As I write this article, I am fighting a bout of lurgy, namely the hacking cough that has been doing the rounds up and down the country. It's irritating, embarrassing and debilitating. But more importantly, it's made me realise that I cannot be indispensable, and I certainly cannot do it all.
It's funny, because through most of my working life, I've focussed on quite the opposite, becoming indispensable. I made sure I was an intrinsic member of the team, and I think many of us are the same.
With rounds of redundancies in large corporates becoming common in the last decade, we've built ourselves up to indispensability. We take on extra responsibility, and say yes to it all.
This of course, inevitably leads to overworking, and providing solutions where we have no business. We've all been brainwashed into the notion that women are natural multi-taskers, and that we can - or should be able to - do it all. In fact, I often hear other women, whether friends or peers, say - with no small smattering of pride - that they are crazy busy. It seems that whatever walk of life we're in, juggling is the way to go.
However, this is a false economy. After all, we might be doing everything, but we might not necessarily be doing everything well. Also, by trying to do it all, we may feel we're being efficient, but in fact we're often spending too much time focussing on the wrong things.
My business coach Amanda Cullen of Coaching with Amanda recently carried out a survey among small business owners, which revealed that most tend to do everything themselves and don't seek support. The consequence of this is that many struggle to get new clients, as this was cited as the biggest concern among the owners surveyed.
As a business owner myself, I can resonate. I wear a multitude of hats, but after a year of doing it all, I've learned to delegate. I started reading a book called Essentialism, which focussed on the disciplined art of doing less, but better. It was a novel concept, but it made perfect sense. In this crazy, 24/7 world, we're in danger of swapping quality for quantity.
So if you find yourself in overload, whether in work or just life in general, why not make 2017 the year for doing the right things, rather than everything. If that goes against your nature, here are some tips that helped me:
Accept that there aren't enough hours in the day. I could easily work a 12-hour day, as there's always something to do. When I've done the all-important client work, I could be looking at new business prospects, updating my social media, reaching out to my mailing list, doing my own PR... the list is endless. So the first step to avoiding overload is acceptance that it's OK to not get to the end of the to-do list. As long as you've ticked off your core tasks, you're doing alright.
Find the 2%. Something that my coach, Amanda, always urges me to do is look for the 2% positive in any scenario, as it's all too-easy to focus on the negative. For example, if I'm fraught with deadlines and wracked with guilt as I don't feel I've achieved enough this week, Amanda will ask what I have achieved, and look for the positive in that. Even if I struggle to look on the bright side of not being able to do it all, sometimes the 2% is learning that I need to schedule plan and prioritise.
Think of the worst-case scenario. I'm often guilty of imposing too strict deadlines on myself. Yet when I drill down to the consequences of not fulfilling a task, it's never really as bad as it seems. As long as you're not constantly putting things off, or letting people down, the consequence of not doing something at your own self-inflicted deadline is rarely that great.
Know what to delegate, and what to do yourself. We need support to thrive, and asking for help is not a sign of weakness. A great tool to help with this (again borrowed from Amanda), is the spider-gram, which works really well in a work and life scenario.
You simply plot all the tasks you have in hand. So as a business owner, it includes marketing and accounting. If you'd like to streamline your super busy home-life, your spider-gram could include the school run, gym, chores, etc.
Then, you separate out what you'd like to do yourself, what you need to do yourself, what can be delegated, and what can be scrapped.
It's a great way of unblocking the mind, reassessing your lot, and making sure you are focussing on what's most important, whether that's in work, or life.