During the rush before the holidays this year, my son’s teacher was sharing how she was so busy and stressed out that at one point, she just stopped. She had a thousand things spinning in her head – but she hit the wall, and just sat down, zombie-like at her computer screen for 30 minutes or so. Her brain and body had said enough, and just needed time to catch up.
It made me think about the fact that much of our stress comes from this crazy notion that we can do it all, and that there is no end to our capacity. But there is a load of evidence to show that most stress is a result of constantly striving to fit more into our finite available time. And, there is frightening evidence that constant stress drives nearly 70% of us to the doctor with stress-related health concerns. So, I thought I’d offer a new way to think about your resolutions this year. Why not try a “New Year’s Don’t Do List for 2011”?
- List Your Stressors – Sit down with a pen and pad of paper, and take a moment to write out a list of your stressors: busy schedule, too many tasks, others’ expectations, kids activities, no exercise, lack of time for yourself, too much work. Don’t judge yourself as you’re writing it; just get it out of your head. The focus is to “dump your bucket” so you can get a more objective look at what’s true for you right now. In my case, when I work late and skip yoga my stress level and physical health are impacted and I am dissatisfied as a result.
- Determine Stressors You Can Control – Review your list and place a check mark next to those items you feel you have some control over. I control both of the things that stress me out – so they both are checked.
- Determine Your Motivation – This essential step is here for you to determine your own level of drive to take action on. Knowing what and even how to do something is very different than actually doing it! Nothing will change without your action. So, review your list and ask yourself: “What am I willing to STOP DOING to make a difference with this stressor?” In my example, “I am willing to stop working at 9 pm.”
- Write Out Your Don’t Do’s – Now that you’ve determined what you are willing to stop doing, write it down for yourself. Also include your expected “result”: I will stop working at 9 pm at least three times per week so I can spend bed time with my boys and do a gentle yoga routine in before I go to bed.
- Ensure Success – Different people measure success differently – but it is proven that accountability increases when you share your new goal with a partner or support group. Ask a friend or family member to be your accountability advocate. Give them permission to confront you when you are not behaving in alignment with your “Don’t Do” Goal. In my case, my children are excellent at advocating a “promise” that I’ve made when I am out of bounds.
Often doing less leads to higher satisfaction in life. When you figure out activities that are less important and drop them, you’ll find time to do things you really want – even if it’s doing nothing at all. Get sane this year by doing less.