Accomplish more by doing less
Fight, flight or freeze is real, even if the “threat” is our to-do list.
I knew I was in trouble when I started on hour three of Dawson’s Creek reruns with no intention of getting off the couch.
My email was chiming, the phone was ringing, and my to-do list was growing by the second. Yet, there I was, completely frozen by the overwhelming pressure to accomplish more than I could possibly accomplish in a day, or even a week.
It was my own fault. I had been saying yes to too much for months and it had finally caught up with me in a big way.
That day, I knew, I was going to let some people down. I was overwhelmed, anxiety-filled, and just plain sad. There just wasn’t enough of me to go around.
And then the negative internal dialogue started up: flighty, disorganized, lazy, unfocused…
Sure am, I thought, as I channel surfed my way through a commercial break and tossed an empty ice cream pint on the coffee table.
Maybe I was all those things. If not, I wouldn’t keep going through this cycle: wonder woman, tired woman, hiding woman, repeat.
By trying to do too much, I wasn’t accomplishing anything at all.
Do less, more often
I think a lot of us fall into this trap: trying to be and do too many things at once. We are women, after all. There is an expectation of superhuman ability to be mom and wife and employee and lover and daughter and friend, all while having flawless bodies and perfect complexions and never having to say the word no because we have masterfully balanced it all.
Basically, we are expected to be magicians. Because there’s no way it’s happening otherwise!
I wish I could say that I broke the cycle of over-work followed by incapacitation over night, but that wasn’t the case. It took years of goal setting, prioritization, and solid boundaries, (not to mention lots of trial and error), to stop doing what I was doing. But what I learned was, although there are many ways to gain better control of our schedules and our lives, the formula boils down to this: do less, just do it more often.
When our commitments are overwhelming and our goals are too big, we buckle under the pressure of what we’re trying to do and end up doing nothing. Or worse, doing less than nothing.
The best example is the infamous “diet starts on Monday.”
It never fails, the weekend before the diet starts we go out, we order an appetizer AND dessert. We swear on our full bellies and tight waistbands that next week starts the weight loss plan. Fewer carbs, more exercise, no excuses. Next stop: smaller pants.
But sometime around mid-week, we decide we are too tired to cook at home, so we go out instead. We decide we had a salad for lunch and want something warm for dinner, so we order a burger (with fries) and scarf it down right after the complimentary basket of chips and salsa. The next day, we go to work and our day is hectic and busy, the boss is being a jerk, and we discover we missed a big deadline. So, we go out for drinks with our co-workers to commiserate about our lot in life. Before we know it, it’s the weekend again and we decide, this wasn’t a good week to start dieting anyway. Next week will be better.
Time to prepare for our new lifestyle by going out for one last meal before the diet begins…sound familiar?
Changing our entire lifestyle on some random Monday is too much. And by trying to accomplish too much, we actually accomplish less than if we weren’t trying to accomplish anything at all.
One small step each day is better than one massive step, taken once.
What if, instead…
We replaced our sugary drinks with water?
Stopped eating carbs after 6 PM?
Made a tennis date with a friend for the same time each week?
No huge changes. Just small consistent steps that, over time, add up to big results?
Choose the small steps that will make the biggest impact
Break down your big goals into manageable smaller steps, then work on one step every day.
Sounds simple, right?
In fact, it is simple, if not easy. The trick is in prioritizing which of your simple steps will give you maximum results so that you don’t become discouraged and quit before feeling the rewards for your effort. Also known as the Pareto Principle, the idea is to identify which 20% of activity produces 80% of your results and then focus your efforts there. (More information on how to put the Pareto Principle to work for you here.)
To get started doing less, more often:
- Write down your big picture goals. Is your goal to start a business? Write a book? Lose 20 pounds? Find a romantic partner? Write down your BIG goals first, whatever they may be.
- Next, identify what daily actions might be required to achieve your big picture goals. What simple thing could you do each day that would move you in the direction you wish to go? Using our previous example, you might identify the daily goal of interacting with an online entrepreneur group, writing 1,000 words per day, incorporating more exercise into your daily life-(start with one push up, add another each day, everything counts!), make an effort to say hello to someone new.
- Now, ritualize your daily actions. Choose a trigger that will remind you to complete your actions every day. Do your push ups before getting in the shower. Write 1,000 words before you go to sleep at night. Whatever your daily actions happen to be, allow them to become a habit and make them part of your routine. Do them, every day. Let the results speak for themselves.
Small daily actions lead to big results!
Did you know that people who write down their goals, share their goals with a friend, and send weekly updates on the progress of their goals are 33% more successful in accomplishing their stated goals? It’s true!
Is a Counselor or a Coach right for you?
In addition to helping you clarify your goals and daily rituals, a coach will help you identify the 20% of effort that yields 80% of your results. Weekly check-ins provide the accountability and support that you need to overcome obstacles and commit to the daily actions that will lead to success. For more information on the counseling and coaching services offered by Good Mental Health LLC, schedule a complimentary phone call or learn more about our services here. We would be honored to accompany you on your journey to success!
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