Three Sabotaging Productiveness Myths That Maintain Working Mothers Overwhelmed
Inbox zero. It’s a productivity myth that, as most people understand, does much more harm than good. Most people think that Inbox Zero means they always have an empty inbox, so beat yourself up if you can’t keep up.
But Inbox Zero originally stood for the suggestion that we should spend as little time as possible in our inboxes. Ironically, if you misinterpret it to mean that the goal is not to get the emails when you hear this thing for you to get the email, you spend all day jumping into your inbox at the expense of your real work being able to process and file quickly – the opposite of the original point.
When it comes to productivity, myths like these are widespread – many of them are unconsciously created and believed by our upbringing. They are often counterproductive, harmful, and keep us stressed and overwhelming. They may help us stay busy, but they don’t help us get any closer to what we really want.
So, let’s destroy three of the most pervasive productivity myths that mothers grapple with.
Myth 1: I “should” be able to do anything, so something is wrong with me because I can’t.
I’m not sure where this myth came from, but for some reason many of us think that women can “have it all,” which means we have to “do anything,” which means that we should be able to to do everything.
We “should” be able to pursue a full-time career, quickly responding to emails, bringing healthy meals to the table for our families, exercising, cleaning the seemingly endless pile of laundry, planning the perfect birthday parties, don’t forget calling us friends frequently, signing up our children for extracurricular activities, chauffeuring us to facilitate those extracurricular activities, and so on.
But the reality is that the “do anything” situation is relatively new. Don’t fall for the myth that women before you did anything, that the women around you do anything, or that you should be able to do anything.
Would you like to see how unrealistic it all is? Take all of these activities – the to-do lists and the things that never make a to-do list – and visually write them down on your calendar. The food preparation. Showering and preparing. The email processing time. Bathing and bedtime with your children. The bite-sized steps to manage all of your work projects. And because we’re notoriously bad at gauging how long things take, you build in some leeway.
You will find that not everything will fit on your calendar, which makes it objectively unrealistic to complete (even before we even consider your energy levels). Realizing that it is impossible to do anything doesn’t make you a failure – it makes you a realist. This brings us to the second myth.
Myth 2: I have to do everything myself.
Similar to the point above, because we think we should be able to do anything, we think we have to do everything on our own.
But here’s my question to you: Do you even enjoy this?
Is the goal of your life to do anything because you think you should be able to, or in the words of Mary Oliver, is it to enjoy your only wild and precious life?
For example, I don’t hate cooking, but I don’t like the amount of time it takes. Think about it: Planning the recipes, placing the grocery order or doing the actual shopping, preparing and cleaning up the food – plus food – takes a lot of time.
Put this time out on your calendar each week and it will click. If you love this stuff: awesome! Keep it up! But if you’re like me you should seriously consider delegating. Use Instacart and / or food delivery kits like Gobble. Not only will this do some of those less desirable tasks for you, but it will also free up your time and energy for the fun things to do.
It’s okay not to be able to do anything, and even if you can, it doesn’t mean you have to. Get creative to get the things you don’t like off your plate so you can use that time to do things that inspire you. And of course for mothers with partners, let them work.
Myth 3: If I just work harder, I can do more and then I can take a break.
Many of us have the feeling that if we only “work harder”, we are “caught up” and then finally can take a break. But how often do you tell yourself that? How often do you have this break? And how often do you find yourself in the same place within a month?
The truth is, there is always more to do – more emails, more meals, more laundry, more work projects, more activities for kids. And that’s fine. But we can’t wait to be “caught up” with “harder work” before taking a break, or we’ll end up exhausted and burned out. Given the endless flood of things to come, it is unsustainable.
Instead, you need to use a system that will help you manage all of these things and take consistent breaks. As? While this is easier said than done, flexible time blocking on a digital calendar can help. It allows you to assign tasks to future times on your calendar so that you can see how all your future tasks can be done tonight and actually enjoy the evening. Make sense?
Working harder isn’t the answer to taking more breaks to recharge your batteries and enjoy life. The secret is in using a system that allows you to take breaks in the middle of growing up.
Break the myths. You deserve to enjoy your “a wild and precious life”. Buying into the above myths will only hold you back. Let them go.
Kelly Nolan is a lawyer turned time management strategist and mother. Using realistic time management strategies, she helps modern working women deal with everything on their plate with less stress and calm clarity. For Kelly’s Free How To Get Rid Of Your Overwork, Click Here.