Too much to do….what can you let go of?

    Joanne Heeson

    The run up to the festive period is an interesting one – on the one hand we are finishing up last minute tasks or projects, attending social gatherings, or planning family activities and on the other handwe are reviewing, reflecting and thinking about the start to the next year. I have had several clients in the past couple of weeks finding thistimeof year challenging or overwhelming.

    During one conversation I was reminded of Stephen Covey’s work on the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People written in the early 1990’s. Although he wrote his book what feels a lifetime ago, I was reminded of two aspects of his wisdom that my clients found useful. One was his easy-to-use guide to separating out tasks in four categories – urgent, not-urgent, important and not-important. See the table below.

    By understanding where certain tasks lie in the quadrants, we can become more effective at focusing on those activities, which will achieve our goals.

    At a time like the end of the year with many of us taking holiday or organizations closing down, this can be a great help for separating out what absolutely needs to be done now and what can wait until January – the benefit of time for some of these tasks means that they might also disappear off your list of to-do’s (especially those not urgent and not important tasks!).

    To focus the mind further visualizing yourself taking some time over the holidays to do things that fill your cup of rejuvenation like self-care, spending time with family or friends or on hobbies can be a real motivator to not wasting time at your desk. One of the challenges of our time, in my experience, is giving ourselves permission to take a break, switch off, or think about something else. Only you can do that. Asking others to respect your need for a break, a rest, or the ability to not have to respond to emails or messages could be the kindest gift you give yourself over the next few weeks.

    One of Covey’s quadrants that this time of year is particularly suited to is the “important but not urgent” tasks – this is where we can prioritize our long-terms goals, objectives and New Year’s resolutions. Covey puts activities such as investment in ourselves, developing skills, relationship-building, recognizing new opportunities, planning and recreation in this domain. This is place where we can find vision, perspective and balance. If you imagine yourself one year from now reflecting back on 2019, what would you like to observe, achieve or be able to recognize? This will help inform and shape the key focus of your year.

    Another discussion my clients found useful was distinguishing between those aspects of our lives we can control and those we can only influence. Sometimes the feeling of overwhelm emerges from a desire to control rather than accepting that we can only influence certain areas of our daily lives.  For example, a client taking on a new role began to feel overwhelmed when she realized she felt totally responsible for the successful outcome of certain projects. Once she began to understand and separate what she could control (her own individual actions and choices) and what she could not (environmental forces, changes in funding, political dialogue), her feeling of overwhelm began to fade. My invitation to you is to notice where and what you are choosing to take control of and ask yourself whether it would help you feel more in control if you accepted that certain aspects are beyond your immediate control.

    Whatever you reflect on, and however you choose to invigorate or rejuvenate yourself, I wish you a peaceful, restful, wonderful end to the year and the beginning to a 2019 that you dream of. Thank you for reading and being part of the Kairos community.

    Written by Kairos Associate – Jo Heeson

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