Yesterday, I felt great. I honestly cannot remember the last time I had that much energy or felt so good.
And to be completely honest with you, it didn’t make sense. I’m completely out of shape. I’m 99.9 percent sure my foot has a stress fracture, and I housed a pizza at lunch the day before.
You know what I think it is? I think I am finally starting to understand my limits and bandwidth.
My ultimate demise is wanting to do everything, all at one time. I write to-do lists 40 items deep. I have four different books—all half-read—sitting on my dresser. I restart my computer at least once a day because I leave so many tabs open. And do you know how many half-written blog posts are currently sitting on my Mac? Seven!
Do you see a pattern here? I’m reading four books, but haven’t finished one. I’m writing seven different blog posts—enough for a post a day—but barely publish 1-2 a week.
My “wanting to do everything” downfall has been following me for as long as I can remember. When I was in high school, I ran the anchor leg of the 4×800 almost every meet. It was also the most comically uneven race I ran. I would grab the baton and sprint like hell on lap one, then completely die on lap two—causing a ten second gap on my splits. It got so bad my coach started standing on the 100-meter mark (FYI: no coach stands on the 100 meter mark) so he could scream, “Don’t try it all at once!!” as I ran by.
In the most literal sense, I have never understood the phrase, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
Three months ago, reality finally struck. I was balancing four freelance projects, apartment searching, job searching, trying to stay in shape—and it backfired. Just like the 4×8 in high school, I did not pace myself. I was convinced I had to do everything and it had to be done now. I picked up project after project, starting everything and finishing nothing.
With a help of an amazing project manager at work—I’ll tell you more about her later—and my own ability to wise up a bit, the past month has been much better. I’m slowly learning to space things out. I’m learning to delegate. I’m learning to say the magic words, “That’s a priority, it’s just not a priority right now.”
Most of all, I’ve learned to keep my to-do lists to four items or less (I know, it sounds insane), and shoot for completing those 3-4 items the day I write them down.
I have a lot of friends just like me: We want to do it all so we overestimate our bandwidth and underestimate the time to do things. I’m all for setting your sights high, but ask yourself, is it working for you? Because it didn’t work for me.
Shoot for doing one thing today. When you have finished that one thing, move to thing #2. When you’ve finished thing #2, move to the third. Aiming to finish three things and finishing three is better than aiming to finish forty and finish zero.