Something is Better than Nothing

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?

Photo Courtesy of Koalazymonkey (Flickr)

Courtesy of Koalazymonkey (Flickr)

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.

Courtesy of Danil (Flickr)

Courtesy of Danil (Flickr)

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. :D

29 comments

Categories: Life

  • http://positivelypresent.com/ Positively Present

    Really loved this post, Jenny. I love that you brought up how we all have different pebbles we’re dealing with. This is so true and it can make such a difference if we remember this when we’re interacting with others.

  • http://positivelypresent.com Positively Present

    Really loved this post, Jenny. I love that you brought up how we all have different pebbles we’re dealing with. This is so true and it can make such a difference if we remember this when we’re interacting with others.

  • http://www.opheliaswebb.com/ Elisa

    I frequently refer to myself as a procrastinatory perfectionist. Meaning I put things off til the last minute but still expect them to be done to the highest standard. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have a coronary by the time I’m 40. :)

    I really like your analogy about email too. For my “9-5″ I’m out of my office most days. I plead mercy on everyone, asking them NOT to email me but to instead call my cell phone. It’s a lot easier to catch me driving to appointments instead of when I MIGHT have enough time to climb the wall. Email is both one of the best and worst methods of communication ever created!

  • http://www.opheliaswebb.com Elisa

    I frequently refer to myself as a procrastinatory perfectionist. Meaning I put things off til the last minute but still expect them to be done to the highest standard. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have a coronary by the time I’m 40. :)

    I really like your analogy about email too. For my “9-5″ I’m out of my office most days. I plead mercy on everyone, asking them NOT to email me but to instead call my cell phone. It’s a lot easier to catch me driving to appointments instead of when I MIGHT have enough time to climb the wall. Email is both one of the best and worst methods of communication ever created!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com/ Grace Boyle

    I’m with you Jenny. Overwhelm is a strong emotion. It sounds like even though there’s a lot on your plate, you’re still going strong and you realize that there is only so much one can do each day.

    Keep everything in stride and good luck. We/the internets will always be here ;)

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    I’m with you Jenny. Overwhelm is a strong emotion. It sounds like even though there’s a lot on your plate, you’re still going strong and you realize that there is only so much one can do each day.

    Keep everything in stride and good luck. We/the internets will always be here ;)

  • http://www.meltwaterblog.com/ Kimling

    Great post, Jenny. Your opening question hit the nail on the head for me: “Do you ever get that paralyzed feeling when you’re overwhelmed by so much to do that you freeze…” uh, YES, all the time!

    In order to get myself to snap out of it, I have a to-do list broken down into 3 columns:
    1. Daily to-do’s (must be done by the end of the week)
    2. Weekly to-do’s (must be done by the end of the month)
    3. Quarterly goals (self explanatory)

    This list system ensures that even when I feel overwhelmed, I can always go to my list and get that big-picture perspective that my personality type needs to stay motivated and on task…or else I freeze and panic.

  • http://www.meltwaterblog.com/ Kimling

    Great post, Jenny. Your opening question hit the nail on the head for me: “Do you ever get that paralyzed feeling when you’re overwhelmed by so much to do that you freeze…” uh, YES, all the time!

    In order to get myself to snap out of it, I have a to-do list broken down into 3 columns:
    1. Daily to-do’s (must be done by the end of the week)
    2. Weekly to-do’s (must be done by the end of the month)
    3. Quarterly goals (self explanatory)

    This list system ensures that even when I feel overwhelmed, I can always go to my list and get that big-picture perspective that my personality type needs to stay motivated and on task…or else I freeze and panic.

  • http://Bee-Empowered.com/ Rebecca

    Great post. Congrats on your new job! Send some “job karma” my way. Something is better than nothing…this is what I say to my credit card company.

  • http://Bee-Empowered.com Rebecca

    Great post. Congrats on your new job! Send some “job karma” my way. Something is better than nothing…this is what I say to my credit card company.

  • http://www.alifeintranslation.com/ Jamie

    Girl, this just inspired me to get SOME things done, even if I can’t get ALL of it done!

    I seriously miss you. We need to Skype soon and talk ’bout January!!

  • http://www.alifeintranslation.com Jamie

    Girl, this just inspired me to get SOME things done, even if I can’t get ALL of it done!

    I seriously miss you. We need to Skype soon and talk ’bout January!!

  • http://www.chinarut.com/ Chinarut

    woo hoo! so happy to hear all your accomplishments!

    I love it how we are all so in tune with this conversation – I just got off my ass and picked up Stephen Covey’s compass method the other week and it’s done wonders – I went from resisting to schedule any work for the week to putting my “big rocks” (big pebbles if you will :) and getting clear on what would make me feel accomplished. in fact, I made my big rocks based on my life checklist ! :)

    now I can totally get what you’re sharing – I thought I could whip out a draft of a biz plan in only 45 minutes (it’s only a DRAFT right?!?) – not! however, my breakthrough was to move on and feel accomplished about the end result I was striving for and let it be.

    in the past, I would KILL myself, work overtime to get that end result done and happy to say that I made a better estimate around the additional time it would take this week and while I’m still underestimating, i’m a hell of a lot closer to it being done the way I think a DRAFT should look :)

    okey doke – my next accomplishment is calling -time to sign off and always great to be here!

    have fun in NYC – sounds awesome!

  • http://www.chinarut.com Chinarut

    woo hoo! so happy to hear all your accomplishments!

    I love it how we are all so in tune with this conversation – I just got off my ass and picked up Stephen Covey’s compass method the other week and it’s done wonders – I went from resisting to schedule any work for the week to putting my “big rocks” (big pebbles if you will :) and getting clear on what would make me feel accomplished. in fact, I made my big rocks based on my life checklist ! :)

    now I can totally get what you’re sharing – I thought I could whip out a draft of a biz plan in only 45 minutes (it’s only a DRAFT right?!?) – not! however, my breakthrough was to move on and feel accomplished about the end result I was striving for and let it be.

    in the past, I would KILL myself, work overtime to get that end result done and happy to say that I made a better estimate around the additional time it would take this week and while I’m still underestimating, i’m a hell of a lot closer to it being done the way I think a DRAFT should look :)

    okey doke – my next accomplishment is calling -time to sign off and always great to be here!

    have fun in NYC – sounds awesome!

  • http://www.classesandcareers.com/colleges/state_california/city_costa-mesa-ca/degrees_business/courses_technology-management/programs_multimedia marci

    Timely post for me. :) I have wanted to re-design my blog for some time now and haven’t made it a priority “pebble” to tackle just yet. I think I will do so this weekend. I think it’s also all about priorities.

  • http://www.classesandcareers.com/colleges/state_california/city_costa-mesa-ca/degrees_business/courses_technology-management/programs_multimedia marci

    Timely post for me. :) I have wanted to re-design my blog for some time now and haven’t made it a priority “pebble” to tackle just yet. I think I will do so this weekend. I think it’s also all about priorities.

  • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org/ Jenny

    Dani – I’m so glad you liked it! For a minute there I got really self-absorbed – like I’m the only one with this huge pile and no one understands. Then I realized (and these comments really helped) that WE ALL carry a pile – it just comes in different forms. So true what you said about remembering that when we interact with others – we never know how much stress their under at any given moment, so best to default to being understanding and positive!

    Elisa – Hah! Procrastinary perfectionist – I love it. Is your last letter in Myers Briggs (if you’ve taken the self-assessment) a “P” by any chance? I can’t help but ask since I’m in training this week. I am with you on calling on the phone – the long lost art! Gasp! Talking in REAL TIME – what a concept! Makes life so much easier sometimes.

    Grace – Thanks Grace – you are so sweet. Even though you don’t see me commenting a lot, know that I’ve been keeping up with Small Hands and really enjoying all of your posts lately. The Blog World pics were so much fun!!

    Kimling – I love the way you’ve structured your list. Very cool that you can see the daily, weekly, AND quarterly all at once – to remind you of the big picture and the details. I’ll have to try that!

    Rebecca – Thanks so much for stopping by – I am sending LOTS of job karma your way. The comment about your credit card company made me laugh out loud!! Sending “get out of debt” karma your way too :)

    Jamie – Heart! We MUST skype soon and talk about January ASAP! That will be the ultimate pile-stress-squelcher!!

    Chinarut – Always great to read your insightful comments – you share such amazing things about your own life and experiences and I really appreciate it. I feel lucky to have you as a loyal reader!

    Covey’s “big rocks” concept really struck me too – I wrote about it in a post earlier this year called Big Rocks, Frogs and Productivity.

    It sounds like you’ve really found a great balance between pushing yourself (and ultimately over-exerting) and celebrating the small steps along the way to accomplishing great things.

    Thanks again for stopping by – great to hear from you!

    Marci!! – Just when I thought I was out of exclamation points in this comment section. :) I know with my blog, I’ve improved it in little increments (or pebbles, if you will). Every week I would add a widget, tweak a color, edit a font-size. That said, there is something great about a “big reveal” where you can completely rebrand it all at once. I look forward to seeing your revamped blog whenever you get around to it!

  • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org Jenny

    Dani – I’m so glad you liked it! For a minute there I got really self-absorbed – like I’m the only one with this huge pile and no one understands. Then I realized (and these comments really helped) that WE ALL carry a pile – it just comes in different forms. So true what you said about remembering that when we interact with others – we never know how much stress their under at any given moment, so best to default to being understanding and positive!

    Elisa – Hah! Procrastinary perfectionist – I love it. Is your last letter in Myers Briggs (if you’ve taken the self-assessment) a “P” by any chance? I can’t help but ask since I’m in training this week. I am with you on calling on the phone – the long lost art! Gasp! Talking in REAL TIME – what a concept! Makes life so much easier sometimes.

    Grace – Thanks Grace – you are so sweet. Even though you don’t see me commenting a lot, know that I’ve been keeping up with Small Hands and really enjoying all of your posts lately. The Blog World pics were so much fun!!

    Kimling – I love the way you’ve structured your list. Very cool that you can see the daily, weekly, AND quarterly all at once – to remind you of the big picture and the details. I’ll have to try that!

    Rebecca – Thanks so much for stopping by – I am sending LOTS of job karma your way. The comment about your credit card company made me laugh out loud!! Sending “get out of debt” karma your way too :)

    Jamie – Heart! We MUST skype soon and talk about January ASAP! That will be the ultimate pile-stress-squelcher!!

    Chinarut – Always great to read your insightful comments – you share such amazing things about your own life and experiences and I really appreciate it. I feel lucky to have you as a loyal reader!

    Covey’s “big rocks” concept really struck me too – I wrote about it in a post earlier this year called Big Rocks, Frogs and Productivity.

    It sounds like you’ve really found a great balance between pushing yourself (and ultimately over-exerting) and celebrating the small steps along the way to accomplishing great things.

    Thanks again for stopping by – great to hear from you!

    Marci!! – Just when I thought I was out of exclamation points in this comment section. :) I know with my blog, I’ve improved it in little increments (or pebbles, if you will). Every week I would add a widget, tweak a color, edit a font-size. That said, there is something great about a “big reveal” where you can completely rebrand it all at once. I look forward to seeing your revamped blog whenever you get around to it!

  • http://topolk.blogspot.com/ TOPolk

    “Something is better than nothing.” An idea I try to live by more times than not. There’s time when you can’t do it all.

    That’s what tomorrow is for.

  • http://topolk.blogspot.com TOPolk

    “Something is better than nothing.” An idea I try to live by more times than not. There’s time when you can’t do it all.

    That’s what tomorrow is for.

  • http://www.thehappyself.com/ Dayne | TheHappySelf.com

    Love this post and you are absolutely right, doing SOMETHING is better than NOTHING. Even if we start super small…as long as the progress is forward. :)

    Thanks again!
    Dayne

  • http://www.thehappyself.com Dayne | TheHappySelf.com

    Love this post and you are absolutely right, doing SOMETHING is better than NOTHING. Even if we start super small…as long as the progress is forward. :)

    Thanks again!
    Dayne

  • http://twitter.com/saveabunch SaveABunch

    This post makes me feel much better when I don’t quite live up to the expectations I have for myself. Now I can at least say I did my best and I am at least one step closer to the bigger goals I have in life. Each month that I contribute to my retirement, pay down debt and learn something new is cause for celebration!

  • http://twitter.com/saveabunch SaveABunch

    This post makes me feel much better when I don’t quite live up to the expectations I have for myself. Now I can at least say I did my best and I am at least one step closer to the bigger goals I have in life. Each month that I contribute to my retirement, pay down debt and learn something new is cause for celebration!

  • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org/ Jenny Blake

    TO, Dayne and SaveABunch – thanks so much for your comments. This week has been super busy and I’m deep in the feeling of trying to manage everything, knowing I can’t get to it all. SaveABunch – I think it’s exactly what you said – giving yourself some room to breathe by doing your best and not worrying about the rest. After all, your best is really all you can ever do!

    I hope you are all having a fantastic week :D
    Jenny

  • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org Jenny Blake

    TO, Dayne and SaveABunch – thanks so much for your comments. This week has been super busy and I’m deep in the feeling of trying to manage everything, knowing I can’t get to it all. SaveABunch – I think it’s exactly what you said – giving yourself some room to breathe by doing your best and not worrying about the rest. After all, your best is really all you can ever do!

    I hope you are all having a fantastic week :D
    Jenny

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  • http://ItStartsWith.Us/ Nate St. Pierre

    I run into that “all-or-nothing” roadblock quite a bit, Jenny. If it’s not up to my super-high standards, I don’t do anything. It may be time to slide that gauge down just a little bit…

  • http://ItStartsWith.Us Nate St. Pierre

    I run into that “all-or-nothing” roadblock quite a bit, Jenny. If it’s not up to my super-high standards, I don’t do anything. It may be time to slide that gauge down just a little bit…

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