I don’t know about your house, but the minute I fold the last stitch of laundry, there is another full load to be washed. And as soon as I sweep the kitchen floor, somebody decides it’s a good day to play with sand art or eat popcorn. There’s always more work to be done. And the same holds true for my business. No matter how much I accomplish in a day, there is still a long list of tasks I could, should, would be doing if only I had another hour.
If you are plagued by this Tyranny of the Urgent syndrome, I’d like to share some simple solutions for having a productive day, despite your never-ending list of “To-Do’s.” I call them “Daily Practices” because they require practice. Every day. Yeah, that probably goes without saying, but it’s important to know that while they are simple strategies, they don’t do any good if you are just “aware” of them; you actually have to “do” them.
1. Quiet Your Mind. You know that voice inside your head that constantly tells you what you should be doing? The one that reminds you that you forgot to pick up milk yesterday, soccer practice has been canceled today and the credit card bill is due tomorrow? It’s a helpful little voice, but it’s also very loud. And it never shuts up; which makes it difficult to concentrate on the task at hand. So I begin my day with a practice that allows me to quiet that voice. For me, that practice is running. A solo pre-dawn run is just what I need to silence the voice and let my mind go blank. Another good option I use is journal writing. Julia Cameron recommends “Morning Pages” in which you fill three pages every morning with stream-of-conscious writing. Others advocate painting, yoga, meditation or prayer. Choose whatever method works for you. But the key is to make it a daily practice.
2. Make a Decision. Too many things on your task list? Can’t decide where to start? Here’s a secret: it doesn’t really matter! Just pick one and take action. Give yourself permission to do it imperfectly. Some things don’t have to be perfect—they just have to get done! And know that you can always change your mind and move in a different direction later. But when we don’t make a decision, we are stuck in place, spending precious time wondering how on earth we are going to get everything accomplished. So stop wondering, and start taking action.
3. Stop Multi-Tasking. It’s ironic but multi-tasking can actually be a deterrent to productivity. If you pride yourself on being able to make dinner while conducting a business meeting by phone and checking email at the same time, then don’t be disheartened. You can still do all those things in your usual Superwoman fashion. But it’s important to concentrate and eliminate distractions when working on the most Meaningful Business Activities (I call them MBA’s) on your list. So when it comes to producing revenue, working with clients or utilizing your natural gifts and talents, try doing one thing, and only one thing, at a time. A good method is to set a timer for 90 minutes and turn off your phone, email, and internet while you dedicate that time to one important task.
4. Seek Support. As busy women, we tend to take on more than our fair share of responsibilities. And we’re famous for the attitude that “It’s just easier to do it myself than to explain it to someone else.” I get that. I’ve been there. In fact, I lived there for many years. But eventually, my Superwoman cape tore to shreds so I let go of the “Do-It-All-Myself” mantra and gave myself the gift of support. What do you need to be fully supported in your daily today? Is it childcare? Housekeeping? Financial support? Emotional support? A mentor, partner or community? Practice the habit of asking yourself this question daily and having the conviction to seek the support you need. Three of the best ways to support yourself are to: Outsource, Delegate and Eliminate.
5. Express Gratitude. A daily practice of gratitude is one of the best ways of conquering overwhelm. It allows you to honor your accomplishments and celebrate your blessings. Gaining that perspective is a daily opportunity to clarify your vision and encourage you on your journey. My favorite method of expressing gratitude is through a Gratitude Journal.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Man may work from sun to sun, but a woman’s work is never done.” Or perhaps you’ve read Proverbs 31 about the woman who “…rises also while it is still night” (Proverbs 31:15) and surmised that God intends for women to be busy. As a self-proclaimed workaholic, I am certain that “The Busy Life” is not what God intends for us. Rather, he desires for us a sense of purpose in our work and a joyful heart in fulfilling that purpose. I hope my Five Daily Practices will help you find that purpose God has created for you and to live your life in a way that enables you to fulfill that purpose with grace and joy.
What are your strategies for conquering overwhelm? I’d love to hear from you!
Theresa Ceniccola is The Christian Mompreneur—a mentor to moms who are running a business that supports their values of faith and family. As president and founder of the International Christian Mompreneur Network, she empowers entrepreneurial moms to build profitable businesses with wisdom and grace. Join the International Christian Mompreneur Network for free and receive the Ten Commandments of a Mompreneur toolkit!