Recently I was leading a coaching session and my client asked me, “How do you do it all?”
I nearly spat out my coffee. What was she talking about?
She continued. “I see you on Facebook. You podcast, you blog, you trained to become a coach, you work, you have a kid…”
And then once again I was reminded of the filter that social media provides to others about our lives.
She wasn’t wrong. I do all of those things. But what she doesn’t see is that my house is in a constant state of disarray that gives me anxiety. She doesn’t see that clean clothes rarely make it from the basket back into their designated drawers. She doesn’t see that my to-do list is a mile long. She doesn’t see the stack of books on my shelf that are all geared around how to do more, including my current pick called Drop The Ball: How to Achieve More By Doing Less.
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Given what I’ve been reading lately, and given my client’s comment, I’ve been thinking A LOT lately about how we do it all. And my first takeaway is this – nobody does it all.
First of all, you have to define what YOUR all is. My all and your all are different. I love to podcast, you might prefer to go hiking or hit up a zumba class. Already, we’re different.
Secondly, it seems to be that, for the most part, women put far more pressure on themselves to do it all. I don’t see this same anxiety in men. Perhaps it exists, but y’all don’t talk about it that much, so I’m going to have to make a massive assumption/generalization here in thinking that the “doing it all” dilemma is experienced more by women.
One of my key learning’s from Drop The Ball (and I highly recommend you pick up a copy) was in creating a Management Excel List (MEL). Name it whatever you want, but it basically looks at ALL THE THINGS you would aim to do at home. It’s the master list, so to speak. Everything from the daily dishes to the annual car maintenance and who submits your taxes, etc.
I believe part of the stress that we experience is in keeping this running to do list in so many places. I have household to do lists, the running mental list of what chores need to be done, post-it notes about events, and shockingly I have two different calendars – one for work and one for home. WHY? That spells disaster.
In keeping everything in one place, as a starter, you can visually see what ‘doing it all’ means and how ridiculous it is to expect one person to do everything.
Tiffany Dufu, author of Drop The Ball, suggests that if you’re living with a partner, that you then go through the list and designate who is going to do what based on 1) skill set (my husband is far better at setting up technology than I am), 2) interest (I like folding laundry while watching TV), and 3) the season of your life.
Number three is important, because while it would be nice and easy to draw a line in the sand and say this is yours and that is mine, that’s not how life works. For example, we’re about to have a newborn. I’m going to attempt to try breastfeeding again (didn’t work out so well the first time…), and if that works for us then I truly am going to need my husband, and my created village, to step up for me. I will literally be attached to a tiny human by the boob for god knows how many hours, and that transition period is NOT going to be the time that I can worry about the spring garden clean up.
What was also interesting is that there is a column for each person that contributes to household chores/activities, but then there is also a column for No One.
Yes. Drop the ball.
As in, does it matter that my garden is a complete disaster this year? No. It truly doesn’t, UNLESS gardening is on my list of most important things.
Speaking of, figure out what is important to you. Perhaps it’s important to you that your house is clean, but tidiness doesn’t matter. I am one of these people – hence why I have a cleaner do the important things every two weeks, but the other 26 days of the month my house is an untidy mess. Clean… but messy.
So, for me, podcasting is important to me. In order to podcast this past year, I had to let go of writing so many new blog posts. I dropped the ball intentionally.
For me, training to be a health coach was important, and I had a self-imposed deadline of finishing my certification before the baby came. Other things had to fall off my list. For the past eight months in order to commit to that extra 8 hours of course work and skills labs and practice clients every week, I had to watch less TV, hang out with friends a little less, and prioritize sleep.
Until my legs started giving out due to pregnancy (long story), it was important for me to go swimming three times a week. When I could, I was waking up at the crack of ass dawn and swimming at 5:30. 5:30 sucks. It sucks so bad, so when I say I went swimming at 5:30, know that if you think that sounds horrible, it is, but it’s the only time that I could squeeze it in. Because it was important to me.
Do you see what I’m saying here? Doing it all, or doing all of the things that are important to you, does not mean it’s going to be sunshine and rainbows 24/7. It means hard work. It means scheduling. It means that things are going to have to either drop off your list entirely, or you’re going to have to put things on the backburner.
There is no such thing as the proverbial ‘all’, just all the things that truly matter to you.
So, here’s what I want you to do today. I want you to write down your master list. Get everything out of your head and onto paper.
If you have a partner, maybe go through that list with them and figure out who is going to do what, but first and foremost I want you to decide what is just NOT going to get done. The first couple that you cross off your list might feel painful. But take a deep breath, and think of what it will mean to have time back in your life, to be able to focus on that which is truly more important to you.
Would I rather live in a spotless house or would I rather sit on the floor and play trains with my son, listening to him name all the different carriages?
I think you know the answer to that.
Decide what your all is, what’s important to you, and focus your efforts there.