Prioritizing by stress level

Work Life Finding Tiffanys Oak Lawn Coffee Dallas

Work has been a lot of work lately. Lately as in, like the last year and a half.

While we are finally getting our act together in a lot of systematic ways (#startuplife), sometimes it seems that help will never come. My last painstaking hire was whisked away from me, like Wilson the volleyball floating away in the current of agency politics.

The real upside of all the insanity on my to do list is getting way better at prioritizing, voicing red flags and learning to accept my limits. And how I do all of these things involves lists, lots of lists.

Last week, I just couldn’t take any more “urgent, top priority” items. Randomly, I decided to order my to do list by stress level instead. I mean, if I’m not going to get everything done anyway, might as well be freaking out slightly less about the things left over?

It turned out to be loverly.

Finding Tiffanys Productivity Tip

To keep the list from getting too overwhelming, I broke my list into groups of three. Then I refused to even look at the next three until I had finished the first group. Apparently this a real deal productivity tip I stumbled into? I’ll take it. This also had the unintended effect of keeping me more focused and present during the work day.

There’s definitely a correlation between deadlines and stress level, so I didn’t completely throw those out the window, but I also found this helped weed out the “pop-up” tasks from the high impact ones. By the end of the week, I felt lighter, as well as proud of my productivity.

I highly recommend it!

Doing it all

but first coffee quote

I realized this week I can’t do it all.

Realistically speaking, I’m fully aware I won’t get to everything on my lists (that’s right, plural) each day. But I still approach them with the idea that if I just keep working, if I just wake up earlier, every single item will finally have nice big line through it. One day, my list will be no more. Surprisingly, this has yet to ever happen, which can be quite a stress-inducing reality.

I recently had lunch with a married friend who confided about the possibility of kids, “I don’t know how people do it. I can barely manage my life, how are you supposed to add someone else’s too?”

Later, my roommate randomly turned to me and said, “Don’t ever let me become one of those moms that gets all wound up about things that don’t really matter.”

Not one of is anywhere even close to having kids, but it got me thinking. How do people do it?

My new theory is, they don’t. Maybe the secret to growing older successfully isn’t getting everything done, it’s being okay with not having everything done. It’s recognizing some things just don’t matter.

I stumbled upon this quote from What Not To Wear’s Clinton Kelley, and all I could say was, YES.

clinton kelley quote

And some weeks I’m just going to forget when it’s my blog day, miss a long-awaited appointment and overbook myself with a whopping three activities for the same date and time. Whoops.

Crossing the line

plate spinning

I refer to my life in terms of spinning plates.

At any point in time I have multiple plates spinning. It is a fine but blurry line between too many plates and not near enough, but “luckily” testing lines with a dangerous combination of curiosity, ambition and pride has been a historic specialty of mine.

I get a masochistic kick out of challenging myself to see just how many plates I can keep going, and this week definitely set a record that put a significant dent in my office’s keurig supply, my sleep and liver health (good thing those things regenerate, right?).

Between insane work expectations, wedding planning, marriage planning, doctor appointments and just plain life, all the plates went airborne this week and left me scrambling at the bottom, hoping nothing would break.

how I felt this week, minus Natalie Portman’s “time to go” ear tug

I wish I had some wise words or a witty experience to share with you all today. All I can say is sometimes slow starts with coffee and a travel magazine, 3-mile weekend walks with your roommate and a lazy afternoon with your fiance and the latest Sherlock episode can’t come at a better time.

Fanning the flame

work life balance

Hello again, loverly readers! It’s quite convenient how Lydia and I seem to take turns being inspired, regular posters..completely unplanned, I assure you, but it’s nice to know that while I was over here being a combination of busy, unmotivated and just plain exhausted, you had plenty of witty anecdotes at your fingertips.

Don’t get too excited, I’m still busy, unmotivated and exhausted, but I felt I should share a little bit of where I’ve been (mentally) lately…at work.

Once while on our way to a client meeting, my boss talked to me about how to avoid getting burned out and shared a story about a time she realized she was. At the time, I was firmly in the denial phase about my stress load, so I mentally filed her guidance under “Truly helpful for the distant future” and stacked “Reasons I’m completely fine” on top despite my overwhelming to do list, weekly chest tightening spasms and most-likely-related health issues/sudden onset of allergies.

See, I’ve always been super self-motivated – working hard, getting (over) involved and looking for leadership positions are activities I actually do enjoy just for me, not for a resume or to fulfill someone else’s idea of ‘success’. But I’m realizing what helped all those commitments and responsibilities seem more manageable was the fact that they all had a definitive end date: assignment deadline, event date, summer, graduation…the exhausting thing about ‘real life’ work (and life) commitments and responsibilities is the recent revelation that there really is no set end date. I will one day hopefully, finally complete fall planning only to realize I’m already woefully behind on 2014’s marketing strategy.

I’ve read this relearning of stress management is normal for us young professionals. In the grand scheme of things, we’re still relatively new at navigating this whole career, work-life balance thing. We’re figuring out what we’re good at and where we fit in the working world, whether that is finding a career path, company or something to pay the monthly car payment.

Sometimes I toy with the idea of taking off for world travels/volunteering or even just up and moving somewhere new…but I can’t help but value my career, job security and financial stability a little bit more when I reach the “Complete Purchase” button on my itinerary. Even though it looks like I won’t be taking off for a foreign country for an extended amount of time or having a spare day until mid-September to even think about taking a vacation, I clearly need to find some way to dial-back a notch in my day-to-day.

A Huffington Post article shared tips from thought leaders for maximizing your twenties, including this one: “Burnout is not a badge of honor. Don’t try to do it all, focus on the 5% you’re great at and delegate the rest!”

So this week I’m embracing delegation along with some old-fashioned hard work in the hopes that my typed, two-page to do list (unfortunately not a exaggeration) can make its way down to a much more manageable one.

…In the meantime, you can also find me surfing in the hopes of landing an affordable getaway.