I admit it.
I’m a recovering over-achiever and everything-can-be-perfect-if-I-just-try-hard-enough addict. I lived and died by lists – multiple lists for every facet of life. And with those lists, I managed to juggle multiple projects at once while still keeping up a façade of happiness, assurance, and easy abundance. Sure, I got a lot done. I actually impressed the hell out of myself most of the time. But when I heard that phrase I realized the truth was that I felt like a hamster running to catch something that isn’t catchable. Not by running, anyways.
And, underneath it all, I was exhausted.
Once I hit my bottom, I decided it was time. Time to change my ways.
Yes, there are still a thousand places I want to go, and just as many things I want to see - like witnessing the growth of my nephews, sucking on the dusty air of east African back roads, and surfing hidden Indonesian bays. I want to write a well-received book, be at peace with my bank account, and learn to love with all my heart all the time.
But instead of forcing life to bend to me and my desires, and pushing pushing pushing, I’ve made conscious adjustments to the way I live life. I've started to tune in to myself and listen. I've started to flow with where I am, and be clear about where I want to be. And I've learned to let go a whole lot more.
And, it’s working.
I’m not perfect. Not even close. I still get overwhelmed. I leave the dishes in the sink – for days. I forget to do the laundry, or call my mom, or add air to my tires. I sometimes give up, crawl into bed, and stay there for 12+ hours.
And yet, somehow, despite myself, magic still happens: the credit card company reverses late fees without making me grovel. A new client shows up from out of nowhere. And the barista gives me an extra espresso shot on the house.
Life is like that, if we let it. Things just work out.
I’ve learned that it takes some humility and a whole bunch of courage to admit we’re not in charge. It’s a lot like a phrase that’s wiggled into my head:
We are the channel, not the source.
So, I’m practicing the art of leaving the faucet open to let the water through.
Damn if it isn’t hard. So, while I practice this Zen-like state of allowing I balance it out with strategies that help me get things done.
Here are my daily strategies for making sure I accomplish the goals I’ve set out for myself:
It being near the start of the New Year, this can take a few hours or even a couple of days if you’re working on a set of goals for the next year. Take time with this. Reflect deeply, and often. Do your priorities express and honor your desires? Will they give you the satisfaction you’re looking for? It’s ok to dump a priority if it’s not working for you. In fact, I encourage it.
It’s also useful to map out your priorities over time. For instance, I loosely follow a monthly goals list, with reminders for what the overarching mother-goal is, in case I lose my way. These goals then get broken to weekly and daily priorities.
I try not to beat myself up if I miss a set weekly, even monthly, goal. One of my mother-goals is to deeply learn how to trust and allow in the creation of my goals and life. Yep, still working on that one..
2. Morning Ritual
Mornings are sacred for me – and it’s hard to get me to budge too much on how I like them to flow.
I start with gentle stretching – a lot, or a little, depending. At some point, either in bed or just after getting up, I like to sit for at least a few minutes in prayer and meditation, offering deep gratitude for the day and practicing the art of opening to its magic. I also like to sit with a pot of tea, quietly – preferably alone – and write for 15-20 minutes. In that writing, I purge whatever persistent thoughts are stuck in my head (daily list of to-dos, regrets, hopes, fears, worries) and set the tone for my day (gratitude, hope, courage, aligned with my desires and highest good).
Giving yourself a kind, meaningful beginning does affect the entire day, and has cumulative effects over time. You’re able to build trust with yourself and resonance with the day’s cycles. And this all translates into better focus, less struggle, and more flow.
3. Block Time
As a culture of distracted multi-taskers, this one strategy is like having superhero power. It’s simple: take one task you have to do, block 2-3 hours to do it, then get it done. That’s it.
This also means, no phone calls, no texts, no Facebook or Twitter time. No fixing lunch, or going out for coffee. It’s getting it done – period.
Whether it’s a blog post, writing your resume, or cleaning out your closet – I promise you, this is one powerful puppy.
4. Set a Timer
There are two times when setting a timer is useful: when you find yourself dreading or avoiding something, or when you find yourself spending more time than usual on completing a project.
Things that often fall into these categories for me: cleaning, writing, making cards and gifts, and fixing a technology glitch.
Setting a timer is also useful for all the time sucking stuff we all get caught in: email, social media, television and media. When you find yourself stuck in these things, go back and read your priorities.
5. Use a Checklist
There is something so neurotically satisfying about crossing things off a checklist. I never did give up on that – and I still use lists, just in more moderation.
I use a weekly checklist of things that I want to get done that is on my refrigerator most of the time. And from that, I make a daily list of 2-4 main items to do each day. I’ve decided that the days of having 10-15 things on my to do list are over. I focus on what’s most important, and if I squeeze in something around that – bonus.
6. Forgo the Obvious
Time eaters. Life wasters. We all have'em (even the ones that swear they're pure as driven rain). For me, I love a good television session. I love slipping into nowhere land where other people have problems much worse than mine, or laughing my ass off at a pranksters and cleverness. But, it’s a fantastically powerful time eater and life waster so I do it as a treat, not a habit.
7. Go Easy on Yourself
Not always an easy thing to do. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Heather, you are too hard on yourself.” Yeah, I know. I’m learning.
I’ll miss self-imposed deadlines, and then realize it was either the wrong goal or the timing was off. I’ll write something that I think is brilliant, and it lands with a thud. So, I write again. I can still push too hard, expect too much, and be disappointed too easily. But, I know that it all works out in the end – and when I forget, I go back and read my priorities, take a hot shower, and start over.
8. Reward Often
The evolving me is committed to noticing and honoring. To living as richly in the pauses, as I do in the bursts of activity. And much of that has to do with rewarding myself for a job done – even if it’s just a well-deserved bathroom break and impromptu stretching session.
And in the new year, I intend to deepen my commitments to these strategies and maybe add a few more, or less. Maybe less. We'll see. I'll return to this again in a year and reassess, realign - and start over again.
I admit it.