Sometimes you just do the best that you can

Career Opportunities podcast logoSometimes you just do the best that you can. Most of us want to do more with our life, our work, heck, even our day, but sometimes you just can’t get it done. I am having one of those times right now. Everyone in the family seems busier than usual and it is leading to days where our only thought is sinking in to a comfy chair at night and turning off our minds. My wife has an amazingly busy scheduled teaching at 4 different colleges, my 7th Grade son is deep in his studies as well as flag football, chess and a host of other programs and I am taking on more of my “Stay at home Dad” role again as well as balancing that with my consulting and writing work. We all seem to be running in a hundred different directions at once.

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Even with all this, though, I see each of us bemoaning the fact that we can’t get more done. Things are going un-repaired, leaves are piling up — along with the dishes — and everything just seems a bit harder. Even as we sink into your beds, we are chiding ourselves, trying to kick ourselves back into action. Instead, we all need to take a moment to realize the life has its ups and down and sometimes the best thing we can do is sleep.

It can be hard to decide when things have become to much. Most of us want to go-go-go and when busy times hit we want to continue as we normally do. Let me be the first to tell you that you can’t do that. You can’t take on an entire new load of work and still expect to get everything else done. There aren’t enough hours in the day, no matter how much you berate yourself. Even more, this isn’t going to be a normal state of affairs. Each year has its own ups and downs, craziness and pauses. You need to adopt a new, temporary mindset until things settle down a bit. Even when it feels like they won’t settle down, I can guarantee you that they will. You need to go into a maintenance mode until a bit of normalcy returns.

First, look to those things that simply must be done. We have to pay our bills, feed ourselves, and get ourselves to work each day. There is no compromising on some things. That said, maybe the roof repair will have to be put off for a couple of weeks, or the sweeping of leaves. I call this self-preservation. You have to do something to keep yourself together until the busy time relents. This means that some days you will look at the dirty dishes and decide to do them in the morning, not right now. You’ll decide that buying take out (as healthy as possible, please) might be a better use of you time than making an entire meal from scratch. You may decide that taking a nap is more important than ironing your clothes and in many ways you will be right. At least you’ll be right for right now.

The biggest battle you will have to fight is to overcome the thoughts that somehow you have failed. Each little undone task will weigh on your mind and make you feel a little less accomplished. No matter how much you might be doing in other aspects of your life, you will see these small tasks as dramatic indicators that your life is “going to hell in a hand basket.” Stop. Don’t. You are only digging yourself a bigger hole. Focus on the most important things now and realize that the other things will sort themselves out in a while. You will find a rhythm to your life again, I promise. Focus on getting through this period.

There are ways of helping yourself cope. For myself, I make a point of writing down everything that is going undone and then making an agreement with myself that everything will get done — eventually. Itemizing what you have to do can sometimes help to get those items off your mind. Once you have a good list to refer to later, you know that you won’t forget anything and this seems to take them off your mind, at least for a little while.

Another method is to itemize everything you ARE completing. Show yourself just how much work you are doing, even if other items are going wanting. Don’t dismiss all the work that you are doing. If this work is running your life right now, it must be important, even if it is something you would rather not monopolize your time. We have limited control over what we do from day-to-day, but you must remind yourself, constantly, that life will return to normal — priorities will shift once again — and you will be back on track. In the meantime, you just have to do the best that you can.

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