Excerpted from the book Finerman’s Rules by Karen Finerman. © 2013 by Karen Finerman. Reprinted by permission of Business Plus. All rights reserved.
As a working mother, the last thing you need is to be hard on yourself. As a stay-at-home mother, the last thing you need is to be hard on yourself. As a twentysomething with no job prospects or life partner in sight, the last thing you need is to be hard on yourself.
All of us feel overburdened by the sheer number of things we have to do. When you’re trying to manage all the different responsibilities and needs of a family and yourself, you can’t hang onto ideals of perfection that are impossible to achieve. You’ll lead yourself to certain disappointment.
Don’t waste even a minute magnifying your perceived inadequacies. You can’t do it all. Why berate yourself for not achieving the impossible? Would you really expect the ability to be all things to all people from your husband? So why from yourself? You need to learn how to let yourself off the hook. Figure out how to give yourself some breathing room, do what you can do well, and then get used to the “inadequacies” as you perceive them.
You’ve got to be the one shielding yourself from expectations, yours and others’, and giving yourself permission to fall short of the ideals in some areas. I’ve said it before:
Protect yourself like you would your cubs – as a grown woman, you’re no one’s cub anymore.
If you’re going through one of those times when you’re at a breaking point, see what you can change and know that things will not stay the same. Research shows that we, as human beings, are grossly inept at predicting the future and how we’ll feel about it. To the extent possible, make things easier and lower your standards. You have to get by on being good enough. There is no shame in that. You will get through the present moment.
Multitasking Is No Tasking
I’ve done a complete 180 on multitasking in recent years. The concept is an outright lie, and it sets you up for failure. In trying to “do it all,” you keep retracing your steps as you switch from task to task and thought to thought. You actually waste more and more time while you put more and more pressure on yourself. The more tasks you do simultaneously, the more time you’ll waste.
When you multitask, you believe you’re being exceptionally productive, but really, you’re fooling yourself. Each time you switch tasks, you have to backtrack a little and remind yourself where you are in the process and what’s next. Invariably you are spending twice as much time on parts of the task. In addition, because you’re simultaneously trying to advance multiple tasks at once, some failures occur, requiring even more time as you try to address them. And finally, as you continue to fold more tasks into the mix, you don’t get the liberating and invigorating feeling of removing things from your to-do list.
So what can you do? Get over your desire to be superwoman and do the following:
- Unclutter your mind. What’s the simplest, least complicated, easiest way you could approach the task or project? Guide yourself as if you were a kindergartner and break it down. See distraction as the enemy. Don’t fall prey to the flashing e-mail or the latest call or request. You’ll fall into the trap of doing the most manageable tasks and not the biggest, hardest, highest-stakes ones. You don’t want your most important work and tasks to lie fallow.
- Do one small chunk. Even 20 minutes or one hour on one discreet task will move that project forward.
- Always have something to do for wait times. Always bring something you can do when waiting at a dentist’s office, a doctor’s office, and so forth. I usually carry with me stock reports to review or thank-you cards to write. You’ll feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment if you dash off a few handwritten notes for people you’re thinking about.
- For one other acceptable variation, you can try my mother’s unique take on multitasking: She used to sit in a relaxing bubble bath while her bras and panties floated around instead of washing them in the sink.