Reality Check: Is It Just Too Much?

Self-evaluation is the process of examining what we are doing and determining whether we’re moving in the direction we want. It can be helpful in many situations.

Take Bruce, who works long and hard at work and in life. He’s actively involved with his children’s activities. He wants to be a good husband and does all he can in the household. He feels responsibility for his parents and in-laws. Lots of demands pull him in different directions.

On top of this already full life, Bruce chose to enhance his career by taking a course. What’s one more thing?

It turns out that one more thing might not have been exactly what he needed. This new demand on his time, combined with self-imposed pressure to do well, has resulted in Bruce becoming frustrated and impatient with himself.

At what point does one more thing become one too many?

When we’re busy, we might think we don’t have time to self-evaluate. In fact, busy times may be the most effective times to take an eagle-eyed look at your goals, values, and reality.

Start jotting down all the things you intend to do in a week. Precise detail is not necessary! Just list the big time consumers and roughly how long each takes.

Now, here’s reality for you. There are 168 hours in a week. Within those hours, we sleep, eat, shower, go to work, and more!

If your list turns out to require more than 24 hours per day, then you’ve learned something valuable. It’s completely possible that the expectations you have of yourself are physically impossible. And while we can sometimes take time out of our “optional” sleep time, do that too often and we may find ourselves headed for a prolonged sleep, indeed.

Activities have a way of filling up all the time available. Whenever asked, Bruce tends to agree without thinking. Whether it’s a commitment for next week, next month or next Wednesday, he tells himself, “I’ll find time.” Really?

Bruce then gets frustrated and self-judgmental when he can’t do everything that he thinks he “should.” That’s why it’s so helpful to have clear numbers. Maybe he’s not a slacker; maybe it really is just too much!

Frustration can be a helpful signal to indicate, “Something’s wrong.” It’s easy to lose track of our big goals when we are swamped with the details and seeming urgencies of everyday life.

While we can’t “stretch” time, we can manage priorities. Often, our priorities are a combination of short-term urgencies and long-term important (but not necessarily urgent) priorities.

For Bruce, the long term important priority of taking his course needs to be weighed against the short term urgencies of driving the neighbour kids to practice, mowing his mom’s lawn, and responding to all those text messages.

One element of self-evaluating is to examine any seemingly urgent, but perhaps not important, tasks. Do you need to do them? Do they need to be done at all?

Look for creative solutions: Can child-transportation be shared? Can you hire a lawn-mower?

Finally, self-evaluation may help you realize that not everything has to (or can be) done at once. What are your priorities right now? Is this the right time to add another demand? Might that work better in future?

Defining priorities and clarifying what really matters is your choice. Self-evaluating can then help you make a realistic plan.

What do you do when you have no time to think?

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