My client Kate* wanted help with time management.
She told me, “I feel scattered and not in control. It’s like I’m constantly putting out fires, which means I don’t get to the things that are important to me on my to-do list. I get squeezed out.”
Kate had a lot on her plate. Her weekly activities included:
- going to college
- volunteering at a local hospital
- applying for jobs
- applying for grad school
- teaching an aerobics class
- caring for her mother, including taking her to doctor’s appointments
- running her and her husband’s household
- dealing with finances for her mother, her husband, and herself
- taking a weekly Spanish class
As our conversation progressed it became apparent that Kate managed a lot of things and managed them well. However, in her mind she believed that she was behind, that her work wasn’t of good quality, and that she needed to catch up.
During our call we focused on addressing the thoughts and judgements she was having regarding her ability to complete her to-do list.
In particular, we looked at Kate’s thought, “I’m not able to do my best work because I’m always catching up”. This thought had two main consequences. 1) It paralyzed her. 2) It created a sense of perpetual dissatisfaction with what she had accomplished in her day. Her entire focus was on the things that were left undone.
I challenged her to shift her focus by asking her to name 25 things that she had done in the past week. With some good work on Kate’s part she came up with her accomplishments. Lo and behold she had knocked things off her to-do list in all her main categories: self, family, career, finances, and future plans. Yet she had been so focused on the incompletes that she had not noticed the completes.
Kate and I then looked for a thought that could help her to feel more confident as she went through the day. “I know what I’m doing” made her feel happy, warm, and on top of things.
The key lesson in Kate’s story is that the what we focus on can have a profound impact on our well-being. Check yourself: At the end of the day are you asking the question “What didn’t I do today?” or “What did I do today?” Your focus can make all the difference in terms of your sense of well-being.
*Name and identifying details have been changed to protect confidentiality. Printed with permission.