Ever wish you could say no? Or do look at the days ahead and wonder how things got so busy? This is me all the time. I’m that person who can’t say no and who just really wants to do it all. I’m sure you can guess how that’s working out for me …. Not so good I’m afraid. I thought I was busy when I was going to school and raising two little ones on my own, but now balancing work and the schedules of my now older children is proving to be even more of challenge. Recently I have been struggling with what I would call burn out. With so much on my plate, all these things that I genuinely enjoy doing now stress me out because of the sheer volume of things I am supposed to accomplish each day.
My husband was reading a book for his business development group called Essentalism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. As he was going through the book he recommended I have a read because he felt it could help me with my ‘problem’ (my word, not his). You can imagine that the last thing I had time to add to my schedule was reading a book but I was desperate for some insight so I purchased it as an audio book to listen to when I go for my walks.
The author talks about a lot of things, in fact as I write this I still have not actually finished the book, but to this point there have been a couple of take aways for me that I would like to share:
Less but Better:
This is a thread throughout the book. Right away you may say, "well that’s great but I have to do all these things". That’s what I said when I read it :). But as I read on I realized that the flip side of that is, more but not as good. And that is how I have been feeling-- like I can’t be fully engaged in anything because I have so many things on the go, and that leads to nothing being done to the best of my ability which then leaves me feeling unsatisfied and guilty.
The Polite No:
Even now the idea of saying no to someone who is asking for my help, participation, or input is very difficult. You see I’m a pleaser and a mother so I’m pretty much hooped when it comes to saying no. The book, to me, makes it seem like I should just pause for a moment when asked to do something and then simply and politely say, no. I wish it was that easy but for me that is completely unrealistic.
I mean even the other day my daughter's teacher was asking me if I was available to come in and help with something and there was a yes out of my mouth before she even finished her sentence! Then as I walked away I could feel my stress level rising as I tried to figure out how in the world I was going to make that work. The old me would have toughed it out and ended up working at home until 2am the morning before so I could make time to help out in my daughter’s class. As I read this book I’m finding a little bit of courage to push back. So I went back to the teacher and asked her if there was anyway she could do without me that day. Turns out she could and she had an alternative option available. It was a little thing but for me it was a big risk. I didn’t want to let anyone down or upset anyone.
Go The *$@! To Sleep:
The final thing that I have taken away from the essentialist philosophy up to this point is how crucial sleep is to everything. Again this is not something new. I know the importance of 8 hours of sleep, but the research and examples the author gives really drive the message home. It’s not just good to get 8 hours. It is Essential!! Again I have been an epic failure at this for years. I am currently attempting to rework my day to try to get to bed earlier. I’m still failing quite regularly but again at least I’m making some improvements. The bottom line is you are no good to anyone if your batteries are only half charged :(.
The author, Greg McKeown, talks about ‘protecting the asset’; that’s you! That’s me! As mothers, and in my opinion as women, we are always doing for others. I believe it’s in our DNA, but if we don’t take care of ourselves (protect the asset) then we won’t be around or able to help anyone, especially those we love. So if you’re like me, and always leave your own needs to the last, perhaps rethink it as a way of ensuring you are able to continue to help those you love over the long term. Easier said than done I know. I'm working on it :).
My other success in my attempt to do what’s essential is that I let someone clean my house. I know this probably sounds silly, but I have never done this before and literally had to be forced into it by a gift from my husband. It took me months to book the appointment and I was certain that they would not be able to clean my home to my standards or the way I wanted it. Boy was I wrong! I think it definitely takes the right person to feel comfortable with when having someone come into your personal space, but let me tell you when I came in the door of my home and everything, and I mean everything, was clean and in it’s place I literally teared up with joy. I was able to actually sit down and enjoy my evening with my family knowing that the house was just the way I like it. Of course I won't be able to do this all the time but I will absolutely enjoy that service again :).
I just want to say that I did not have an epiphany while reading this book. I already knew I was too busy and that I should say no at least once in a while. But the author comes at things from a direction that I was not considering, which is now slowly causing a shift in my perspective.
I am by no means ‘cured’ but I have started to take some steps towards taking my life back. Now I’m not saying I’ve culled all ‘non-essential’ things from my life but I am starting to ask myself the question: "Is this essential?"; “Am I going to be able to commit to this 100%?”; "Am I protecting the asset?" Many times I may not have the right answer, but it’s all about growing even if it’s a little at a time :)
How are you at saying No? What is essential to you?