I overwhelm myself. I expect way too much. I expect things to be done perfectly, consistently, happily, and in much less time than is realistic. I make to-do lists that are twelve pages long and get surprised that I can’t accomplish everything in one weekend. I take on way too much, sign up for things without enough thought, and give myself way too many challenges. That overlap. All at the same time.
It’s too much.
Lately, I feel like I’m finally, finally, finally giving myself some more realistic expectations and cutting myself some slack.
But dang, it’s hard. Am I right??
The obnoxious part is that the easier I am on myself, the more I get done, and the happier I am. The better I am about not beating myself up for everything I expect (frequent hard core workouts, perfect 3-part dinners every night, a tidy apartment, long daily walks with the dog, five original blog posts a week, tackling my Pilates training……. that’s just the tip of the iceberg), the better I do at getting a surprising amount of those things done. And done well. And happily.
So why is cutting back so hard? Why do we expect perfection?
Why do we expect to get 30 hours’ worth of things done in our roughly 16 waking hours a day?
I don’t really have an answer for you. There are probably lots of answers. The internet sure doesn’t help, and sure doesn’t paint a realistic picture of life. We see perfectly set tables (but not the disastrous kitchen behind it), long and intense workouts or two a day (but not the loss in social plans because of them), perfect DIY projects (but not the entire day lost to a single crafty project). We don’t see the whole picture, and it makes us want to pile on even more things to what we “should” be doing.
So I just thought I’d throw this out there, to show the internet that it CAN paint a realistic picture.
Stop overwhelming yourself. I know I’m not alone.
It’s hard. I’m cutting back. I finally set some pretty realistic workout goals that are working for me, and have flexibility built right in (which is what I need.) I’ve stopped going to my Toastmasters group, which I really enjoy but just didn’t have time to properly prepare for. I am only posting one recipe a week on here (as much as I hope to be able to increase that sometime soon…) because it’s the most time-intensive. I have a freezer full of quick meals that I can throw in the oven or on the stove when I don’t feel up for a more elaborate meal. I’ve picked my priorities and am trying so hard to focus on those.
I’m doing my best, but I’m cutting back and I’m cutting myself some slack.
(And apparently I’m rhyming. So that’s cool.)
Here are a few things that have helped me…
5 Ways to Set Realistic Expectations for Yourself:
1. Put a cap on your to-do lists | And not the kind of cap where you really intend to do what you write down and then some, the kind where it’s a legitimate cap and that’s all you’re doing in a day. Write down the top 3 things you want to do each day, and be kind to yourself for accomplishing those things. Even if you accomplish nothing more.
2. Set small monthly goals. | My monthly Little Goals posts are an awesome way to shift my focus onto things that I would love to incorporate into my life, but I can’t do all at once. I often repeat these too because they need reminding! I can’t count how many times “drink more water” has made the list, but listing it as a goal, even a recurring one, is a much more positive way to set a realistic expectation in a positive way than beating myself up for not drinking enough water when it occurs to me.
3. Celebrate your accomplishments. | Bribe yourself! I am a huge fan of little bribes for little accomplishments. Those monthly goals that I set for myself on the blog often come with rewards attached if I accomplish them. Sometimes if I’m having a tough week, I’ll give myself a reward just for not hitting snooze all week or doing a simple daily workout all week. I try not to make it food too often because I always want something unhealthy, and that does not create good food choices overall. But it’ll be a little lipgloss I don’t need, or a little spa day for myself. An extra magazine or a long bath. Just something small that tells myself “You accomplished a goal, and it’s worthy of celebration no matter how big or small.”
4. Rotate priorities. | Identify your top few priorities and rotate them. One day, you can prioritize cleaning. The next day, fitness. The day after that, your favorite hobby. And then repeat… This is super similar to the first two items in that you’re just trying to narrow your focus for a short period of time rather than give up on something that’s important to you. In fact, you could combine it with the celebration and throw in the occasional “mental health” or “reward” day and give yourself a day off just to enjoy what you’ve accomplished and reward yourself with something.
5. Cut out obligations. | The hardest, but the most effective. Most of my other tactics focus on cutting things out (or just de-prioritizing them) temporarily But sometimes you have to cut things out permanently. If something has been lingering on your to do list for awhile and it stresses you out but doesn’t have to be done, just cross it off and give it up. If you’re tempted to say “yes” to every offer, request, or favor you’re asked, learn to say no. If you’re part of an organization that requires your time but you just can’t give it the right attention (or it steals attention from something more important to you), give it up (like my poor Toastmasters group.) It’s not to say these HAVE to be permanently off your list, but take them out of your “foreseeable future” timeline. It’s okay to cut back.
Cut out things that don’t make you truly happy, or that are using up time that you really need to spend focusing on something else.
Acknowledge what your top one to three priorities are at this point in your life, and give yourself a break on everything else when you need it, until your priorities shift.
Do your best, and never beat yourself up for doing your best!
** I wrote this post after I had to convince myself NOT to set a crazy running challenge for the summer when I have a bajillion other things going on… so it’s a constant battle, but one worth fighting with yourself. **