Allison’s phone rang as she was walking into a meeting with her favorite client. Her daughter had a fever of 102 and needed to be picked up, so Allison rescheduled the meeting and left for school. On the way, she realized she had a conflict with the new meeting time: an IEP session for her autistic son. Maybe it could be pushed back to after school?no, wait. A contractor was coming to look at water damage, the result of too many kids, too many toys and too much water all crammed into a too-small bathtub. Later that night, she sat down to organize it all in a to-do list but, instead, felt inundated by waves of stress.
If Allison’s day sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Many women struggle with to-do lists that are too long to be practical and too empty of items essential to getting it all done.
I love to-do lists too much to give them up, and mine still get long sometimes. But they’re more realistic than when I was trying to be superwoman, performing perfectly in all of my roles and cramming tasks into every available moment. Sitting at a red light? Listen to voice mail. Waiting at the drive-thru? Answer email. Getting ready for bed? Feeling exhausted and frustrated because I had accomplished nothing of real importance, nothing that fueled my spirit and reflected who I really am. Day after day, week after week?you get the picture. You probably live it.
The tipping point came when my mom passed away far too young. She had not taken care of herself, and it took a toll. In her premature death, I saw my future. I kept adding stress while doing nothing to reduce it, and I wasn’t being true to my own priorities. I was just like her.
I knew I needed to change, and I had to start with my priorities. The things that were most important to me were getting the least attention, things like resting, exercising, spending quality time with my husband and children, and just plain having fun?all the things that reduce stress rather than piling it on.
Since I wasn’t willing to break up with my to-do list, I gave my stress reducers a permanent home there. That gives them priority and reminds me of their importance every time I look at my list. Make stress relief one of your priorities by grabbing your to-do list and adding these tasks right now.
Unplug and be quiet
Quiet time can be as little as 15, 10 or even 5 minutes. This is a chance to clear your mind, to unplug. No emails, phone calls or texting. Work in your garden; sit down and really enjoy a cup of tea. Or just relax in your backyard for 5 minutes doing nothing.
Read something that inspires you; take a walk or jog; visit with a friend (just make sure it’s someone who lifts you up!)
If you work in front of your computer all day, get up and walk around every 2 hours. Do some neck rolls. Stretch. Back-to-back meetings? Use the walk from one meeting to the next to think about the things that matter most in your life rather than answering emails and voice mails. Have an office with a door? Close it and take a quick power nap. Stay off the computer. Surfing the ?net or catching up on FaceBook are not ?breaks?.
Leave some flexibility in your schedule to handle the unexpected. Sometimes your boss or a client needs something right now. Sometimes a project that’s been running smoothly goes belly-up, and you have to fix it. Building some free time into your schedule keeps you from falling victim to the ?tyranny of the urgent.?
Life is hectic, and we can find ourselves giving frantic attention to everything other than our true priorities. Give your health and well-being priority by adding stress reducers to your to-do list. Give them the same importance as any other item on your list, because they are that important, and maybe more so.