Do you ever get that paralyzed feeling when you’re overwhelmed by so much to do that you freeze and don’t do anything? Perfection or bust? All or nothing?
As I lay my head down on my pillow Monday night after a long day and weekend full of errands, guilt started to creep in about all the remaining tasks I had left undone. I thought about the two blog posts I hadn’t written on Sunday (my usual routine). I thought about the pile of laundry I didn’t fold and the emails I hadn’t responded to.
And suddenly, brain still wired as I lay in bed trying to sleep, it hit me. Something is better than nothing. I’ve often used this phrase to get me to the gym; when it comes to exercise, something is definitely better than nothing.
But this is also an important reminder for me when I catch myself falling prey to the perfectionist’s curse in other areas – the all or nothing, gung-ho or bust mentality – that if I can’t do something well (or up to my high standards), I shouldn’t do it at all. If I can’t write two blog posts, I shouldn’t even start one. Or if I can’t spend an hour on emails, I shouldn’t even open my inbox.
Sure, there are times when something is not better than nothing (replying to spam or publishing a really crappy post, for example). Ultimately it’s about examining the size and importance of the task or goal and asking, “Is there something small I can do to chip away at it to make progress?” If not, or you choose not to for the time being, that means you’ve made the decision to rest and can let go of the guilt associated with your deliberate non-doing. Give yourself a break until you’re ready to pick it up again or until you decide to write it off completely. Life is a balancing act. Sometimes we will choose not to get every task done for the sake of our sanity, and that’s okay too.
On that note – I’m still getting acclimated to my new job, and the next three weeks are going to be pretty busy for me. This week I’m excited to be completing the Myers Briggs Type Indicator training for facilitators – and next week I’m headed to New York for a planning summit with the new team. I also start coaching certification in three weeks and am going from two regular clients to ten! I’m going take my own medicine whenever possible, but wanted to let you know that I may be a little less frequent and responsive than usual when it comes to tweeting and blogging over the next three weeks.
If you send me an email, you’ll see the following note at the end of my OOO reply (borrowed from a very wise coach of mine!): “E-mail is such a funny thing. People hand you these single little messages that are no heavier than a river pebble. But it doesn’t take long until you have acquired a pile of pebbles that’s taller than you and heavier than you could ever hope to move…But for the person who took the time to hand you their pebble, it seems outrageous that you can’t handle that one tiny thing. “What ‘pile’? It’s just a pebble!”
Mann’s quote makes me laugh - we’ve all got piles of pebbles we’re dealing with – they just take different forms. Here’s to us embracing the pile, processing the pebbles at a pace that won’t drive us nuts, and practicing patience with those who are still figuring out how to do this gracefully.