Lately I’ve been having a lot of people tell me why they can’t get things done. I think this often comes down to owning your priorities and values, embracing them, and accepting what it is you truly want to do with your life and time and money. Sometimes we think we want to do things that aren’t actually a high priority to us or that don’t smoothly align with our core values. I know I’ve done this myself plenty of times. I have a project in mind and I just can’t seem to get around to it. I might doodle around with it now and again, but it never rises to the top of my list and it never gets to own large chunks of my time. Sometimes I’ve even forced myself to complete big projects and then wished I hadn’t spent so much energy and time on them.
Why does this happen to us?
I think it’s because sometimes we pick projects that aren’t a good match for who we are! The project might sound like it will be fun or interesting, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you want to dedicate months or years of your life to making it happen. If you have trouble getting around to something you think you want to do — like writing a book, or staring a dye business, or whatever — take 15 minutes and free write in response to these prompts.
1. What is most important to me is… 2. If I could change one thing in the world it would be… 3. I most want to be an influence for… 4. What makes me dance for joy is…
Does your book, your business, or the thing you think you want to do fit into any of these areas? If not, maybe it’s just something that seems nice but doesn’t fit in comfortably with who you are. And that’s OK! It’s hard to be honest with ourselves sometimes, but I think if we can take a look at what we care about, and what we actually want to spend our time, energy, and money doing, we can enjoy life more and not waste so much more energy and time worrying and feeling guilty about not doing things we think we should do just because they sounded like a good idea once.
Sometimes you feel push back when you try to work on a certain project. It’s as if you’ve hit a brick wall, run into a Star Trek force field, or are trying to swim through a pool of jello. Resistance is not futile, regardless what the Borg say. Sometimes it is a message you’re giving yourself that the project that’s slowing you down isn’t right for you just now. But sometimes it’s something else. Sometimes the thing that’s slowing you down the hardest and pushing back the most is the thing you need to be working on. There can be great rewards when you push through resistance.
So, how do you know what’s what? Well, there’s no easy answer to that. You have to decide what to do. Either you cancel the project, you push through as hard as you can, or you set it aside for a while and see what happens. I wish I could say it was easy to decide what projects to work on and what projects to put aside. I wish there were rules for knowing what to prioritize in your life when you have limited time and lots of things you want to, need to, and feel like you ought to do.
This is a very popular situation to be in right now. Being busy has become a way to feel important. Is that what’s up with you? I don’t know. But it’s definitely worth considering. Do you have so much on your plate because it’s necessary to keep your family together and to pay your mortgage? Or are you doing a lot of things that society and peer pressure are telling you that you should do? Are the deadlines you put on yourself—or those that are put on you by others—actually important?
What if all those things in your life are
important and you still feel overwhelmed and you feel guilty or disappointed or frustrated that you can’t work on your creative projects? I honestly believe that most of us try to do too much and we let everyone and everything, including our own unrealistic expectations, pull us in too many directions. If you can manage it in any way, take a few minutes, an hour, or even an afternoon off (run away to the library and a cafe and let a deadline pass by, no one will die) and free write or mind map about your values and priorities. Sort out what is truly important to YOU. Then make a list of things that don’t make the cut and start cutting them out of your life.
How do I get so much done? Perhaps you’re wondering. I do get a lot done, but I am not busy all the time. There are a lot of things I don’t get done, too. I don’t do things that other people think I should do, or even that I think I should do. My floors are usually dirty. I have more dust in my house than most abandoned ghost towns can boast. I don’t read all the books I’d like to. I wear wrinkled clothes. I don’t do charity work or go to church. Some years I don’t get to visit family. I rarely go out with friends. I say “no” to almost everything people ask me to do. Sometimes I don’t get enough exercise.
I have set my priorities. I make things—I write, I draw, I knit, I do canning—and I share what I make with the world. I don’t set an alarm or get up early. I spend evenings with my husband watching TV, sometimes working at the same time. I take walks or naps or go out for coffee when my brain is feeling fogged. I don’t have children. I blog much less frequently than I plan to. I travel to Alaska and Lithuania whenever I get the chance, but I am not going anywhere else that requires flying any more. Not for business and not for visiting friends and family either. I am phasing out everything that stresses me out. Sometimes I think these are very selfish priorities, but that’s life. I’m imperfect and human, just like you. I make my choices and I have to live with them. Overall, I get things done and I am happy with my life. Your choices will most likely be different than mine. Make sure that they are made consciously, mindfully, and deliberately. And then embrace who you are with gusto!