I’ve been thinking this week about how our days are like a dinner plate. A balanced day is filled with healthy portions. By the end of it we feel satisfied. An overwhelming day is like attending a buffet, where we fill our plates so full we can’t eat everything. Our eyes are bigger than our stomachs. And rather than feeling satisfied, we have this uncomfortable feeling of fullness.
It is so easy to continue to put more on our daily plates. It’s something I’ve been struggling with lately. At the moment my days feel like they are healthily portioned. But I’m also feeling frustrated because there are also other things I would like to be doing. More writing. More editing work. Projects I’d like to begin. But I know if I add even one more thing to my plate it will begin to overflow. And that is the fastest way to overwhelm.
I also know that if I want to add something to my plate, one of three things needs to happen:
I need to take something off my plate to make room for the thing I want to put on.
I need to experiment with my daily routines to see if I can free up some extra space in my day.
Or I need to ask for help.
Unfortunately at the moment there is nothing I can take off my plate. As much as I would love to drop some hours at work, it’s not realistic right now. The dogs still need to be exercised. The house-hold chores still need to be done. And I need to sleep.
I have started to look at my daily routines to see if there is any way to free up space there. Each time I do something I ask myself the question, ‘is there a better way I could be doing this’? So far I’ve come up with two small things.
I could run my dogs instead of walking them. I’ve been thinking about getting back into running for a while. And the dogs would love it too. It might only free up half an hour a day, but you can get a lot done in thirty minutes if you use that time in a mindful way.
I am also going to experiment with the meals I cook during the week. I've realised that I cook differently when my fiancé is home, compared to when he works away. Rather than throwing something easy and quick together, I tend to make meals that take longer to cook. So I’ve decided to start using our slow cooker more. That way I can throw everything into the cooker in the morning and let it simmer away. The meals will still be what he needs after a long day at work, but it will free up my time in the evenings.
And lastly … I could ask for help. To be honest this is the one I know makes the most sense. But the one I struggle with the most.
My fiancé is always saying to me, ‘you don’t have to be the one that does everything’. I know this is true at one level. But my perfectionist, Type-A, control-freak personality has a hard time letting things go. I also know this is my issue, not his. It’s something I’m working on.
I’m starting with one small thing at a time, like asking him to make dinner on a Saturday night. And then letting him do it his way. If any of you are like me you will know this isn’t easy! But it frees up my time. So I need to be grateful that he's happy to do it, and use that time to write or work on a project.
Feeling overwhelmed by everything on our plates isn’t a nice place to be in. I’ve been there and I don’t want to go back there again. And it is so easy to tip over the edge. Sometimes it can be the smallest thing we take on that does it.
My generation has grown up being told we can do whatever we want. That balance doesn’t exist. That being busy is the way of life these days. I don’t believe any of that is very helpful at all. It only makes us feel that overwhelm is a normal state to be in. But it’s not!
I’m sorry but the hard truth is that we can’t do everything. Not without putting so much pressure on ourselves that we don’t feel like we are doing anything well. And that is crazy.
We all have the same sized plates. Each of us gets 24 hours in a day. No-one gets any more and no-one gets any less. And each of us gets to choose how we fill our plates.
So, let me ask you, is your plate at the moment filled with a healthy balance or is it overflowing?
And if it’s overflowing what can you take off?
What can you do to make things easier on yourself?
And what help can you ask for to begin to balance it back out?