I’ve learned an important lesson over the past few months since my Dad passed away.
I always seem to be busy. There’s always a time, a line in the sands of time, that things have to be done by. And it’s always tight. Some things take many hours. I feel a constant time-pressure.
My To-Do list never gets any smaller. In fact, most days, unfinished tasks roll over to the next day so that my To-Do list gets bigger rather than smaller. Even when I finish something, there’s always a long list of other things that need my attention.
But during the last few months of Dad’s life, while his health declined and through his passing, I just wasn’t able to do everything I was previously doing. Dad needed help, Mum needed support, my sisters and I wanted to be around for Mum and Dad, and we made sure we were.
In the first few weeks after he passed, I was beginning to pick up most things again. But, and here’s the thing, I just didn’t feel like it.
Grief can have that sort of effect, I’m told.
You just can’t be bothered. And for me, it wasn’t that I couldn’t be bothered doing what I do. I love what I do – writing, speaking, inspiring, teaching.
It was that I couldn’t be bothered being busy. That’s the distinction.
I couldn’t be bothered with the feeling of pressure to get things done. It’s the time pressure, the busyness, that I’ve been rejecting, not the work itself.
I’m not sure if I ever want to go back to the way I’ve worked before. Not all the time, anyway. I’m sure there will be periods of time when I do have a lot of things on. Everybody has times like that. But I don’t want to let it be a permanent thing again, which is how it’s been for me, more or less, for the past decade. Fifteen or so years if I’m being honest.
I have to be vigilant because things have definitely got busier for me over the past two or three weeks again. It’s an easy trap to fall into. I have found myself working long hours again. But it felt wrong.
So, I’ve pulled back again.
Doing this, the last few months have felt odd for me in some ways. Naturally, they feel strange because my Dad isn’t here anymore. I don’t know if I’ll ever fully get used to that. But odd in another way too.
I’m so used to always having so much to do, with a near constant sense of time pressure, that I feel sort of guilty when I’m not flat out busy. I’m finding it’s a tough habit to break.
An anxious thought has arisen a few times. If I’m not flat out working, then everything will collapse and fall away. It’s funny how the mind works sometimes, isn’t it? I thought I’d be honest about this as I’m sure many can relate.
I grew up with the mindset that you have to work hard to make a living. Life was about hard graft. That’s what it was like for Mum and Dad when I was growing up. So now, if I’m not grafting flat out, struggling to get it all done, then I’m not doing it right. It will just fall away. I’ll fail.
But it’s just a belief, based on the experience I observed when I was a child.
It’s now just a habit of thinking and acting. But it’s a habit I’m determined to break.
As we move towards the end of 2022 and the beginning of 2023, I’ve decided to make some changes, prioritise things, learn to say no a bit better, lest I take on too many things.
I’ve already started to make changes. The practical is in pulling back a bit, resisting the temptation to fill up my schedule by saying “no”, “Maybe some other time”, or “I don’t have a spare slot in my schedule right now,” a bit more.
I wrote this blog because I feel that so many of us could do with taking our time a bit. So maybe look at how you can do things a bit differently. If there’s practical things you can change then go for it. If you’re unable to make practical changes, see if you can work on mindset changes.
I’ve been doing that too, because what if you can’t say no because there are things you still have to do? Here, the invitation is to change how you do them, or your thinking around them – what they mean, what impact they have, or what difference they make.
Here’s an analogy. I had a day when I must have had to walk up the stairs in our house about a half dozen times in 15 minutes. I resisted it. “If I forget one more thing and have to go upstairs for it…,” I’d say in a kind of “Not again” voice. It was tiring, physically and mentally.
But then I leaned into it. Going up and down the stairs all day is great exercise, I reasoned. And even better if I concentrate on it as exercise while I do it. I’d be doing the same thing, walking up the stairs, but my thoughts about it were different.
Next time I had to go upstairs, I took the last ones two at a time with a smile on my face. It was easy. I enjoyed it. It was energising, in fact. All that changed was a thought about it.
If you can’t change some things, change how you think about them.
And one other thing. It can also sometimes help to just make a wee mindset shift towards reminding yourself that if something doesn’t get done then that’s that. No biggy! It’s not the end of the world. Your health is more important than completing any task.
I feel my Dad’s presence in these recent changes in my life. I feel he’s looking out for me, helping to guide me in a new way. That’s why I know this is a healthy change for me that I must persevere with.
So, I’ll end this blog with something I wrote in one of my “Daily Boost” emails a few weeks ago (I write these short inspirational emails every day – you can sign up on any page of my website).
A flower doesn’t rush to bloom. It just does its thing. You admire it all the same.
Don’t be in a hurry all the time to get things done. They’ll get done in the end. Or they won’t. Things will happen when they’re ready to happen.
Or when you’re ready!