Many of us “want it all”—in a way that may look different from each other, but that typically means a big job with a thriving personal life. Love, health, wealth, and success—however you define those things.
The tricky part is that women typically think that if they want it all, then they need to DO it all. Not only that, but women usually believe that they “should” be able to do it all—and by themselves.
I don’t know where this idea came from, but given how many instances each of us has probably experienced where this mentality led to overwhelm and defeat, let’s talk about an alternative way to “having it all” without doing it all so we can actually enjoy our lives.
Dispelling the “shoulds”
How often do you tell yourself that you “should” be able to do all the things?
Many of my clients try to cram in all the personal and professional to-do’s because they think they “should” be able to. I “should” be able to be responsive on email, deliver great work product, be at (virtual) networking events, get home-cooked meals on the table, keep a clean house, have all laundry washed and folded, workout, bring home-cooked treats to school for any special occasion, make home-made costumes, organize my friend’s meal train, and on and on and on—because a good businesswoman/mom/wife/friend/___ “should” be able to do all of this (without screaming at people or finding themselves on the edge of a nervous breakdown).
But candidly, this ability to “have it all” and the resulting expectation to “do it all” is relatively new and completely unrealistic. There is nothing wrong with you for not being able to do it all on your own; the expectations are wrong because they’re unrealistic.
Skeptical? Try plotting it all out in your calendar and you’ll quickly see how objectively impossible it all is.
So, what to do instead?
First, make a list
Let go of the “shoulds” for a moment, and ask yourself what you WANT to be doing in the first place. Because we’ve been go-go-go-ing for so long, we’ve often lost sight of what we truly want to do with our time.
To be clear, I don’t just mean decide what the big picture things are that you care or don’t care about, like “having home-cooked meals every night.” I mean the nitty-gritty activities that are required to make those things a reality, like all the time it takes to pick meals, grocery shop, cook, and clean up after. Similarly, “having a clean home” is great, but do you want to spend the four hours each weekend tidying up, vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, and mopping the floors?
If the answer is no, you’d rather spend your time doing other things—that is completely fine (and something to celebrate). We just need to figure out how you can get the end results you desire without having to do it all on your own.
Once you have a list of the activities you’d like to delegate and build support around, let’s talk about how to do that.
How to get it done–without you
Now that you know what activities you’d like to get off of your plate, it’s time to figure out how to have others help you get the end results you want.
For these activities, ask:
1. Can you get them off your plate entirely?
There are many ways to do this. Obviously, one option is leveraging your financial resources, including hiring a housecleaner (side note: I love my housecleaner both as a person and because the money we pay her is likely the best investment I’ve made in my marriage).
But money isn’t required. You can get help from your partner. Now, before you think “I’ve tried that already,” consider whether this exercise has made you far more clear about what you need help with in terms of the bite-size steps that go into getting the results you want. When we have that clarity, we’re capable of asking for help with more specificity than before and, therefore, upping our chance of getting the help we want.
In addition, don’t limit yourself to the daily chores. Consider resigning from treat duty at your kid’s school or leaving that extra committee at your organization if they’re no longer bringing you joy. If you can’t get out of a committee this instant, set a date for when you can – and calendar it to remind yourself to make it happen.
2. If you can’t get out of an activity entirely, can you spend less time doing it?
Can you do things like: mopping every other month instead of once a month; using a meal delivery service like Gobble to cut down on meal selection, shopping, and prep time; dropping laundry off at the dry cleaners (don’t forget to schedule time in your calendar to pick it up); and buying brownies from a store or making them from a box?
How can you simplify the process of getting it done while taking some of the work off of your plate?
The goal is to show up for our loved ones and our careers in a way that most promotes our own happiness, not to just check off boxes because we “should” be able to. Often, we’ve been going full out for so long, we’ve forgotten which activities we enjoy and which truly suck the joy out of our lives. Take this opportunity to reevaluate how you spend your time and take steps to spend less time doing things you loathe so you can free up time and energy for things that bring you joy. Enjoying our lives, after all, is far more important than a well-tended to-do list.