Have you ever looked at your to-do list and realised it’s an impossible ask? Do you find yourself continually adding to your physical and mental workload, without ever making the time to actually get the tasks done?
It’s simply not sustainable to keep adding to this list. If you feel as if you’re reaching overwhelm, take a step back and take comfort from these words: letting go will help you achieve more.
In order to make room in our lives for the things that bring us joy, we must leave behind those that do not. These are 5 ways you can achieve more by letting go and doing less.
1. Take things off your to-do list (instead of adding to it)
Humans only have a finite amount of energy. Yes, some operate at a faster pace than others, but we’re not Duracell bunnies; we reach burnout eventually.
So much of what we do on a daily basis is insignificant and inconsequential in relation to what matters to us and what we want out of life. At the same time we struggle to find the time and energy to focus on what truly matters and what we really want to achieve – the big life goals.
Divert energy away from the micro and the insignificant so that you can spend an hour a day planning – or better still, actually doing – the stuff you really want to do. It’s a cliché, but less really is more.
2. Care less about others
We’re social, tribal creatures so we expend precious energy over-empathising, looking for causes to support and worrying about those around us, when often the uncomfortable reality is that we can’t change others’ behaviours or circumstances.
Instead, this emotional energy could be redistributed to thinking about our own situation, behaviours and circumstances – and in so doing moving us one step closer towards achieving our own goals.
Unless it’s your children, or friends and family who don’t judge you and who love you unconditionally, or professional, transactional relationships, i.e. you are being paid to improve them, then try not to invest too much in others.
Stick to who you know and trust, and stay within your spheres of control and influence.
3. Care even less about what others think or do
We want to be loved, be included, belong. So it matters to us that people like and accept us. But not everyone does matter, and certainly not all of the time.
We should only really care about what the people whose love, trust and respect we covet think. The rest – well, we simply don’t have the mental or emotional reserve.
Nor should we compare ourselves to others. Neuroscience research shows that when we allow our green-eyed monster out it causes stress – our threat response kicks in, releasing cortisol and other stress-related hormones.
As neuroleadership (the application of brain research in leaders and at work) guru David Rock writes in his paper “Managing With The Brain In Mind”:
“The threat response is both mentally taxing and deadly to the productivity of a person. Because this response uses up oxygen and glucose from the blood, they are diverted from other parts of the brain, incl. the work memory function, which processes new information and ideas. This impairs analytic thinking, creative insight, and problem solving.”
Next time you catch yourself wondering what other people think, ask yourself:
- Why does it matter?
- How important is this person to me?
- Should I be comparing myself to this person?
If the answer is ‘it doesn’t really / not really / no’, then move on.
4. Be conscious of, and try to manage, stress
Often we subconsciously use stress and being too busy as excuses for not achieving our goals. Being busy and being stressed out consumes a lot of energy that we could otherwise convert into beneficial stress – also known as eustress – to push ourselves to take that necessary risk or leap.
Anxiety carries a stigma but there are some hugely successful individuals who have suffered from – or continue to live with – anxiety disorders such as OCD, panic attacks and hoarding – David Beckham, Oprah, Adele and Beyonce, to name a few.
Our fears can be our biggest drivers towards success, as long as we don’t allow them to hijack us.
The first step towards managing stress is to be aware of it. Be mindful of when you’re feeling stressed, and when you’re not, rather than running around in a semi-permanent state of mindlessness. Then ask yourself:
- What is causing my stress?
- What could I do differently?
- How could I self-regulate?
- Is my state of stress wholly negative or could it be channeled more positively?
5. Move on from negative experiences and people who still occupy precious brain capacity
Shit happens. To everyone. Fact.
Sometimes people or circumstances upset us, threaten us, overwhelm us and leave us feeling powerless – in our work and in our personal lives. Trauma drains us of our optimism and leaves us feeling angry and incredulous about what has happened.
We can spend years trying to fathom ‘why’? Subconsciously, this negative energy can infiltrate and linger. We have to reclaim this energy – this power, repair our brains and approach our next challenge with a blank and positive white canvas.
Motivational speaker Nick Vujicic, who was born with phocomelia (no arms or legs), says:
“To move to the next rung of the ladder, you must give up your grip and reach for the next one.”
Do you want a promotion this year? Finally start that business you’ve always dreamed of launching? Apply for a first mortgage and get on the property ladder? Or find happiness in your work, even if that means finding new work?
Whatever you want to achieve it’s worth considering what might be getting in your way, diverting your energy and brain power, and holding you back.
Ask yourself: what do you need to let go of in order to have the headspace, the time and the energy to repair, refuel and reach into the exciting unknown?
This has been a tricky article to write. We always try to be compassionate and empathetic, however, that is at odds with some of this advice, which may come across as a bit brutal.
From our personal experiences and work as coaches, we’ve learned that we have to practice self-compassion first and foremost if we want to achieve our goals in life.
It’s the in-flight oxygen mask analogy: you have to fit your own mask, get your own air and breathe first, if you’re going to be of any help to your fellow passengers.
Equal Talent are committed to helping organisations create better, fairer and more inclusive workplaces for everyone.If you’d like to explore how your organisation can introduce a Coaching for Wellbeing programme this year, please do get in touch.
We’d love to help.