Obstacle Busting: Biting Off More Than You Can Chew

biting off more than you can chew

If you’re anything like me, you tend to think you can take on way more than is physically possible for any human who wants to keep her sanity. It’s a new global disease – busyness is an epidemic; having it all is something we’re all trying to chase. Unfortunately having it all can mean relentless action to maintain it all.

And this can end up being completely self-defeating, because rather than admit we’ve bitten off more than we can chew, we just carry on, pretending to be superwoman and drowning in too damn much to do. I know, I’ve done it myself fairly regularly. And what my comprehensive experiments in this area have taught me is that when you bite off more than you can chew, you choke.

Drowning in too much to do is no fun…and it’s also tremendously inefficient. Stress and over-busyness are not the best ways to get more done. Remember the hare and the tortoise? The tortoise wins because he slowly, inexorably and calmly keeps on moving. The hare dashes about in a hundred different directions, gets all stressed out and winded and fails to reach the end.

I know it seems sexier to be the hare – to be the one who wears her stress like a badge of honour, to be the one everyone else is in awe of for having so much on your plate. Only most of the time, you are a basket-case inside. And it takes a tremendous amount of energy to keep up the facade of having it all together when behind the scenes you’re falling apart.

Ugh. Truly, forget about looking like you’re superwoman. No one is, and it’s just too much like hard work. When you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, admit it. You’re not superhuman, you’re drowning and it’s time to change something. Usually when we’ve been trying to do more than is possible, we let our self-care slip in favour of pushing, working, doing, trying, exhausting ourselves. An interesting habit…but really a very destructive one.

So once you’ve admitted you’ve taken on too much – check up on your self-care. How cared for are you feeling right now on a scale of 1-10? If it’s less than a 7 (and that’s likely when you’re doing too much), what can you do right now to take care of you? Bearing in mind that if you break down, there’s no going to the shops and getting a new you. Take the time to give yourself what you need, and start to feel good – the better you feel, the easier life is.

Once your self-care is improving, take a deep breath and slow down. Slowing down actually helps you to speed up. When you are relaxed, working in manageable bites and at a reasonable pace, you can actually do more than when you’re stressed and flying at breakneck speed. Also, when you’re moving slowly enough for calm reflection, it is easier to see what tasks can wait, what is truly urgent, and what doesn’t need doing at all.

One December, I had a to do list that would have taken me 2 months to complete…and I was trying to do it all in about 16 working days. Impossible. I was so busy trying to get through the endless to-do’s and panicking about how much I had got to do, that I couldn’t see the true priorities. Once I slowed down (after a slight meltdown), I realised that 75% of the list didn’t have to be done before Christmas.

So let yourself slow down and calmly decide your priorities. Once you have, start figuring out exactly what’s next, rather than trying to do everything at once. By all means, note down things that will need to be done in future…but then put them out of your mind and focus only on what’s next. To take this even further, break each task down into baby steps (something that can be done in 10-15 minutes).

If you get into the habit of doing this, it actually helps you to stop biting off more than you can chew because you are more level-headed and pragmatic about what can be done in the amount of time you have. It also keeps you more rooted in the present, instead of off in future stresses. You can only do one thing at a time anyway, so pick what’s next, break it into easily manageable pieces, and just keep going – easily and calmly.

PS If you’d like to have a say on what chapters I share next from the Obstacle Busting book, take the ‘what obstacles shall we bust next’ survey – the survey lists the chapters I haven’t shared yet, so you can choose which ones I share before the release date here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/W9667CX

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