?
Let’s look at the basket of laundry as a metaphor.
We as women tend to carry many hats. We are typically the family chauffeur, the laundress, and the house cleaner…in essence, “the chief cook and bottle washer.” Though we excel at juggling many tasks at once, it is easy at times to see our life as a big basket of unfolded laundry….always that “one more thing” to get done. Sadly, when we look at our life as a list of endless tasks and responsibilities, even things we enjoy doing, like volunteering at school, visiting with relatives or friends, even working out, can start to feel like an obligation. Let’s take a look at that basket and see if we can’t separate those sheets.
Change your shoulds to wants.
Identify and separate your “shoulds” from your “wants.” Shoulds” are things you need to do, are expected of you, or you simply feel fall into your “department.” Paying the bills might be a “should.” How can you change that into a “want”? Perhaps tell yourself that once you’re done, you will feel accomplished and can quit thinking about it. Making dinner might feel like a “should.” How can you change that to a “want”? Try reminding yourself that you are nurturing your family and caring for their health, not just cooking another meal. Or try to mix up the menu a bit and look at a new recipe as an adventure, a chance to reveal your creativity! Try to have some fun with some of your “shoulds.”
If your pile of “shoulds” ends up much bigger than your pile of “wants” and you feel the weight of responsibility on your shoulders, ask yourself: “Can I choose NOT to do it? Can someone else do it?” If the answer is no, and oftentimes it will be, then develop a system for your on-going “should” list to make it more manageable. Above all, don’t lose your energy over it. You need to save some energy for that equally important “want” list!
Let’s go back for a minute to paying the bills and doing paperwork. Ask yourself how many hours a week you want to spend doing that. Let’s say it’s two hours. Schedule those two hours into your calendar. Understand why this is a priority for you and once you devise your system, commit to simply doing it as scheduled so you don’t lose energy over it. Just like with the laundry basket, place this task “in the laundry room” and close the door. Kind of like “out of sight; out of mind,” not seeing will help you not think of it. Not thinking of it until its time has come means that you are not going to obsess over it. You know that soon you will have the “office time” scheduled in your calendar, just like the family members that fold laundry on the weekends.
Once I help my clients get clear with their list of “should” and “wants,” they feel less overwhelmed. Then we take one responsibility at a time and we design systems to help them deal with that better
Now let’s consider some of the “shoulds” on your list that you realize you don’t actually have to do! There are more than you think. Cultivate a talent of saying “no.” You do not win a prize or finish ahead of anyone when you take on more than you can or want to do. Remind yourself that not every job is designed specifically for you. Let your yes be truly yes and be happy about it, and let your no be a satisfying and solid no.
It’s up to you. In this article I gave you some tools to feel less overwhelmed. You can look at your life as a basket of unfolded laundry, or you can prioritize your time and your days so all gets done, but not all by YOU. Make a little room for all those “wants”.