Never Enough Time

“I never have enough time.”

I hear that comment every week from many of my clients. As women, we have so many hats that we wear — wife, partner, mother, sister, daughter, friend, boss, advisor, career-woman. We inevitably have a ton of things on our plate, it’s no surprise that we are periodically overwhelmed with life and all that is demands of us.

One of the reasons so many of my clients struggle with time management is because of the expectations they put upon themselves. In order to become a lawyer and snag that great position at that amazing firm, we bust our asses. We have grit and tenacity and that is what gets us to this place.

That grit and tenacity is also what sets us up for this battle with time. 

We know we can do hard things. We know we can put our noses to the grindstone and make it happen so we never stop trying to achieve more. As you know, I am a huge advocate for goals, in general, but my question to all overachievers is this: What is your why? Why are you doing all those things? What will it get you?

What are you looking for?

For many of us, we have spent the majority of our lives chasing the dream of becoming a lawyer. When we get there, the excitement that comes with achievement doesn’t last very long and we end up right back where we started — looking for some other mountain to climb.

The rationale for this pursuit, is typically that my clients are looking for something to make them feel fulfilled. They want to find something that will bring purpose and meaning to their lives. They want to feel like they have succeeded.

That. Never. Works. Many of my clients spend years pursuing accomplishment after accomplishment only to feel empty all over again once each new accomplishment high wears off. The truth is that those things outside of ourselves will never give us the purpose and happiness we seek. We have exclusive authority over our sense of purpose and happiness. Piling on goals and tasks and achievements will not only fail to give you that sense of pride you are seeking, it will bog you down and overwhelm your life. It will prevent you from being able to see and appreciate everything you have accomplished because you will always be distracted by the things you failed to do–the cleaning that you didn’t get done, that email to your new client that you wanted to get out, that phone call to your friend for her birthday. You will always be clouded by self-judgement because you have set yourself up for failure.

Part of this is driven by imposter syndrome. We haven’t internalized our worthiness so we seek outward validation that we belong. We don’t believe we are good enough to be here so we try to manufacture feedback confirming that we DO belong, that we are good enough. Implicitly, we care more about what others think about us than what we think about ourselves. We put the wants and needs of others (and thus their opinions of us) before our wants and needs for ourselves. Self care goes out the window and over-achieving pushes down the throttle. It’s no wonder that so many of my clients are overwhelmed with their self-created pressures.

At the end of a busy day, my clients are frustrated by all the things they DIDN’T get done. They spend zero time considering all of the things they DID get done and all of the ways the day was a huge success. Instead of committing to drink more water every day and get their billable hours in on time, they commit to reading a new book every week, working out four times a week, walking the dogs every day, cooking dinner three nights a week, and calling their mom every Thursday. We pile so much on that it would be impossible for any human to keep up. We set ourselves up for the complaint — I never have enough time.

You will never “have enough time” when the expectations you are putting on yourself are unreasonable.

Read that again.

It is not about not having enough time. It is about what you are choosing to pile on your plate and why!

Whenever you find yourself thinking that you don’t have enough time, I challenge you to take a hard look at all the things you have put on your list and ask yourself “why” for each and every one. Why do you think you need to cook a fresh meal every night of the week, why do you need a read the newspaper every day, why are you committing to a book club? Underneath all of our to-do list tasks are often a series of shoulds as well as a desire to feel accomplished and have others see you that way as well.

Are those good enough reasons for you to run this hard?

You are amazing, just as you are, without anything more. But unless and until you believe that, you will also be pursuing an unattainable form of happiness. You will never “have enough time.” It all comes down to our relationship with ourselves. If you aren’t investing in that relationships first, everything else you are doing in this life is just noise.

Stop this madness and start reconnecting with your intrinsic value. Sign up for a free session and let’s see if we can get to the root of this mania and find you more time for real happiness.

Frazzled (the worst F-word)

My early years as an attorney at a corporate law firm, can be summed up in one word: frazzled.  The panic that set in when you saw an email at 5:59pm on a Friday from that one partner that always had a way of destroying your weekend plans. Or that feeling you got when you were at lunch with your parents who were in town visiting for one day and you got a call on your cell phone from the office. And my very favorite, when you were in the middle of putting out one enormous fire and you got an email from a more important partner who wanted you to draft a new document within the next hour. Ugh. That feeling of sheer panic is the stuff nightmares are made of!

There is no downplaying the pressure and the stress that comes with practicing law. Learning to answer to many masters and prioritize important projects is a skill and it comes with practice.

One of the things I teach my clients is how to juggle the load and strategize so that when all hell breaks lose, which it will, you can better anticipate it and adjust accordingly. So often, many of us in legal practice simply put our heads down and let the blows keep coming. We don’t take the time to examine what is on our plate because that would suggest that (i) there is time to do this soul-searching and (ii) there are options that don’t involve just doing the work.

Many times I found myself or young associates failing to take appropriate inventory of their projects and workloads and, by the time they realized they were overextended, the only option was to pull an all-nighter or do sub-par work. And, let’s be honest, overnighters only yield subpar work so there truly is only one option (and that option will cost you).

This behavior is usually driven by our belief that there is no other choice than simply doing the work. What I would like to suggest is that there are limits to your ability to produce and if you fail to recognize and address those limits appropriately, your career will suffer.

The first step to this process is simply getting organized. Schedule time once a week (I use Friday mornings) to go through your projects list, update your projects list and prepare a list of all other “to do” items floating around your head and taking up mental space. Write. Down. Everything. This includes: calling the plumber, updating your address with the bar association, ordering groceries, cooking dinner, packing for a work trip, meal prepping, going to the gym. Everything. Write it all down. I also use this time to plan my meals for the following week.

(Side note: An easy way to coordinate your meals for the upcoming week is to create a private Pinterest board where you can save recipes solely for the upcoming week. I have a private board entitled “This Week” where I save recipes I plan to cook in a given week. Then, when my Friday morning planning session comes around, I pull up the board and order the groceries for those meals, schedule my grocery delivery, and decide which nights I will cook which meals. Life. Changing. Added bonus: if you have kids, this will allow you to vet recipes with them and get their buy-in for your upcoming meals — kids like food pictures too!)

Once you have this list, prioritize it. This doesn’t need to be an overly formal process, you just need to know what items need to be addressed immediately and which ones can wait until you are standing in line at the grocery store. Be ruthless in this evaluation. Not everything can be a priority — that is the thinking that gets you into the all-nighter conundrum!

Now that all of the things causing momentary panic in your brain are down on paper, put them on your calendar. Schedule everything. Give yourself plenty of time for each item on your list and do not forget to schedule “free time” as well as time to eat, rest, and breathe.

When it comes to work projects, be sure to schedule prep time in anticipation of any upcoming meetings and schedule blocks of “reserved” time where possible to account for shifts in priorities or unforeseen projects. This is about giving yourself the space to ensure that you are able to show up as your best, every time. You don’t have to be faced with the choice of turning in subpar work because of your poor planning. You are better than that.

Then the best part: throw the damn list away. Burn it. Whatever floats your boat. Just get rid of it and breathe in the knowledge that you have all of those little nagging thoughts addressed and scheduled. Your brain is clear.

This tactic is not going to protect you from those chaotic, unpredictable moments that are simply a part of life but what it is going to do is provide you with a much better understanding of your capacity at any given moment. It will allow you to properly forecast how you can (or cannot) handle the new project that lands in your inbox in shouty CAPS! The goal here is to free up your brain to allow you to forecast where your energy is going and determine when priorities truly conflict.

When you get all those BS “to dos” out of your head, you will be much less likely to get frazzled. When you have allocated time for all of the things on your to do list, it is much more difficult for your brain to pile on and get sucked into the blackhole of “when am I going to have time to do that, I still have to finish that project for client Y, and I haven’t done laundry for a week, and I still need to get a birthday card for my mom, and oh my gosh, I don’t have any freaking groceries! what am I going to eat this week?!” The spiral is a waste of your mental energy and a distraction.

This approach will take some practice but if you can get into the habit of truly examining what’s going on in your life, finding time for all of those things, and committing to stick to your plans, this alone can transform your stress level.

Practicing law is difficult and sometimes you will have to reorganize your carefully laid plans or have some challenging discussions about competing priorities. It happens. Success is about learning to honor yourself and your abilities and not expecting yourself to tackle every single thing that comes your way. There are limits to your ability to handle it all. Getting organized is the first step to recognizing those limits.

Clean up your brain and throw away your to do lists, I dare you.

Burnout

One of the biggest challenges in any career is how to stay focused, motivated, and avoid frazzle, or even worse burnout.

Over the next few weeks, I will tackle each of these challenges separately. Today, I want to focus on burnout.

I’m starting with burnout because unless we are able to recognize burnout and its symptoms and separate them from emotional and mental stress, things get a bit fuzzy.

So, what is burnout? The Google box tells me that “burnout” is a “state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.

For me, and in my opinion, burnout is not about stress. When you experience stress, you can feel it in your body, you can observe the thoughts associated with the stress or stressors, and often times stress heightens productivity and ignites the biological fight or flight responses. Many of my clients are attorneys and stress heightens their productivity and senses. They thrive on it. Burnout is beyond that stress.

Burnout is characterized by a general apathy about life. It mimics many of the symptoms of mild depression. It’s like a car that is nearly out of gas and running on fumes – it’s moving but more out of inertia than choice and nothing that comes along will create a heightened response. It is seemingly immune to outside stimuli. Similarly, when someone is in burn out, they respond less readily to normal stressors. They just don’t care because they are just out of gas.

When I see clients who are experiencing burnout, the approach is entirely different than the approach I use when someone is stressed. Burnout is characterized by a general disengagement in life and inability to sense emotions properly or develop long-term plans or goals. When someone is in burnout, as a coach, my work is to help them engage in the bigger picture. See life for more than whatever is causing their burnout.

The burnout spiral is not conducive to examining one’s thoughts, goals, motivations, and dreams. There is a general lack of emotion and interest in life. A pervasive numbness. (To be clear, burnout can sometimes be more properly classified as clinical depression, in which case, it is essential to see the support of a licensed medical provider for support.)

The only solution to burnout is to reconnect with life. Take an inventory of your life and recognize which areas you have been neglecting and steer your course in that direction. Call in sick. Take a spa day. Go to the gym and get to the office late. Take a vacation. Take whatever time you can away from the primary stressor driving the burnout. Spend time with friends and family. Talk with those closest to you about your situation. Connect with your community through volunteer work or environmental endeavors. Whatever can help you see that life is so much more than the job, relationship, money, or person associated with your fatigue. Take space. That is the first step to curing burnout.

If you are burnt out, you suffer from tunnel vision. You have difficulty seeing the big picture and, as a coach, I can’t bridge that gap for you. You must rebalance and refocus your vision before we can start coaching toward a brighter future.

I have experienced burnout numerous times throughout the course of my career. When I experienced burnout, work was like a dream. I was floating through the motions. I hated being there but also didn’t really care one way or the other. I didn’t care about any deadlines, I wasn’t concerned with any office drama or chaos, I was just beyond the ability to care. I had accepted that this was my life and I was just going to get through each day as simply and easily as possible and just. keep. moving.

My burnout was the product of emotional fatigue that reached a pinnacle. I felt helpless and lost and unwilling to “fight the good fight” any more. I felt empty and uninterested in the battle. I was just going to “do my job” and forget about the rest – no emotional or personal investment, life was simply a transaction. I did my time at the office, completed the assigned tasks, received my paycheck. Nothing more, nothing less. My work became the least enjoyable aspect of my life, just a means to an end.

It was a miserable existence.

It wasn’t until I got some space from the office that I realized how unhappy I was. I realized that the current work environment was a toxic relationship and I was ready to break up.

Spending some time meditating by the ocean and enjoying time with my family, I realized how much I had to be thankful for and how much I had felt disconnected from the goodness of life. I was able to address my burnout and rejuvenate myself.

With a clearer head and a renewed focus, I started drafting my new life. I had something to look forward to.

To be clear, stress and burnout are not the same. Working hard and hustling are not burnout and do not create burnout. Burnout, as I use the term, is a general lack of connection and engagement in your life/profession/relationships, etc. It is disengagement and apathy often preceded by stress and a disorganized brain.

If you are experiencing burnout, I so relate to you. I spend my time working with professional women to address and remedy burnout and stress. That is not the way we were meant to life! We all deserve better. Schedule a free consult with me and let’s get a plan in place to make space, release the burnout, and refocus on your future. You deserve a life you can be invested in and excited about. Don’t sell yourself short any longer.

Pretty Little Thoughts

In my house this year, the holidays involved boxes, pizza, and beer galore. Rather than ringing in the new year in sequins and confetti, we celebrated in sweatpants and dust bunnies as we crammed our belongings into moving boxes and hoisted them into moving trucks. I had long lost track of clothes that weren’t sweatpants and didn’t manage to find any makeup until we unpacked a few days later.

Moving can be a lot of work and, like most humans, it left me feeling a bit frazzled and frantically searching for that one thing that “I know I put it in a box somewhere…”

Upon returning to work, I found myself struggling to focus. Every request for support or input ruffled my feathers and made me want to go hide until 5pm. I felt like I was crawling out of my skin…If I don’t get out of here and get some time to relax, I’m going to jump out this window…

In lieu of leaping from a tall building, I sat down and did some self-reflection. Why was I feeling so irritable? Why couldn’t I focus and enjoy spending a day NOT lifting boxes or cleaning our old house? Wasn’t this a nice respite?

I did a quick thought download and started working through each thought, quickly discovering the culprit: I am just so tired. It was like my mantra…I am just so tired. I just need a break. Over and over, I kept returning to those thoughts.

Admittedly, I was a bit physically taxed: my muscles ached, and my back was screaming but after a few visits to the company masseuse, I was really feeling pretty okay. I had gotten plenty of sleep and had made an effort to enjoy some nice long baths at the end of each moving day. So why was I feeling so irritable?

Because I kept telling myself I am just so tired.

When I sit with the thought I am just so tired, it makes me feel hopeless andd it creates an avalanche of similar thoughts: I have so much to do, I can’t handle this today, I don’t want to do any of this stuff, I just want to be left alone, etc.

Whenever I feel hopeless, it creates a lot of indecision. I spin out, second-guessing how to spend my day, agonizing over my to-do list, trying to figure what to do next, then I remind myself that I’m just so tired and then the feelings of hopelessness resurface along with all the other ugly thoughts and the day just falls apart.

In the end, my thinking I’m just so tired, created a cycle of indecision and unproductivity that made me feel worthless at the end of the day because I didn’t accomplish anything. I just spent my day spinning in mental misery, beating myself up and mentally wearing myself out. I was exhausted at the end of those first few days because I wasted so much energy in this cycle, going in 1,000 different directions and carrying around indecision, self-judgement and heavy hopelessness.

After this realization, I acknowledged that, while I may be physically tired, carrying around the thought I am just so tired was making me absolutely miserable and was truly making me exhausted at the end of the day. It wasn’t that I was “so tired” I couldn’t be productive and focus, it was the trajectory I created for myself when I kept telling myself I am just so tired. Physically tired or not, that thought was not serving me; it was making my current state even worse. Seeing this, I tried on another thought:

I can do hard things. I can be a good employee and a good partner during this transition period. I have done harder things before.

We all have days when we are tired and operating with a low tank of gas but when your thoughts compound that physical tiredness, it is a recipe for disaster.

Don’t let your thoughts compound an already difficult situation. Use your thoughts to shift from a meltdown to a triumph.

So many of our thoughts seem innocuous and others like I’m just so tired, can seem like hard facts. That is rarely the case.

Thoughts like this can seem so lovely and founded in self-care yet create all sorts of emotional chaos and stunted action. Only by examining your thoughts can you truly get to the root of the problem.

For me, it wasn’t physical tiredness that was bogging me down, it was tired thoughts and the feelings those thoughts created.

If you are feeling like you are in a funk or just can’t seem to get it together, just one coaching session can make all the difference. Check it out. I promise you won’t regret it.

Not sure yet? I get it. Try out a free coaching consultation to see if I’m a good fit to help you create the life you’ve always wanted. I would love the opportunity to meet you and see what we can do together!

Save the Drama for . . . well, you know . . .

Recently I’ve had several sessions with a similar underlying theme relating to drama and the stories about ourselves and our lives that we carry around with us.

So many of us carry stories about ourselves or our past that are so riddled with drama that it is making all of us crazy!

Not only does this drama typically bring with it some unwanted and unproductive emotions but the habit of creating drama in your life is going to make it difficult to find space for the things you truly WANT to spend your energy doing. As you make bigger goals and strive to do new things, you are going to encounter struggles and negative emotions and if you spin out in drama every time this happens, you will handicap that goal…and you will likely make yourself crazy in the process, so that’s fun too.

I once had a client tell me that the reason she is stuck in her life is because she can’t move home to the Midwest. “I can’t move home to the Midwest because I have this house and it needs all this work and I keep trying to hire contractors but I don’t trust them and there really aren’t any good contractors out there any way, and the house is practically unlivable because the last contractors I hired completed botched the roof and now water is coming in everywhere. . .”

On and on she went about how the house was so terrible and no one could be trusted to fix it for her so she would just have to be stuck where she was until she could figure something else out.

Come to find out that the issue with the house was that the contractors didn’t properly seal her skylights so the roof was leaking over her kitchen. That was the huge catastrophe that was keeping her from moving. Of course, when she initially related all this to me, I was horrified, imaging contractors who had left huge sections of her roof completely unfinished and exposed to the elements and a roof that was about to cave in and lions, tiger, and bears, oh my!

My mind immediately went for the drama.

That is what our reptilian brain does! It looks for danger to try and keep us from getting eaten by lions! This situation was not worthy of that level of panic but that’s what our brain immediately wants to do.

Here’s another example. My partner is selling his home and recently found out that his roof had some damage and would need to be replaced prior to the sale. When I got his message that he was going to have to replace the roof, my mind LITERALLY imagined that there must be huge holes in his roof from some cataclysmic overnight hail storm that I slept through. My heart started to race and I imagined all the horrible possibilities. When I spoke to him, he was very matter-of-fact: the home inspector says there is hail damage, I spoke to my insurance carrier and filed a claim, they will let me know more soon. That was it. No drama. Just the facts. My mental chaos was immediately snuffed out.

The distinction here is that one person was focused on the facts of the situation and JUST the facts. No superfluous details or embellishments.

Just those aspects of the situation that everyone would agree were universally true about the situation. That is the trick that so many of us are missing. When our brains want to spin out of control joyriding a parade of horribles, we have to stop and focus on the facts. Once these scenarios are boiled down to simple facts, they become so much less dramatic. So much easier to solve for and they require so much less of your energy!

I most often see this when people speak about their pasts. Try it sometime on people that you know well. For instance, that friend of yours who is always sending you 11pm text messages “Call me immediately!” for some new drama. If you ask her to describe her childhood or last relationship, her description will likely be laden with drama.

On the other hand, your friend that always seems calm, cool, and collected will likely describe her past with simplicity and without unnecessary drama or extravagant stories. It doesn’t mean that one of them had a past that was any easier or less challenging, it just means that one of them chooses not to create drama around her childhood and chooses instead to cast her childhood in factual and positive tones.

How we describe our past experiences is a choice.

It doesn’t mean you deny that you have had difficult experiences; it means that when you think about those experiences, you focus on the facts and you find truths about those experiences that make you feel good instead of focusing on the facts that make you feel miserable. This is SO important because if you cast your past in a drama-filled, chaotic manner, those thoughts are not likely going to make you feel like you are ready to take on the world and build your empire. I personally know that when I allow myself to sift through the drama of my past relationships and the negativity of those experiences, the only thing I want to do is sit on the couch and eat an entire bag of chips with queso. Those thoughts are not helpful. They are not making you feel better and they are not helping you move forward.

The only reason your past exists today is because you let it. The only way your past exists is in your mind.

How you think about that past in your mind is YOUR CHOICE. Separate the facts of your past from the drama. You will free up so much mental space when you do.

Here is an example to help drive home this point. I once left a firm and believed that I was not leaving on good terms. I believed that we were both angry about how things worked out and I believed there was a lot of resentment in both camps. So, when I received my last paycheck from the firm and it was about 10% of my usual paycheck, I went through the roof! I was so upset and angry and indignant that they would “do that to me.” I had convinced myself that it was an intentional slight and was the ultimate “last straw” in my relationship with them. I would never have anything good to say about them EVER! On and on I went. I told myself there was no need to call them and challenge my compensation because they would have all sorts of excuses and rationalizations and it “just wouldn’t be worth the energy to ask them about it” I just didn’t “want the fight.” I didn’t want the fight but I was seething no less. I was fighting, alright, I just didn’t have an opponent.

So I decided to heed some of my own advice. I ditched the drama and endeavored to find the facts. That required me to reach out and start asking questions. Turns out, the payment was correct but without the breakdown of how they landed at that number, I didn’t have a full picture. Health insurance, retirement contributions, final deductions, etc.  for the full month of my termination had whittled my final paycheck down to almost nothing. Once I saw the numbers, it made sense. All that drama for WEEKS. What a waste.

What could I have done differently? Rather than making myself crazy for weeks, I could have focused on the facts of the situation: I got my last paycheck, it was $X less than usual, I did not ask for an explanation. Those facts, standing alone don’t seem worthy of a meltdown. Those facts instead beg the question—why aren’t you asking for an explanation? Those facts are confusing and require additional research! Simple. If I had looked at the facts sooner, I could have spared the drama and asked for the information earlier. Or I could have decided not to ask for an explanation and added another fact: I am not asking for an explanation and I am okay with that. Done. No more mental work to be done here.

If you can learn to identify and clean up the drama in your brain and in your life, imagine what you could do with all that extra time and energy. The possibilities are endless!

Need support ditching the drama? Coach with me and let’s start cleaning up your brain.