A few weeks ago, I was standing at my kitchen counter, frustrated out of my mind over what seemed to be the biggest challenge of my day… my afternoon snack.
THE GRAPEFRUIT STORY
I was in a rush and was trying to cut up a grapefruit on what was possibly the smallest cutting board the world has ever seen. I cut the grapefruit in half, then in half again, and again, and suddenly the board was full. I was trying to stack the pieces on top of each other to make room on the board as I continued to slice and it was as uncoordinated as it sounds. Grapefruit juice was flowing everywhere, pieces were falling from on top of one another, wedges were sliding off of the board, and I was getting more and more frustrated by the second.
The funniest part was, while all this was happening there was an empty plate sitting so patiently next to the cutting board, just waiting to be filled. The worst part was, I KNEW it was there, but for whatever reason I felt like I had to make it work on the cutting board.
After I realized what had happened I took a step back and couldn’t help but laugh. I had allowed myself to get so frustrated and overwhelmed over such a silly problem that had a simple solution – Take some grapefruit off my cutting board! This sounds like a story I made up to teach a point, and while I wish that was the case, this really happened! And you know what? It happens more often than we think – in many areas of our life. We simply overload our plate and we are either too scared or we don’t think to, quite simply, take something off of it.
So how do we fix this? Here are 3 ways to prevent overloading that can help to reduce stress on a daily basis.
By understanding not everything can be a priority you actually allow yourself to be more effective and efficient on your tasks. Take a moment to evaluate your priorities, and ask yourself, what is the one thing you can do that will allow you to take the biggest step forward? Remember, not everything can be a priority! If it’s not a priority (right now), move it to the side. Take it off of your plate.
Take a moment to evaluate your priorities, and ask yourself, what is the one thing you can do that will allow you to take the biggest step forward?
ONE STEP AT A TIME
You’ve heard these sayings before. “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, “slow and steady wins the race”, “take things one step at a time”. There’s a reason why these sayings are so popular!
While training for the Olympics, my coach and I would isolate different focuses on different days. While speed, strength, and technique were all important, I could make greater progress in each category when we could target a specific system and create the greatest training adaptation, rather than trying to squeeze in a superficial workload of all three. By breaking up my training and taking things one step and one day at a time, I was able to become a better athlete.
You don’t need to do it all at once. I use something called the hurdle 1 technique, which I’ll have to share in a future blog, but basically it helps you break a big complex goal into 1-step micro goals. Can you break your big task/project/projects into a series of one-steps? Try it!
WORK HARD, RECOVER HARDER
For many of my athlete years, I was injured. There are a number of factors that contributed to that, but one of them was that I hated recovery. To me, recovery meant I wasn’t taking steps forward, I wasn’t gaining anything. Turns out this is actually untrue. After a period of stress and strain, when you let your body recover, you super-compensate and actually improve at a more rapid rate than you would have without that recovery.
Many of us have a tendency to refuse recovery and we go so deep into the well, making it even harder to climb back out. Instead of 1 or 2 recovery days every once in a while, I would spend months on the sidelines with overuse injuries. Don’t be like me!
We all have a finite amount of energy in a day, in a week, in a year, and the deeper you go into the negative, the harder it is to climb back out. Take a moment to look at your calendar and try and block some times for recovery. A walk, some screen-free time, a catch up with a friend.
If you’re super burnt out but there is still something that has to get done, ask yourself: Is there anything on that list that doesn’t need to happen right away, that could make space for a quick break? OR Is there anyone I can delegate to, or ask for help to complete the task/project?
You don’t have to overload your plate to be successful. You don’t have to overload your plate to be seen as a hard worker. I know it can be scary, we may feel uncomfortable when we’re not “moving the needle”, but it is important to allow yourself to recharge, and allow yourself the grace and compassion to understand when you need a break so you can refresh, regroup, and move forward.
Your well-being (and your to-do list) will be happy you did.