You know them, they’re everywhere - the givers and the doers. People with big hearts and a commitment to making a difference. The world needs motivated, get-things-done folks to make things happen at home, at school, and in the community. If you’re nodding along, I’ll take a wild guess that you’re an honorary member of the Women Who Do Too Much Club!
Giving back and contributing, whether at a personal, family, hyper-local or global level is life-changing and fulfilling. Being the point person at home (“but mom, I promised you’d make cookies for the bake sale tomorrow!”), at work (“we’re counting on you to fly out next week and close that deal”), or in your community (“we know we can always count on you to help”) can be rewarding, yet may also feel unappreciated and exhausting.
Once upon a time (thankfully, a long time ago), my life was completely chaotic. We were living in our home in the middle of a major home construction project that went haywire. My husband completely disconnected from the frustration (smart guy!). He left me to deal with the disappearing contractor and inept foreman.
I was the general contractor, while working and raising a young family. Shuttling kids around, volunteering at school, cooking dinners in a hacked kitchen, washing dishes in our tiny powder room and wondering what the next building crisis would be. Well-meaning relatives told me not make waves.
Keeping it together took every bit of patience I had. I was sick and tired of doing it all, but felt guilty because we were building our dream home. I was a Woman Who Does Too Much. It was no fun at all.
I was raised to be a Good Girl. Good Girls smooth things over and avoid confrontation. I tried to contain the chaos and keep smiling while our home and lives were in turmoil. My breaking point came after the hung over contractor fell through the kitchen ceiling. The contractors thought this was hilarious. I did something I have rarely done. I asked for help. What a relief!
Long story short, a friend connected me with an amazing attorney. His talent and sense of humor kept me sane. Asking for help was such a freeing moment for me. I’m good at what I do, but I’m certainly no lawyer.
Putting aside the "I can do this by myself" myth was such a huge weight off of my shoulders. I turned the contractor mess over to an expert. We hired a wonderful new contractor. After a very long and stressful road, everything eventually worked out.
We finally could bring home our black lab puppy, aptly named Chaos. We kept her name, of course.
Lesson? You don’t have to do it alone. There are experts who actually like to do the the things that you have no patience, skill or interest in doing. Instead of making yourself crazy, ask for what you need.
Here’s what I know now that I wish I knew back then:
“By trying to do too much, you risk not doing enough.” —Marianne Williamson
When life gets complicated, KISS (Keep It Simple, Silly)
Stop trying to do it all. When life gets complicated, prioritize what’s most important. Look at what's on your list. Decide what to delegate, and what can be skipped. Instead feeling overwhelmed and stressed, figure out what’s really crucial. Does it REALLY matter? Let go of perfection. Good enough is enough!
Ask for help
You don't have to be the expert in everything. What would bring more peace and sanity to your life? Delegate jobs within your family. Hire out jobs that someone else can do. Hire a handyman to paint the kitchen if you know that this year, just like last, you don't have the time or interest. It's okay. The investment in your peace of mind may make you more productive in other ways that will offset the cost.
If you’ve got kids, empower them to become self-sufficient by giving them age appropriate responsibilities. Laundry, setting the table, emptying the dishwasher, vacuuming, weeding...these are life skills that will help them grow while saving you time. It's not your job to do it all.
If you feel guilty because you don’t have time to get to the supermarket for healthy food, try a shop-at-home supermarket delivery service. You might save money by having food in the house because you don't have to buy lunch and dinner so frequently.
Realize when you’re already there
Sometimes you have to stop trying so hard and recognize when you’ve reached your goals. Celebrate your accomplishments! Reset your goals to a new level, if that’s what feels right to you.
The other day, I was on a coaching call with a client who juggles two creative careers. With her permission, I’m sharing this happy moment. Her goal has been to grow her theater career while supporting herself through her art business. Balancing both demanding careers has taken a lot of time lately.
We explored what's been going on. It turns out that she has successfully grown her theater position from a few weeks to the entire show season. Success snuck right up on her. She has worked hard for this, and didn't give herself enough credit for reaching her goal! She was still trying to fit in the second career. No wonder she didn’t have enough time: she is employed full time in theater. Now, she can dream even bigger and come up with new strategies for the off-season.
The takeaway: recognize when your hard work pays off and you’ve reached that big goal! Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the trying that we don't notice when we've achieved it. Celebrate your accomplishments. When you reach your goal, it's time to reassess and readjust the wind in your sails.
In our lives, we are all faced with challenges that we didn’t ask for, didn’t sign up for, and don’t want. Nevertheless, here they are. When the going gets tough, stop trying to do it alone. Ask for the help you need!
Life is busy. When things feel too crazy, pause for a moment. Ask yourself what would help you to de-stress.
When we outgrow our commitments and they no longer serve us, it's time to decide whether they still serve us. I used to volunteer passionately for an organization that fit with my life at the time. Fast forward several years. My heart had moved on. It began to feel like an obligation than a fulfilling contribution. There were other areas calling to me, and I didn’t have enough of me to go around. When I took time to figure out how to find time to get involved with my local domestic violence shelter, I realized that it was pretty simple. It meant letting go of one activity so that I could jump in and make a difference in my next calling.
Do you feel like you’re doing too much and perhaps beginning to feel resentful? Maybe it’s time to ask others to step up and help out. Encouraging and supporting people is different from feeling dumped upon because nobody else is willing to pitch in, or being the clean-up crew to straighten out someone else’s mess.
There are certainly responsibilities in life that aren’t all fun and games. Look at what’s on your plate with an objective eye (download my "What's on my plate?" printable to jot it down):
- What needs to be done
- What’s nice but not necessary
- What can be delegated (at work or at home)
- What’s no longer meaningful or necessary
You may love giving and doing most of the time. But the devil is in the details. When everybody needs and wants you, and you don’t have enough hours in the day, it’s time to figure out what’s working and what’s not. Put your focus where you can make the biggest difference. Feel good about what you choose to do, as well as what you choose to release.
Make a difference with the time and energy that you have. Let go of the rest without guilt. Are you ready to quit the Women Who Do Too Much Club so that you can allow more ease and flow into your life? I did! I'd like to hear from you, and explore how you can too.
Denise Fountain is a Life Transitions Specialist and Certified Professional Coach. She works with women going through transitions to rediscover themselves and create lives that are happy, healthy and whole again. Together with her clients, she explores the connection between stress, health and happiness, and guides her clients to move forward to make lasting and sustainable changes. She is passionate about helping women live their best lives. Sign up for updates while you’re on this site! Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how Denise can partner with you to create the life you dream of.