Superwoman Doesn’t Live Here
When I work with people in my therapy office, a common thing I hear is that they feel overwhelmed. There’s a whopping to-do list at home and at work, and they feel paralyzed, not knowing where to begin. A contributor to making folks feel anxious is that their endless list is often not prioritized. Stopping by the bank feels of equal weight to talking to your parents about their end of life plans.
No wonder it all feels so heavy.
One of the clearest ways I have found to prioritize is to ask two questions:
1. What one thing on my list would I feel best about completing, or at least making progress on?
2. What one thing on my list would I feel worst about if I made no effort on it today?
This can really streamline things. Because frankly, Superwoman does not live in my home. I am good at multiple things, but not everything. Also, there are only so many hours in the day. Some stuff just has to give. Whether you are a stay-at-home mom, or a work-outside-the-home-mom, I am betting (this is Las Vegas, after all) that your plate is not just full, but piled high like at a buffet.
Often, Superwoman looks invincible on the outside, but she’s really, really tired inside.
Here’s something Ordinarywoman (AKA me) might say: “You can have a clean bathroom, or you can have home-cooked dinner. Choose one.” That, in itself, is a pretty Super skill to cultivate.
And then there’s this: you are probably getting a lot done already that you aren’t giving yourself credit for. So when I feel a bit cranky with myself for not sitting down to write for 20 minutes in the morning, I need to remind myself that I still got worthwhile (okay, mostly worthwhile) things done. They just might not have been on my “official” list.
Here’s a typical array of what I accomplish on a morning where I do not write like I want to, and feel like giving myself a wee kick for that:
Let dogs out.
Monitor dogs for barking so early in morning/prevent HOA fine.
Let dogs in.
Feed dogs. Keep track of who is eating out of whose bowl.
Set down coffee.
Notice that crumbs have mysteriously grown on kitchen counter overnight.
Complain to self about being the only person who wipes up crumbs.
Wipe up crumbs.
Sweep bathroom floor.
Wipe mysterious goo from around sink faucet.
Let one dog out to hunt lizards.
Shoo other dog away from cat food. Three times. (Not too bright, that one.)
Fold laundry left in dryer overnight.
Sign field trip release.
Hug one son.
Let lizard-hunting dog in.
Hunt for set down coffee.
Check grocery ads.
Take recycling to garage.
Pick up Nerf darts that cat dragged into hallway.
Find missing mug of coffee on bookcase.
Write two items on grocery list.
Hug second son when he comes into kitchen.
Respond to cat in living room asking for attention.
Notice other cat’s furball on carpet. Pick it up (eww).
Clean furball stain on carpet.
Accidentally touch leashes hanging over banister.
Calm down frantic, walk-wanting dogs.
Remind kids to pick clothes up off bathroom floor.
Set down coffee before heading upstairs to make sure kids heard me.
Promise myself that someday I will organize the pile of photos I see left on a table.
Forget to tell my kids to work out their differences, and jump in as referee instead.
Hunt for set down coffee.
Find pile of old junk mail.
Shred old junk mail.
Assign one son to empty the dishwasher.
Assign other son to fill the dogs’ water dishes in their crates.
See cat in vicinity, make a leap for it.
Give cat pill.
Congratulate self that giving a cat a pill is no longer the traumatic event it used to be. (For either the cat or myself.)
Find missing mug of coffee in microwave. It has been in there long enough to cool off again.
Think, “Boy, The Container Store sends a lot of emails. Maybe I should unsubscribe.”
Then think, “No, I can’t unsubscribe from The Container Store, because someday I will organize all the cabinets.”
Renew library books online.
Explain that there was cereal in pantry yesterday, and that I can’t be the food police.
Make connection between missing cereal and mysterious counter crumbs.
Put cereal on grocery list.
Check for cereal coupons.
Walk dogs. (This is its own multi-step adventure.)
Find the perfect size Band-Aid for one son’s boo-boo.
Remember that we are almost out of honey. Hope it makes it onto grocery list.
And after all that… Get myself ready for work, at a frantic pace.
Like I haven’t been working already.
There is nothing that I accomplished that was useless. However, some items were a lower priority and could’ve waited for another time. Lesson learned about carving space in schedule for things I really want to finish. Another lesson learned about delegating tasks. Self forgiven. Self congratulated for being productive, albeit in a different way than I planned.
How about you? Do you beat yourself up over your never-ending “to-do” list? Remember, the nature of a to-do list is that there will always be things on it. It will never be completed. Given that, how might keeping a “done” list affect your state of mind, as compared to a “to-do” list?