Celebrate the do-er in you - just be mindful who you do it for
Updated: Jul 25, 2022
Are you a person who tends to be the one who organises, or who is strategic and logical in project management to "drive things home", who probably has a number of achievements (but most likely doesn't see it that way!!)?
What I have recognised in myself, and many of my high-achieving clients and friends is that we can get so focused on "doing" we neglect the other elements of success - being and loving which re-energise us and instead take on more and more, often for other people which only results in exhaustion.
An example of this comes from my own experience last year.
My timetable was reduced in academic year 19/20. This meant some adjustment financially (manageable and dealt with), but actually it was something I'd wanted for a while. It meant more time to concentrate on my writing, and on creating "new improved" training or other professional content rather than "re-hashing" old material and relying on my ability to perform it well. Further, on gaining that time, I was able to timetable in seeing people I love (which energised my heart to work harder), add a fitness routine to my morning, and even engage in some long ignored pleasures such as reading - both good for my work and for me! This was month 1.
By month 2, I started to feel guilty about the gaps in my schedule. After all, seeing friends, or taking some time out from thinking all day - maybe even going for a walk or run - that's not work is it? and then I started trying to fill it with things that to my mind made me feel less "guilty" - helping out neighbours (doing), making the house "just so"/taking on all the errands because I work from home (doing), agreeing to do extra work-related but not directly beneficial tasks to ease the load on others (doing)...and all of that should have warmed my heart right?
These things were fuelled by obligation or guilt not love. And then, when I did see people I loved I rushed them, I thought "Oh I should be doing x - for the person whom I didn't really care for" and suddenly all the ways I was re-energising and improving my performance had not only gone, but I was probably worse off than before not least because I was doing all these new favours for free!!
If you do this - get a visual!
So I took stock and colour coded my online calendar! I know many of your organisers will do this anyway, but I mean colour code it to "Love it or love them"/"Benefits my work"/"Benefits my health" - or whatever your key priorities are. For me, I put all the things (and people) I loved in pink; all the things directly related to my work in green; My fitness pursuits (and doctors appointments etc) in blue, and all the "extra bits" in orange. Green remained the same, but the orange was beginning to take over.
Immediately I drew back on the orange entries...and within the week of giving myself that space again, I added two greens! (And jumping to 2020 which was quite a disruption for all of us, I've kept up with my morning runs and even added meditation, I'm seeing friends - albeit remotely, as well as bubbling with my dad - all of which makes me feel positive, and as well as my 3rd book coming out soon (time to write it!!), I've welcomed a number of new work opportunities through my focus (and learning) within self improvement and development.)
"No" is a complete sentence
If you think others (who you are not close to/who are not related to your work growth) are taking advantage of your time, ask yourself have I set this precedent up?
While I am lucky that my husband was grateful for my doing a little extra at home - he doesn't expect it, never did and never has - and in fact told me to stop because he was capable too! When people who have your back tell you to stop - listen to them.
You don't have to be rude to anyone, but you also don't have to do more than your share.
Try phrases such as:
- I can help but I only have 5 minutes
- I can help but only at x time
- I'd love to but I can't - try x instead (signposting is always useful as you're still offering support)
- Here's one I made earlier/this is how I did it - see how you get on (where possible, getting them to do the work is empowering)
And you absolutely don't have to set yourself up to do it because of a misplaced sense of need to be busy! In taking on extra things to do because you think you can means you may run the risk of compromising not necessarily your work, but neglecting or reducing what's really important (heart)...and if you aren't energised even the work, responsibilities or duties you enjoy can become a chore...it's still work, responsibility or duty after all!
Being a creator (or instigator) is a skill
If you are a do-er - that's really awesome because it's not easy to do. As humans we have evolved to be efficient, that is, take up as little energy as possible to get what we need to do done...but that means, you do-ers are left with a lot to spare. Be mindful who you do things for! Energy is not finite - if you keep spending it on things from which you get little in return, you will exhaust yourself and by the same token, achieve less.
1. Do/wear/see one thing or person that fills your heart with love - remind yourself to care for you. (If nothing else, YOU are the person you are expecting to continue achieving).
2. Say no to or reduce the time that you've filled through obligation (only you can do this...I tend to make clear arrangements within a set time limit)
3. Share the load with your team (whoever they are, spouse, family, friends, work team etc - as long as your head hasn't led you to controlling down to the minutiae, trust them...they'll rise to the challenge if you let them...and if they falter - help them rather than do it yourself)...and if it has then start small with things you know they can do, and let them do it (even in their way!)
4. Before you say yes learn to ask yourself "Do I really want this?" or "By doing this, will I be sacrificing time/energy/patience/money to spend with anyone or anything I truly love?"
Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilience For quick tips and tools: click for SKILL PILL and Q&A videos and here for Media appearances. Twitter/IG @draudreyt