via Kat van Loon  Flickr Creative Commons

via Kat van Loon
Flickr Creative Commons

This post was originally going to be about routine.

I’m going to Chicago for a long weekend this week to see some old and dear friends, and when I return, I will have reduced hours at the store. I’ve had several people approach me for services, so even if these initial meetings don’t all work out, I’m hopeful for the future of by business and being able to work fewer hours per week soon.

I’m also glad to be able to work a little less. I’ve been feeling pulled in so many directions lately.

As a part of all this, I want to, as much as possible, set up more of a routine. I don’t do well with the M-F, 9-5 grind, but having a non-traditional schedule that fluctuates, while freeing at first, has ended up over time being a little too much of a journey in the opposite direction.

When I take on new clients, I can give them (and by extension myself) regular appointments. I also want to make sure I have set “work” hours, and don’t fall into the trap of always working until things are finished and then not getting time for myself or household chores.

But when I was tabling at the conference this weekend, I picked up a book from the table while everyone was in session. It’s titled Overwhelmed and since I feel that way a lot it intrigued me. Even just skimming a few pages I decided I need to read it.

The section I started reading is where the author talks about going to a seminar or something about scheduling, and the woman in charge first had everyone make a list of what they did last week. Then, what they would want to do this week if they had the time.

The idea is to fill in space with what is most important to you first, and add everything else around the edges.

The author talked about ambivalence being the source of feeling overwhelmed, and tied it to perfectionism. That, rather than saying, here are my priorities and here’s the stuff I’m not worrying about and just owning it, there are people who still try to do everything even though they know they can’t. The people who can’t prioritize and who want to do everything on their list and then get frustrated when they don’t, even when they logically know they can’t.

And that’s me.

I say that I’m good at triage, but really, I don’t take anything off the list.

I am able to figure out what I have to get done now and what can wait until later, but then my to-do list becomes this perpetual purgatory of items which never leave the list and which I continue to feel guilty about not doing, wasting time and energy.

Take, for example, hand washing laundry.

First, I tell myself I’m waiting for the pile to get big enough to be “worth doing.” But then my laundry basket ends up perpetually at least 1/3 full of items I don’t have the time to spend an hour hand washing.

I finally did today. But how much time and energy do I waste being frustrated at myself for not doing it?

I just have to decide those clothes are not important enough to me to hand wash them, and invest in a few lingere bags. Then, I can throw an item or two into the wash each time and never have to have “hand wash laundry” on my to-do list ever again.

Simple right? (Right?)

The author of the book argued that women often lose self-affinity as we move past puberty. Self-affinity being the thing which allows someone to set their personal boundaries, decide what is important to them, and stick with it with no guilt or shame.

Women are more likely to get caught up in what others expect of them or want from them or cultural ideas about what they should be doing, what should be important to them.

Not being able to filter through those messages or filter anything out leads to the constant state of feeling overwhelmed.

At the end of the day, I’m just not really being honest with myself about my own limitations.

Because limitations suck.

I have to decide: what is really important to me? If those things I keep saying I want to do but can’t find time for are really important to me, I need to set aside time for them first.

And if they aren’t so important to me after all, I need to let myself off the hook – really off the hook – for not doing them.

The book said (paraphrasing), you can’t “make” time. Time is finite. There will always only be 168 hours in a week. In order to have more time for one thing, you have do to less of another thing. End of story.

I have to learn to let go of something.

Oh, why is that so hard?

Not as much on the recovering side of recovering perfectionist as I thought.

But when you fall off the wagon, you just get back on again, right?

One step at a time.

I also read something about how people work most effectively in 90 minute bursts. So I am going to try to give myself a little more structure, and think about how I can craft my day with multiple breaks in it, fully committing to both work and relaxation.

Things are going to change soon, and I’m hopeful. May looks good from here.

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