I ended up with an “open” day today. I woke up thinking about all the ways I would utilize this unexpected time to its fullest and so decided to tackle some storage, brimming with Christmas decorations I may or may not want to keep. Motivated by these aspirations, I first sat down to start my day with some journal time and coffee.
As Tim left, he mentioned two or three office related things that needed my attention. Okay, add that to the list. No problem. As my journal sat on my lap, along with a book I am trying to make my way through, I grabbed my iPad so I could shoot out a couple emails before I forgot.
But wait, as I opened my email, there was a letter from a client, asking me to look over an article which really impacted her. Okay, click on that link. But WAIT! I have to get back to sending out those other two emails. Oh gosh, I really need to journal…
Okay, let me heat up my rapidly cooling coffee, and run to bathroom (that just got added to the list), then I will send these emails… Oh, there is a personal email about my credit card needing to be updated for our veterinarian... better do that really fast. Okay go heat up my coffee, and gosh I NEED to get these dishes done. Should I do them right now? NO! I have to get back to the five things I already started…GAH!
I know I don’t have to go on. I would be willing to bet that almost every one of you knows exactly what I am talking about. Our lives used to be so terribly busy before the electronic universe got added to the mix. Now I feel like I have a terrible case of TDADD: To-Do Attention Deficit Disorder (yes, I am coining the name right now).
So how do we survive this chaos? Obviously, I am still working my way through the answer to that question. But I have figured out a couple key strategies, which I hope can help a tiny bit.
First, I am trying to do the counterintuitive thing: Take a few minutes to remove myself from the To-Do’s. The more pressing the list, the more we need to back away from it. Although it feels like that is the worst thing to do, given the time constraints and sheer number of tasks looming, it truly is the most productive action for us at that moment. If you can, try to get about 5 or 10 minutes by yourself. I know for some of you - perhaps with little kids - this may be the most difficult part, but even a “bathroom break” may be the key.
Once you have a small break, begin to concentrate on your breathing. I often recommend the “4-7-8 Breathing” exercise to clients. This means you inhale through your nose for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 7 seconds, and exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds. Repeat the three parts about 4 times. This accomplishes two very important things: it increases the amount of oxygen to your overtaxed brain, and it also keeps you from thinking about all the impending tasks because you are busy counting the seconds.
Once you are done with the sequence, you can more calmly take another look at the most important things on your list.
Second, I begin to utilize my self-talk in a positive way. I say things to myself like, “I need to do these certain things, and I am probably not going to be able to finish them all today. It’s just the truth. And that is completely okay.”
In addition, I’ve found it can be helpful to sit and notice my discomfort without any judgment. What is happening in my emotions right now? How much of this chaos is truly because I am afraid of dropping one of those “spinning plates?” Where does that come from? Is that part of my old patterns? Who am I afraid of disappointing?
As I ask these questions, I gently let them all go. Yes, I have a dozen things to do today. No, it is not a “failure” if I do not finish every one. Yes, I will allow myself to feel a bit of satisfaction for each little one I do accomplish.
Our world is changing. It is becoming more and more socially detailed. But we don’t have to allow it to become our master. Instead, I am trying to exercise a lot of self care, and choose to take the reins gently back. These are just tasks, and I am much more than what I do or do not check off my list.
It’s okay, not all these plates are my nice china anyway.