Guest Post by: Yolanda Gruendel, GUAA Coaching Partner
Every so often, my eye catches the paperweight on my desk. It reads, “you can do anything but not everything.” It was given to me by a friend and fellow graduate of the Law Center a few years ago. When she gave it to me, she confided that she had purchased one for herself. We laughed. Two peas.
On one level, we know we cannot do everything. We simply do not have the time. And yet, we behave as if we could. We gauge success by whether we are able to cram everything into our days and feel overwhelmed when we can’t.
Not being able to get to everything necessarily means that on any given day, we are procrastinating. To focus on some things, we delay or delete others. It is not a matter of whether we procrastinate. The only question is whether we procrastinate absentmindedly or deliberately. Those of us who procrastinate absentmindedly tend to value all activities equally and focus on the immediate. Whatever event or distraction captures our attention hijacks our time and energy as well. When that activity is over, we dedicate the time we have left to our remaining commitments or never bother to circle back to them.
Other people procrastinate more deliberately. They know the to-do list never ends so they sequence activities based on their relative importance. They resist getting carried away by unexpected events. They keep their focus on the vitally few important activities that matter most, and they put off, outsource, delegate, or eliminate altogether the other tasks.
It is a relief when you finally accept that you cannot do everything. I always knew it, but at the moment of choice, often opted to take on more. I wasn’t trying to do everything, just this one additional thing. My commitments mushroomed. The realization that something needed to change forced a critical internal conversation about what mattered most to me and which activities contributed or detracted from these priorities. I try to maintain my attention and energy these days where it matters most and measure each activity or commitment accordingly. As for the rest, well, I’ll get to it later.