I went through the ABN MentorNet program recently and a repeated theme in our mentoring pod was the feeling that we were always behind. We felt like we were always playing catch-up. We talked about time management and prioritising our day, but during one conversation, we hit upon the source of these feelings of failure.
Our daily To-Do lists were too long.
Rather than setting ourselves up to achieve a realistic number of tasks, we overloaded our lists with an impossible amount of work. When we didn’t achieve it, we felt like we’d failed. Every single day. Recently, I welcomed a little girl into my life. My daughter, Faraday. I’m going through the process of working out how to fit my family and work lives together and have a new-found respect for all you businesswomen with kids. BF (Before Faraday), achieving work/life balance was making sure my husband and I shared a conversation now and then. If the balance was a little out, well so be it. But now, when work takes over, I could be missing my daughter’s first smile or giggle. I’m getting a crash course in prioritising and wasted time is a luxury I cannot afford.
I am also discovering that the more I load up my list with everything that needs to be done (something I usually do), the more anxious I feel when I’m not at my desk. Quality time is plagued with a scrolling list of things I didn’t get done that day.
Does that sound familiar?
How to avoid the shadow of failure
One of the big take-aways I got from my ABN mentoring pod was being realistic about your To-Do list.
Step 1: Spend a few minutes prioritising your list.
All those tasks that you’ll get to some day should be in a separate list – not cluttering up today’s list. Consider what has to be done today and plan the other tasks across the week. Now… this is the tricky bit.
Select ONE task that must be done today.
> If you get that done, you’re having a GREAT DAY.
Select THREE more tasks that would be good to do today.
> If you get those done, you’re having a BRILLIANT DAY.
Not 20 tasks. FOUR. You can do more. You probably will do a lot more but this is about recognising how much you can realistically do around all the normal interruptions in your day, and planning your expectations accordingly. When you finish the day, you can high five yourself because you knocked off the things that had to be done. You didn’t get every single task done, but you didn’t set out to, either. You have more weekdays for those tasks. Today, you did the most important things and you can relax for the evening. So how can you avoid setting yourself up to fail every day? Be realistic. Be kind. How do you manage your expectations of yourself? Do you set the bar a little high, too?