Sadly, many people keep themselves going and going in a vain attempt to reach a place that doesn’t exist. That place is, “being completely finished” with nothing else left to do. The reason why many people have trouble sleeping is that even though they are physically in bed, mentally they are still not finished, and thoughts of the things still left to do are regurgitating in their mind. Balanced people accept the fact that they will never be completely caught up and don’t get themselves all frazzled and worked up trying to.
Even though we know there is a limit to what we can accomplish in one day, we often set unrealistic expectations for ourselves. When we can’t accomplish everything on our “to-do list,” we berate ourselves for not working hard enough or fast enough. Many of us live with a constant sense of guilt that we didn’t accomplish enough, no matter how unrealistic our expectations were in the first place. But do you realize that if you did everything that needed to be done in your life in one day, you wouldn’t be a human being? You’d be a superhero.
Our inability to live up to the superhero image keeps us feeling like we’re always one step behind. Letting go of this image is the first step in setting realistic expectations for ourselves. Start to let go of your superhero tendencies by recognizing that there is only so much any one person can do in one day. Acknowledge that you have limits, and that pushing yourself beyond your limits will only lead to frustration and exhaustion. We also must accept what we are—human beings. Too few people do this.
The next thing you can do is simply declare yourself “done” on a daily basis. You firmly resolve that after a certain point or time of day, you’re not going to attempt anything else and will not do any- thing of substance. This is an extremely freeing exercise that allows you to recharge your capacities and gives you more balance. “Hey, it’s 7:30 p.m. and I’m done for today.” I’m reminded of Richard Carlson’s phrase, “When you die your inbox still won’t be empty.” Surrendering to the reality that you’ll never be finished takes the pressure and strain off. You can fight reality if you’d like, but it’s one of the quickest ways to make yourself ill.
We all know that life is temporary, but sometimes we forget that we don’t know when our last day is going to be and how many moments we have left. Since we don’t know, one of the most important things has got to be being fully present in the moments of life and enjoying each step along the way—not getting everything done. Remember that even though you will never be finished, you decide when you are done on a daily basis. Lastly, remind yourself that there has to be a reason why we are called human “beings” instead of human “doings.”
About the Author: Kevin Stacey is a productivity expert and the CEO and Founder of TrainRight, Inc. He is a former radiation technologist and holds an MBA with a concentration in health care administration.