How can I get more done? I used to be the type of person who never sat still. Maybe you’re the same. You pride yourself on being busy and in what you can get done in a day. You effortlessly switch hats for the many roles you have to turn your attention to in any given day, week or month. You have a jam-packed diary and yet you always seem to find time to add in something extra if you need to. Sometimes that means working into the small hours to catch up with what you had to move around to fit in that extra commitment.
Most of the time you like it this way. The last thing you’d want to be is bored. Your inner gremlin is quick to agree that you don’t get on in life by sitting on your butt watching TV or mooning around in a state of indecision. No one could accuse you of being lazy. You’re an overachiever and on the quiet, you’re rather proud of that, but you are far too self-effacing to crow about it. Busy is its own reward. You can be relied upon to get the job done and you make certain that it’s done the right way. The worst insult someone could level at you is that you are incapable or flaky.
Yep, I can certainly relate. I am all of these things and I kind of like it too. It’s an important part of my self-identity. I like the buzz of being busy. I love a good old fashioned To Do list. In fact, I have a pretty covered, satisfyingly thick Daily Planner book. It’s a reassuring collection of past and present to do lists that I audit frequently for outstanding actions to bring forward.
There is always so much going on in my mind that I have to write it all down or I’d be perennially fretting that I have forgotten something. I like the security of knowing there is always something I could be doing. It feels directional and purposeful. It’s feels exciting and efficient. If someone is late for a meeting with me or cancels an appointment last minute, it feels like a treat to use the opportunity to cross something off my list ahead of time.
But just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.
As the old adage goes, ‘if you want something done, ask a busy person’, so it’s wise to be mindful of what you’re busy doing. Other people are very happy to harness your energy for their own ends if you let them. Are you doing what you love, or what someone else has decided you should be doing? Are you motivated by your tasks or sinking under the weight of the errands you’ve been guilted into running?
Politely handing back or declining to take on the responsibility for jobs that aren’t yours is wise. Refusing to agree to do things that you don’t like and that you have been emotionally blackmailed into saying yes to will free up life-changing amounts of time and emotional energy.
The short answer to the question ‘how can I get more done?’ is ‘by doing less!’ Or to be more precise, by doing more of what you love. Once I have created one of my satisfyingly thorough to do lists, one of my favourite things to do is to decide what group of tasks I can delegate to someone else. My husband is candidate for some of them and if I ask him to help (and he agrees that the task needs doing), he is more than happy to oblige. Coercion, whingeing and playing the addled victim does not wash with him. He’s great at getting me to clearly identify what the priorities are and why. He doesn’t fall victim to being shamed into doing stuff unless it also meets his agenda. He is a masterclass in healthy boundaries, and I’ve learnt a lot from observing how he does it.
The other option is to pay someone to do what you don’t like and are not good at. ‘Do what you love and outsource the rest’ is an approach that has changed my life since I mustered
the courage to do it. It’s a mind bender to begin with as you fight with the guilt that you should be saving money and doing it yourself. You will wake in the night frantically making up stories about what else you could have done with all the money you have paid your assistant/cleaner/(insert whatever nature of support you desire). But seriously, how long would it have taken you to fathom out how to do that dreaded task and then make a bad job of it anyway?
Once you honour yourself enough to drop that drama, it will free up your creative energy and the time you need to do what only you can do. Anyone can do your ironing for you but only you can do your soul work. Hiring help also has the added benefit of
inviting you to get super clear about what you need. You can’t ask for what you want until you know what that is.
In the race to get more done, there is nothing that depletes your energy faster that stressing about real or perceived deadlines. In my experience, it’s pretty rare that we are actually up against a hard and fast time limit. When we are, it’s probably because we delayed starting the task in the first place (probably because we were off helping someone else with their time sensitive issue).
Most of our deadlines are self-imposed. We believe they need to be complete by a certain time. There is often some self-flagellating story behind our angst-ridden state. We tell ourselves that our task should be done in a certain timeframe or that we are already behind schedule on this point for no apparent reason than to pile bad feeling on ourselves. This keeps us playing small and sweating the small stuff. It’s time for us to gain clarity on the big stuff.
Here’s what I’ve learnt about deadlines and the stress associated with thinking I have too much to do. When I’m struggling to get everything done and my mind starts to fog, I take radical counterintuitive action and I do nothing at all. Yep, that’s right; take a bath, go out for a walk, make a cup of tea and rest a while, read a book, watch your favourite junk on TV
or tuck yourself up into bed for a nap, meditate. I know it sounds insane, but the twelve months or so it took me to recover from adrenal fatigue gave me plenty of reflection time.
What I realise is that walking away from a task in a seemingly reckless and irresponsible manner is all that is needed to sharpen my focus. Stepping away from the issue gives me
time to reflect on what’s truly needed, think laterally and return with renewed clarity and super-efficient focus. When I step back, I get the job done twice as quickly and with much less effort than I would have done had a remained hunched over it in angst. It helps me see what can fall away that I never needed to do in the first place.
Less is more. Push back and remember that ‘no thank you’ is a complete sentence. Claim back your time and fill it with things that you love. Do things that move you towards your goals and desires (not someone else’s). Refuse to fall victim to guilt, shame and steer clear of trying to fix or getting hooked into other people’s drama. It may take a little practice, but it’s worth the effort, wise one.
You’ve got this.