As my kids go back to school and the store has blessedly been busier than ever, I've felt the stress tumbleweed growing in volume as the month of August rolls along. I'm deeply grateful for my blessings, but I have so many demands on my time, that I feel beyond exhausted- at times totally defeated!- at the end of every day. I'm sure many of you can relate to this feeling of never having enough minutes to do everything you want and need to do. I have found myself at times collapsing into bed at night and thinking to myself, "I just can't do so much anymore." I am overwhelmed by the feeling that something must change!
I had a huge epiphany a couple of weeks ago that has already started to change my life. After a lifetime of living with an all-or-nothing approach to life, always looking for the "big," silver-bullet answer, I suddenly realized that through a series of very small adjustments I could actually experience a huge amount of relief. Although a seemingly mundane and obvious epiphany, I cannot tell you how empowering it it has been to discover that the ability to lighten my load is within my grasp.
My list of small but mighty actions is almost comical when I look at it. How could the answers be so easy?!!! Allow me to share some of the things that are bringing me such relief:
1. I decided to make Siri my new best friend.
Believe it or not, a major source of frustration for me has been my struggle with the keyboard! I do so much on my iPhone these days, however the keys are small and my eyesight seems to be worsening. It wasn't until I began turning to Siri for help that I realized I had been avoiding answering emails and texts because of the physical stress of all the typing. Of course, the avoidance was just contributing to a growing mountain of things to do and people to respond to. That has literally completely changed over the last couple of weeks! I have been using Siri for practically everything: texts, emails, work notes and even to dictate my blog thoughts as I'm driving to the store or to pick up the kids. I've become a total dictator!
2. I designated a correspondence hour each day.
On the same topic of answering calls and emails, I've discovered that my general sense of stress comes from feeling as through I have to be readily available to anyone who needs me at all times. It sounds ridiculous as I say it, but that's how I have been responding to life! Consequently, practically every waking moment for me has been a multitasking cluster. My phone never seems to stop ringing and the emails and texts are coming in practically every minute. How can I possibly be present in the moment when I'm attending to all of that simultaneously?
I have to thank my seasoned and level-headed COO, Dave, for insisting that I start designating an hour of the day for attending to all of the correspondence. In my case, once in the morning and once at the end of the day seems to work perfectly. I'm experiencing not only a ton of psychological relief from getting to simply focus on the task at hand during the day, but I'm also realizing that very little actually warrants the sense of urgency I had been giving it!
3. I started delegating the little things.
Delegating, especially when you're the one in charge of the big picture, can feel scary. You see how you want things done and think you know exactly how to do them best. When people advise that you start delegating, you imagine that things, now outside of your control, could quickly dive into a tailspin or come out differently than you had intended. It's time for therapy- lol!
I've had a handful of joyful epiphanies lately about the act of delegating. First, I'm discovering that although others may do things differently than we might have, different doesn't necessarily mean worse- and can, in fact, often mean better! Other people can add a lot of value and creativity to the process if we give them the opportunity. Second, we empower the people around us to become the support system we so desperately need by allowing them the opportunity to learn. If we keep doing everything ourselves, then we aren't enabling our potential team to gain the skills and confidence to help us in the future.
Third, and especially profound for me, has been the realization that I can achieve big relief through small delegating. Allowing my husband to (gasp!) do the laundry, letting my kids look after the dog, asking my store salespeople to tag a new order, giving my mom the kids' school supplies list to fulfill... there are so many little opportunities throughout the day to let the people in my life help me. In doing so, I am able to find time for the bigger things that really matter, like writing my blogs, styling customers and spending more time just relaxing with my family.
4. I enrolled in a grocery delivery service.
Something I truly wish I had more time for is cooking at home. My extremely busy work schedule and over-multitasking regularly leave me feeling too depleted at the end of the day to even contemplate putting on my chef's hat. One discovery I've made is that I avoid cooking less because of having to work in the kitchen and more due to the dread of having to drag myself to the supermarket.
Enter Peapod! Thanks to this awesome business, I can get online anytime and order my groceries to be delivered to my doorstep. There are numerous similar businesses out there, including those that will deliver fully-prepared meals. My family is especially picky, so we do better with preparing our own meals, but I can shave off a ton of time by having the ingredients brought right to me. Instead of combing the grocery aisles, I can be at home helping my kids with their homework. Then, when it comes time to prepare dinner, it actually feels like a welcome break and time to myself.
5. I cleaned up my office.
I'm kicking myself for not having done this sooner! After filing my Mt. Everest-size pile of papers on my desk, sorting through an overflowing inbox, cleaning out at least five bags of "mystery" contents lining the perimeter, and spraying down my office with my favorite essential-oils-based cleaner, I feel like a new woman!
Disorganization and clutter can lead to a massive sense of overwhelm, decreased creativity and poor time management as we waste hours looking for things or staring at a sea of papers, confused about where to even start. When we walk into a clean office, conversely, there's a sense of empowerment, a feeling like we are on top of our game and are excited to receive what comes next. The couple of hours it took me to clean my office could have saved me months of stress! It's not an overstatement to say that I feel like I've unburdened myself and opened the pathway now to unlimited creativity and growth.
6. I began saying "not now."
We're often advised to say "no" when we have a habit of taking on too much. That is, of course, great advice if we constantly find ourselves doing things we really don't value or enjoy. In my case, however, the problem isn't so much taking on the wrong things as it is taking on too much at one time. I'm working on cultivating the art of saying "Thank you, but how about some other time?"
By scheduling meetings, events and get-togethers at times that work well for me, I am able to enjoy those moments, take fewer rain checks, and generally feel less overwhelmed. I've learned, moreover, that people tend to be very understanding and accommodating. And if someone is frustrated that I'm unable to do something according to their timeline, then I allow them to look somewhere else instead of thinking that it is my responsibility to help them manifest their plans. The truth is that there's almost always an alternative out there for them!
7. I decided to stagger my bill-paying dates.
As the primary bill-payer at both home and work, I have always designated one or two days each month for attending to the bills. Operating this way allows me to not have to deal with this mundane task on a daily basis, but the truth is that this strategy totally stresses me out! Between the business and my home, I have more bills than you can imagine, and the vision of them piling up and waiting to be opened fills me with a sense of dread that looms until bill-paying day.
Staggering the job and breaking it off into bite-sized chunks has removed the burden! By taking care of a few each week, the big dreaded bill day never arrives. The same goes for other tasks in my life that quickly pile up, like laundry for the five of us. It's so much easier to do a load or two every couple of days than to face a mountain a week after it's had a chance to build up. I'm trying to turn the "big" things into "baby" tasks.
The little steps required to experience big relief are, of course, going to be different for each of us. I cannot stress enough how worth the time it is to sit down and evaluate what is causing you anxiety, and to brainstorm some baby remedies that are available to you right in this very moment. My best advice: THINK SMALL!