Are You Last on Your To-Do List?

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Victor Frankl

With our to-do lists growing every day, are you making time for yourself?

Like many women today, when I entered the world of work, I needed to support myself.  I was single at the time and to pay my rent and have a little spending money for the weekends.  I was primarily responsible for myself with some commitments to my mom and siblings.

I got married in my mid-twenties.  Now I was responsible for a relationship, contributing to our plans for the future, joint finances, twice as much family, and a growing career.

And then the next bump came.  And, before I knew it, I was on my way to a career, a husband, three kids, a mortgage, a dog, and two cats. 

Within a few years, I took one child to soccer practice, another to basketball, and another to dance.  I did all the family holiday entertaining, and to say this time of year (the 4th quarter) was stressful, is an understatement.

I was exhausted all the time. I tried to attend all the boys’ games and school events and usually made about half of them.  Generally, I felt like I was failing everywhere.  There just wasn’t enough of me to go around.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was “defaulting” into the roles that I thought I was supposed to take on as a woman.  I inherited these beliefs from my mother (traditional marriage and family) and my grandmother (a career-oriented woman in the then-unknown tech world).  They both had ideas of how I should organize my time, and they greatly influenced me.

I never put rest and recovery on my to-do list.  I kept going until I went to bed and woke up the next day to do it all again.  That is until I burned out, not once or twice, but three times from pure exhaustion.  One time my anxiety was so high I started getting panic attacks.  Another time I got pneumonia.  And another time, I got an infection which has had long-term effects on my thyroid.

I did try to change, though.  I tried to stop traveling and improve my commute, two of the big drains on my time. 

But here’s the rub.  Whatever outer changes I made, I kept repeating the same inner patterns!  And before too long, I was physically depleted again.

Eventually, I learned that the problem wasn’t outside of me; it was inside me.  The beliefs and mindsets were driving me toward what women could and should do in our modern world.  I rarely questioned the roles in my life but instead pushed harder to do it all.  Even at work, when I was offered a promotion or a new project, I said “yes” because I believed that saying “no” would have undesirable career consequences.  I had an inner voice that kept pushing me on and constantly spouting all the consequences of failing.

Does any of this resonate with you?  Are you trying to have it all without factoring in what you need to do it all?

I call these default patterns and beliefs “Your Inner Glass Ceiling,” an unconscious operating system handed down to women over the generations.  It contains all of your conscious AND unconscious assumptions about what you “should” do, how you should do it when you should do it.  And, if you’re like many women today, it doesn’t include much, if any, time for rest and self-care. 

How do we begin to transition from inherited belief systems to making conscious choices about what goes on our to-do list and making ourselves a priority?

Let’s transform one of your beliefs about doing it all.  

  1. First, activate your Inner Observer.  The Inner Observer is the part of you that can see and hear your inner thoughts and feelings without judgment.  It knows your deepest desires, your life’s story, and the purpose of your life.  To activate your Inner Observer, imagine that you’ve entered a beautiful but large ballroom.  You are looking for someone but can’t find them because the room is so crowded. You notice a set of stairs that leads to a balcony.  You take these stairs, and when you reach the balcony, you’re able to see everything and everyone in the ballroom.  You can see the big picture and the individual details of the room. This perspective is the view from your Inner Observer.   Activate your Inner Observer and imagine looking down on all your beliefs about being a woman.
  2. Find a disempowering belief that has you repeating a pattern you want to change.  It might even have a significant consequence attached to it.  For example, “I cannot say no at work, or I’ll be passed over for promotion.”
  3. Now replace this belief with one that is more empowering.  For example, “I am empowered to voice my thoughts and express what is best for my life.”
  4. Practice saying this belief out loud, every day, several times a day.  Write post-it notes and stick them around your computer, the fridge, or even the mirror where you put your makeup on.  Put reminders on your phone.  These reminders will help to ingrain this new empowering belief.
  5. Find the actions that support the new behaviors to incorporate more rest and recovery time into your schedule.  Active rest might include a fun time with the family, a night out with friends, or a quiet movie night.  Only you know if the activity is rest or more work.  Keep a journal to track your progress and identify growth opportunities.

About Terri Altschul

Terri Altschul is an ICF Professional Certified Coach and the Founder of WomenConnected.net.  She is devoted to guiding others to their inner knowing through depth coaching, visual journaling, mindfulness, and lots of love & bravery.  Learn how Women Connected programs can support your journey here.

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