The importance of NOT getting stuff done.
Way back in January I set myself a theme for 2017: ‘slow and simple’.
Over the last few months I’ve strayed from the slow and simple path and realised that perhaps I ought to take some of my own advice. Today I’d like to share my experience and offer four tips if, like me, you have a lot on your plate.
First, here’s some context: I’m fully booked for my VA work, have been working 1:1 with a productivity mentoring client, launched The Getting Stuff Done Collective and started selling my crafts locally which involved making a whole heap of stock. On top of all that, my weekends have been busy, and I’ve had very little time to just pootle.
Rewarding? Yes! Enjoyable? Yes! Slow and simple? Not really, no.
But there are lessons to be learnt from the times things go a bit wonky. Hopefully some of these lessons might help you, particularly at this busy time of year.
Firstly, let’s talk about how I could tell that things weren’t right.
I could feel it in my body. I was exhausted and physically tense. I wasn’t sleeping brilliantly, and my head was full to bursting. I wasn’t worried about getting everything done - the way I plan my time means that’s never a problem - but there simply wasn’t enough white space in my diary to allow me to rest.
Don’t get me wrong – there’s been no major meltdown and I haven’t been dragging myself through my days in despair! I just wasn’t giving myself enough time to switch off, and I started to feel the effects both physically and emotionally.
So, what did I do about it?
The first thing I did was to get my mornings back on track by reintroducing my meditation and yoga practise. Some mornings I only managed ten minutes of stretching, but that’s ok. Ten minutes is better than no minutes. Meditation helped me keep things in perspective, preventing me from blowing things out of all proportion as I may have done in years gone by.
I factored in pockets of movement during the day, getting out for a walk whenever I could (let’s gloss over the fact that at least a few of those walks were taking me to the chocolate shop and back…).
Upon realising that I haven’t had a proper break from work for 18 months, I decided to take two weeks off over Christmas. More importantly, I let my clients know so that I wouldn’t be tempted to change my mind.
But by far the most important thing I’ve done was to give myself permission to NOT get things done. (Or as the fabulous Fiona put it over in my Facebook group, I gave myself an ‘un-to-do list’.
You may have noticed that there was no new blog post last week. That’s because I gave myself a day off. It wasn’t an easy decision for me - as you’ll see in this video - but I knew I needed to put my own wellbeing first, and suffice to say it was most definitely the right call.
Physically, I’m feeling much more relaxed. I’ve taken every opportunity to massage my jaw (sounds odd but is wonderful if that’s where you store tension) and stretch. Instead of leaping out of bed as soon as the alarm goes off, I’m allowing myself to sleep if that’s what I need. My thinking is much clearer, particularly now I know I have a break coming up soon. In terms of work, I’m ‘on it’ when I need to be working, but am now protecting my boundaries more fiercely.
That’s not the end of the story, though. I’m using this as an opportunity to review how I’ve been working over the last few months. I’m going to change things up a bit to see if I can get into a groove that works better for me. I’m also going to remove some things from my life (memberships I’m not using, emails I don’t read, Facebook groups that don’t make me feel good) to eliminate guilt and create a little more space.
What could you do if you’re feeling exhausted?
If you can identify with the heaviness and tiredness that I’ve been feeling lately, here are some things you can do that might help:
1) Put the things that nourish you back on your list. Whether that’s exercise, a walk in the fresh air, sitting with a cup of tea and a book for ten minutes, a five-minute meditation or dancing round the kitchen. Those are often the things we think we don’t have time for when we’re busy. But it’s precisely because we’re busy that we need to make them a priority.
2) Make an un-to-do list. Can you let yourself off the hook with anything that ‘needs’ to be done this week? Take a look at your list and get ruthless. Identify the absolute, ABSOLUTE essentials and then see if there’s anything you could let go. I chose not to write a blog last week. My favourite slow living podcast (with over 2 million downloads) chose not to publish a new episode last week. Did the world stop spinning? Nope. Let go of any shoulds and your aspiration for perfection and cut yourself some slack.
3) Reflect, review, regroup. When you’re able to breathe a little more easily, look back and see if you can identify the patterns that got you here. Was it simply a busy season that couldn’t have been avoided? If so, don’t give yourself a hard time. Accept that sometimes life gets busy, but see if you can schedule some downtime to give you the chance to recover. Or perhaps with hindsight you realise you said ‘yes’ to things when you could have said ‘no’, you’ve got into some bad habits, or the way you’ve been working just doesn’t feel good to you. What could you do differently?
4) Remove that which isn’t serving you. It’s not just about things that take your time, although that can be a great place to start. What about things that are taking up your precious headspace? Have you signed up for things you don’t have time to read? Delete them and unsubscribe. Are there things in your social media feeds that leave you feeling heavy? Remove them. Are piles of paper and clutter building up around your home? Stick your favourite tunes on, set a timer for 15 minutes and have a tidying blitz.
This is such a busy time of year. So over the next few weeks let’s cut ourselves some slack, choose NOT to get stuff done, ditch the guilt and focus in on what matters most (glass of mulled wine and a mince pie, anyone?).
How are you feeling right now? Energised and giddy with excitement? Or overwhelmed and shattered, crawling towards the end of the year? I'd love to know what non-essentials are going on your 'un-to-do list', so do share in the comments below!
And of course, I’d love you to pass this on if you know someone who might find it useful.