A New Way to Work

Success and change without burnout by Dr. Geri Puleo

Paradigm Shifter #40: You can’t do it all (so don’t apologize)

Paradigm ShiftDoes “having it all” necessary mean “doing it all?”

In today’s fast-paced, chaotic world, we’ve developed a strong tendency to “go for the gold” in everything that we do.  While excellence is a worthwhile goal, I’ve come to believe that we can’t necessarily be “the best” at everything that we do.

The problem is that we apologize for our perceived lack of “perfection” and forget to relish those things that we actually do well.

Another problem is that there are only 24 hours in a day – and we have to sleep at least some of those hours.  But few of us get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep per night, so our energy falters even though we insist on continuing to do “everything.” The result is higher stress and an even more insurmountable “to do” list.

Why do many high achievers believe that it is imperative that we “do it all?”

Even more important:  why do so many high achievers apologize when we CAN’T “do it all?”

Delving into a sociological and psychological study into this problem is far beyond the scope of this article.  However, creating a new way to work requires that we prioritize what’s important to us.  When everything is important, then nothing is really important.

The simple truth (albeit a hard one for many of us to accept) is that we can’t “do it all.”  But we can do the important things well.   These important things represent our true priorities.  “Doing it all” inherently draws us off course as we attempt to also do the unimportant things in our lives.

“Unimportant,” however, doesn’t mean “unnecessary.”  Unimportant tasks are those activities that might need to be done – but don’t necessarily have to be done by us.

Therein lies the challenge:  when we admit that a task that we have traditionally accomplished can be done by someone else, it often causes our ego to question our “value.”  Nowhere is this more evident than in the workplace.

  • Managers who believe that they have to “do it all” are micromanagers that are rarely appreciated (or respected) by their subordinates.
  • Employees who try to “do it all” generally tend to miss deadlines because their focus is shifted to the unimportant, lower priority tasks.
  • Trying to “do it all” simultaneously at work and at home is a recipe for job dissatisfaction, relationship problems, and burnout.

One of the most valuable lessons that I have learned is to accept the fact that I am a human – not a superhero who doesn’t need sleep, rest, and relaxation.  It also means that I can’t do everything “perfectly.”

But admitting that I can’t do it all was and, to a certain extent, continues to be a challenge.

The problem is that trying to do it all leads to feelings of being overwhelmed.  Failing in our attempts to do it all leads to frustration and a diminished sense of self-worth.  Yet we continue in our misguided efforts to go beyond our very human limitations.

The cure for trying to “do it all” is to prioritize what’s important to us – and then have the courage to focus our efforts on these important activities.  It means being able to say “no.”  It also means being sufficiently confident of our own unique value so that we can feel comfortable delegating the unimportant but necessary tasks to others.

Finally, it means that we need to stop apologizing when we can’t “do it all.”

Accepting that not only we personally but also everyone else CAN’T “do it all” changes our perspectives of what is important, what is feasible, and what is just additional “stuff” that has little if any true importance.

As corporate leaders, managers, and employees, this new perspective can radically change the work environment and reduce burnout.  Understanding that we can’t “do it all” might be the first step in creating a new, more productive, and more enjoyable way to work.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

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