There are some days when just looking at my To Do list can give me a panic attack. The list grows and grows, no matter now much I mark off of it. Until sometimes I can feel like I’m drowning in stuff that needs to be done.
Admitting that honestly showed me that there are many reasons as parents, spouses, writers, employees, etc, that we might feel the need to cut back on our responsibilities and commitments. For myself, I had to cut back when I had new babies, when I took on a job outside the home, and now that my oldest child has extra curricular activities that require being driven. But most recently I upped my day job to full-time and my downtime to non-existent because I’ve taken on too many commitments and find myself completely overwhelmed. I bet no one does that but me, huh?
1. Evaluate priorities.
I have this unbearable urge to throw up my hands and chuck it all — but it doesn’t stick with me for long. I’m too much of a planner (nice word for obsessive) for that. Way before any cutting or confirmation happens, take a step back and a good look at your goals and direction. For me, this means taking care of my family financially and emotionally. Then furthering my writing craft and publishing career, and preserving the joy of my creativity. Taking care of myself physically and emotionally, so I can do everything else on this list. Did I mention I need to breathe sometimes? Finally, taking care of my extended family and very close friends in a way that protects those relationships and allows me to show these people my love for them.
2. Line up commitments.
Then I put my compulsive list-making to good use! I make a long, long list of everything I’ve got going on (and it seems to grow every day — how does THAT happen?). I like paper, some of my friends use computer programs. For those of you who aren’t list-obsessive like me, maybe a mental checklist would work? Then compare those things to the priorities list. And yes, I’ll admit to trying to spread my list-making disease. 🙂
3. The Dreaded Cut
This is the part I hate. Some things are so easy to give up, and others I really struggle with, but I always seem to feel better once the decision is made. As I mentioned earlier, between the job, writing, and growing children, I’ve had to make more and more cuts. I no longer have much time during the week to see friends, but I try to make time once a month to do that on a weekend. I try to do as many of my daughter’s band activities as possible, but told her not to plan on going to any out of town competitions because of time/money. I’ve given up all of my local writing chapter volunteer duties and only volunteer for 1 event per year for each of the kids. I make it count – often heading up a function – but that’s the only thing I do.
But its not just about cutting, its about deciding what is important enough to keep. Is there a particular project that means a great deal to you? And by that, I mean almost as important as your family. Will this volunteer opportunity serve you or your career in some way? Why do you want to put it on the keep list? Do you have a full understanding of everything that it will entail?
4. Evaluate any new opportunities that come along
Yeah, I can Epic Fail at this one really easy, so I have to be really careful and uber aware.
Recently I had chance to work on a large organization committee. I’d just offloaded all of my local chapter responsibilities, and wasn’t sure about adding anything back on. But after evaluating the Pros and Cons, the benefits outweighed the amount of time it would require of me — so I took it. The point here is that I thought about it first. I didn’t jump first and regret later.
Do you ever go back and reevaluate the chaos that is your life? How do you decide what to keep and when something’s gotta go?