African American businesswoman juggling many objects and feeling overwhelmed.
Cover Image © Gino Santa Maria

You Don’t Have To Do It All At Once

I spent a fair amount of time considering the classic question, “If you got to go back in time to tell your younger self some advice, what would you say?” And I actually came up with things I would tell my younger self about Life that I’d like to share with you. It isn’t anything super-secret, but you’d think we don’t know it.

The Set-Up

I have noticed a lot of people like to push the limits of how many balls they can juggle. I will see others doing exactly what I used to do (more or less), and in no less of a quantity, focusing on (in no particular order):

  • Focusing on Family
  • Growing a Career
  • Reinforcing Relationships (Romantic & Platonic)
  • Optimizing Health (via Diet & Fitness)
  • Running Side Hustles
  • Pushing Creative Pursuits
  • Learning a New Skill
  • Nurturing Existing Hobbies
  • Finding Time for Reading
  • Keeping up w/ a TV Show
  • Adulting Each Day (“Roof over your head”, etc.)
  • Paying Student Loans
  • Exploring the World & Traveling
  • Trying to Live
  • Pursuing General Personal Fulfillment

All at once. And this is on a light day 🤣

The sad funny thing is that there’s more (way more, for some) than what’s listed up there.

Many of us don’t seem to live like we know that, to be cliché, Life is a marathon – not a race. And, because it’s so easily forgotten, that’s essentially what I’d tell my younger self as I remind him that, “You don’t have to “do Life” all at once.”

You just don’t.

While I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid this personally (*knocks on wood*), I’ve repeatedly seen friends crack under the pressure of maintaining an “all at once” lifestyle. I want to help you avoid that collapse with three simple truths. These are things you already know deep down inside.

Truth #1: There is No Due Date (FOR LIFE)

Where you are currently is where you’re meant to be right now. Read that previous sentence out loud.

It is one of those core truths of Life that’s irrefutable when you think about it, and it also doesn’t say anything about something being bad or good. It just is.

So what some of your friends are doing very well financially and you’re not (that may come over time – no need for you to sweat that). So what you’re single and don’t have a family yet (stay open to the possibility, Life may surprise you). So what you don’t have a perfect body RIGHT NOW (that’s ok!). Different strokes for different folks – and everything in its season.

You are not passing or failing at life – ever – because there is no due date on anything (things happen when they may). There also aren’t any checkpoints you HAVE to hit by some stage of existence.

If there isn’t a due date, this means that any pressure that you’re feeling is strictly internal. You control that portion of the narrative of your life.

The text All Limitations Are Self Imposed.

Just breathe, step back, think of where you want to go – and work to get there. I am not saying you shouldn’t have goals and aspirations (Lord knows I’m not saying that), but I’m encouraging you not to beat yourself up or obsess over your self-imposed shortcomings because “you aren’t there” yet. Be kind to yourself.

Truth #2: No One Has Life Figured Out

Said another way, “No one has life figured out regardless of how good they look.”

Said another way, “No one controls everything.”

Said another way, “We all have problems.”

Said another way, “Nobody’s perfect.”

Think of the most successful person in the world. Your hero. Your role model. The captain of your industry or the biggest leader in your community. Your spiritual guides.

I guarantee you – if they’re living breathing humans – they have issues in their lives, too. They have things they want to get done each day that go unaccomplished. They are flawed, and they have learned to live with those flaws and keep it moving.

So… Why do you think you wouldn’t have some hiccups in your life? We all do! There isn’t any getting around that! Struggle, strife, and complication are just aliases for things that Life throws at us to keep things interesting – and if you don’t have any, you might want to check your pulse.

The text You were born to be real not to be perfect.

I think we all create long laundry lists of constant to-do’s that we try to greedily focus on all at once because we want some semblance of control and order in our existence. I think “Order over Chaos” is a fine pursuit, but we shouldn’t demand that at all times because 1) We don’t control everything, and 2) that would be boring.

We all live through every unpredictable moment minute-by-minute collectively as a species until a time machine is created. I like to think we’re probably wired to prefer life this way, with its little uncertainties here and there, compared to always knowing what comes next. That would become dull.

Truth #3: Always Answer Key Questions

Always keep in mind…

  1. Why you’re doing something (context)
  2. What your reference point of “success is” (goal post)
  3. How bad your “want it” and “capability” align (expectation)
  4. Where you started and how far you’ve come (progress)

Briefly…

Make sure you’re doing things in the right context. If you can’t remember why you really want to do that thing on your list or what necessitates it being on your list. Drop it.

I am all for hoping and pursuing a vision, but make sure your vision of success and that goal post you set actually jive with who YOU are. Is that glamorous because you really think it is, or because the world says so? This will help you decide what’s worth pursuing and letting go.

If you don’t want something super badly or haven’t put the time in to actually pull it off (and don’t really plan to), guess what? That’s ok, and you don’t have to torture yourself to push it forward. Know your self-expectations and stay true to them.

And this is the final kicker — whether you spend 10-minutes a day on something, or one hour a week — over time, you will be further along than had you done nothing at all. Keep the fact in mind that your efforts big or small all lead to progress on whatever your striving for. Each moment will bring you closer to accomplishment, and there is not real deadline unless you’re self-imposing one.

Why? What? How? Where?  These are all important things to consider as you prioritize your life and goals.

All of these things will always matter in every situation you hit in life, and each one seems to be easily forgotten depending on whether you’re leaning in the direction of “clear focus” or “arbitrary obsession”.

This Isn’t a Slacker’s Manifesto

I don’t want readers to walk away from this post thinking, “Nothing ultimately matters so I can just drag my feet on everything.” What I hope people can gather from the ramblings above is that it’s ok to slow down and assess. Think strategically about what you’re putting your time into because our time isn’t infinite.

You don’t have to worry about getting your list completed by an arbitrary due date because no one has set a schedule for YOUR life. You will have deadlines in your job and to get things done for “Requirements of Adulting” (e.g. paying taxes, rent, etc.) – but don’t confuse those with YOUR LIFE!

You don’t have to worry about how your list’s completion or incompletion makes you look because nobody is perfect. No one has every aspect of life figured out, so why the hell do you think you should?!

You don’t have to operate on autopilot as you try to trudge through a list. You have the right – and mental capacity – to consider why you’re doing something (context), what success looks like (goal posts), whether or not you really want it (expectations), and how far you’ve come (progress).

You don’t have to “do it all” at once. Some people do a lot and make it look easy, but even they have figured out when to shift focus and how to progress on things in chunks here and there. Don’t hold yourself to the unrealistic mirage of the person who lives life 110% overbooked every second and is just great! (because that vision is BS).

I am curious what advice you would give your younger self? Let me know in the comment section below.

Peace, and thanks for reading.

 

The soundtrack for this post provided by…

Image Credits:
– Cover Image © Gino Santa Maria (Shutterstock)
– Body Image 1 © Borsuk Renat (Shutterstock)
– Body Image 2 © wow.subtropica (Shutterstock)
– Body Image 3 © marekuliasz (Shutterstock)

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