I have some gut-wrenching, real world experience with the seduction of getting things done. Shortly before my multiple sclerosis diagnosis in 2006, I was feeling completely overwhelmed. I was sick, tired and I had taken on too much (per usual). There was so much going on at work and with other commitments.
I was going in so many different directions that it felt like I was failing at all of them. I felt like a terrible employee, a terrible mom and a terrible wife. Yes, I felt terrible all the way around.
Even the good things I was doing like volunteering for my daughter’s school auction and training for the MS 150 (a cycling event to raise funds for multiple sclerosis research) made me feel resentful. And the whole time I’m thinking how can I feel resentful when I have so much and there are so many people who don’t.
Then, I get diagnosed with MS and I have to back out of all of it. The truth is that I needed a life-altering diagnosis to give me permission to stop overdoing my life, to resist the seduction of getting things done. I’ve learned enough through the process so you can give yourself permission anytime you want.
Have we made life all about getting things done?
The pressure we put on ourselves shows up on our to-do lists, calendar, reminders, notifications, workflows, agendas, planners and other productivity methodology. It suggests all we care about is getting things done. Perhaps if we have clarity about why we do what we do, we can make a shift, lower stress levels and enjoy our daily work and life or at least enjoy it more than we do now. I have to wonder, what would happen if we began to prioritize joy over checking things off the list.
The seduction of getting things done is when you just can’t resist doing one more thing, taking one more call, committing to one more project, saying yes one more time, so many times that you find yourself like I was, completely overwhelmed. If you are ready to enjoy your life and resist the seduction of getting things done, the following five steps will help.
5 Ways To Resist The Seduction Of Getting Things Done
1. Don’t lie to yourself about how much time you have.
Let go of the time scarcity trap you might be stuck in always falling behind, catching up, and getting ahead. See multi-tasking for what it really is. When everything is important, nothing is. If you stay late at work or ignore your bedtime in the name of “one more thing” let go of that lie and consider doing less. You know that one more thing is a lie. It’s never one more thing and it always takes longer than just a sec or just a minute.
2. Create a closing shift to mark the end of your day.
Have a mini routine that signals the end of work or the end of the day. My daughter calls this a closing shift. For instance, after work, make a list of three things to do in the morning, and turn on an out of office message. At home, wipe down all of your counters and light a candle. If you struggle to stop doing things and to prioritize your needs, experiment or practice. For instance, set an early bedtime and commit to it for a two weeks. Check in and see if you are getting less done, feeling better, or if there are other pros or cons.
3. Stop trying to prove who you are by what you accomplish.
We feel the pressure within us and around us to think, “Look how much we got done! Am I good enough now?” But really, this measuring system never works. At some point all of the getting things done becomes counter productive because you don’t have the energy to do anything well. Doing more things doesn’t make you a better person. It makes you a tired person. Instead, try slowing down or doing nothing at all.
4. Pretend the internet is broken.
I think we all know where the biggest time sucks live. Email, social media, googling things, breaking news and all the browsing and scrolling. For a little while every day and a little bit longer every week, unplug. Create pockets of quiet, get bored, embrace solitude. Try a full day of being unplugged. You’ll be shocked at how much time you get back.
5. Stop saying yes when your heart says no.
Most of the time, when presented with an opportunity or invitation, I know the answer. My heart knows long before I take time to consider what I’ll say. When I think about saying yes when my heart says no, I can feel it in my body. I might clench my teeth, squeeze my hands, or feel stress where there should only be light. For many years, I ignored those outside signs of inside struggle, but now I pay attention. Protect your heart and gently, say no. Instead of saying yes when your heart says no, be honest. Your no doesn’t need a lengthy explanation or apology. Saying no more honestly will give you a chance to say yes when it’s time to say yes.
I used to be sure my calendar was always full and that my to-do list was impossible to finish. My priority was getting things done. Today, I look forward to days and weeks with fewer commitments and shorter lists. I don’t measure my work by the quantity of my accomplishments but rather the quality of it and how I feel doing it.
Three years later, I finally do a fundraising ride for ms research and I feel so good about it. I don’t resent it. I love the time spent training, asking for donations and riding, even though it rained for an entire metric century. The difference was that I had simplified my life enough that I had the capacity to finally enjoy it. If doing less means you can enjoy more, isn’t it worth trying?