Do you feel overwhelmed with your task list? Do you need a break? How do you know that you’ve crossed over the point where you now have diminishing returns for your ability to be effective, efficient, and most importantly, to experience joy while you go about your daily tasks? For me personally, one sign is that I don’t think I have enough time to take a break. Although part of me is longing for a reprieve there’s also a voice in my head saying “No! There’s too much to do. You can’t stop now – you have to catch up first and then take a break.” When I start to hear self-talk like this I know that there’s some faulty logic going on. Once the voice says that the DOING is more important than the BEING and FEELING – basically that the destination is more important than the journey – I know it’s my ego talking rather than my wise, true self. Another clue is the performance-based criteria I’ve set up for myself – first I have to ‘perform’ and then my reward will be to take care of my needs. But loving myself means that I prioritize my self-care first, that’s what fuels me to get the work done in the first place. It’s more important to treat myself well than to get the tasks done, especially as the quality of those tasks (not to mention the quality of my experience!) will be low when I’m running on empty.
So how do I get out of my own way and recognize the truth – that nurturing myself first is actually the key to my success in accomplishing all of my desires? I have to slow down. I have to listen. I have to let go of the illusion that ANY task is more important than my inner peace.
One of the tricks I use is to take a 10 minute break when I recognize a danger sign. A danger sign is just what I just mentioned – the awareness that I’m worn out but my mind resists the idea of taking a break. When I have those two thoughts together (“I need a break” and “I don’t have time to take a break”) a warning bell goes off in my head saying “Danger! Danger! Ego speaking. Take a 10 minute time-out to reconnect with yourself. Right now! This is not a drill!” Of course, that is the last thing I want to do when I’m convinced that there’s a shortage of time in my day. And 10 minutes can feel hours long – and very uncomfortable - when I’m really listening to that ego voice. But I’ve learned through experience that 10 minutes isn’t going to make or break anything I want to do that day. And during that time I can ask myself some important questions to get grounded in my true self:
What tasks are really important for me to accomplish today? Inevitably, my ego will have a much bigger list than I can actually do in one day. This is where I have to ask why each task is important. Is it fulfilling a need or honoring a value that I hold highly? I want to stay focused on my true purpose in life and not deviate into areas that are about what’s important to other people (or my ego) rather than my true self. I already know that I value connecting with others and making a contribution, particularly in relation to my children and spouse, as well as those I encounter directly in my work and also spreading out to others in the world. Are the tasks I’m committing to today related to my highest priorities in life? What will happen if some of these tasks are not done today, or get dropped from the list entirely? If I had only one year left to live, would this be on my list? If not, I may decide right now to let it go. This is a time where I can release any tasks that are not serving my greater purpose.
How do I want to be while I’m doing these tasks? Once I’m clear on which tasks I really do want to do today, I turn my attention to how I want to be. Do I want to be frantic and stressed out? (I’m pretty sure that’s how I got to the danger sign in the first place!) Usually I conclude that I want to go about my day from a place of serenity and calm, knowing that everything will be ok. I want to be loving in all my interactions, and open to the support that is waiting for me that day. If I’m in a ‘frenzy’, I might miss help that is available. I want to be engaged and be joyful, which means staying in the present moment. Ahh, staying present – this is the key to expanding my perception of time to eliminate any sense of hurry and urgency.
After just 10 minutes of reflection, I am feeling centered, calm, and more focused on what I am going to do. I often have cut my list down of what I choose to do that day. But even when I decide I want to do all the items on my list, I am now in a more relaxed, easy place while I’m doing them. Relief!
What do you do when you’re overwhelmed with your daily to-do list? How do you stop the ego voice and prioritize your self-care? Please leave your comments below!