Something each of us can do to make it so that we don’t get as far as burnout is to let things go. I think we’ve got some norms that make it hard for us to take our foot off the gas pedal that need to be challenged. Particularly, that we should basically have everything all put together all of the time. I mean, we have GOT to let that go! The question then becomes, “How??”
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I recently heard from a reader named Jack who has three kids. He said that parenting was what was making him feel the most burnt out. Specifically, as he put it: “Patience, consistency, consequences. The whole ball of wax, which is still on the floor, has not been put away, is uncleaned in the sink. Despite my having made clear what needs to be done with said ball no fewer than 10,000 times. Oh Gawd I have become my parents.”
Um yeah, I hear that one! From my desk as I write this, I can see my daughter’s vision board on the couch. Two pairs of kid shoes in the middle of the floor, a Scrabble game, bottle of hand sanitizer and bottle of sunscreen and an empty Amazon box on the table, and whatever’s strewn on the coffee table is thankfully being blocked by the back of the couch. It’s only 9am and the sink is full of dishes and there’s an IKEA medicine cabinet that’s in the middle of being put together on the floor area beside my desk. Not all of these things are my kids’ fault, but let me just say that I understand that ball of wax quite well.
How to Let Things Go
I love a clean house as much as the next person. I start to get an eye twitch when it gets too messy. And I do my share of reminding, and at times yelling at, people I live with to clean up. But I have also moved the line of what is clean enough way way closer to reality. Otherwise, honestly, I’d never get anything done OR I would hate my family. I just think that lowering our standards about some things is better for everyone–including me.
I’m not saying just don’t worry about doing the dishes. But I am suggesting that perhaps you can do them only once a day instead of after every meal, for example. Or, instead of trying to stay on top of your inbox by checking your email every 10 minutes, maybe do it only three times a day. There’s a time and a place for everything. And that time and place is not all the time.
Before You Burnout
If you’re starting to feel burnt out, it’s worth asking–are there things I’m chasing that maybe aren’t worth it? I’m here to suggest that having a house that is spic and span at all times is one of these things. And believe me, you will still do plenty of cleaning even after you make the decision. You just won’t tie your sense of self worth and how relaxed you are allowed to feel to how the inside of your house looks.
But of course there’s many things we should consider letting go of. Like, maybe, not having the job title you think you should have by now. Or not having everything in your life nailed down and settled. Or fill in your own blank. To be clear, I’m a fan of having standards and knowing what you want and going after it. But our goals can become so tightly defined, on things that we aren’t truly in control over that we never allow ourselves to rest. And that is a recipe for burnout.
Especially now, when we are in unprecedented times, you have to let some things slide. For more inspiration on letting things go, see the schlub day episode, which was episode 238. And the do what you can while you can, which was episode 46.
Set Boundaries For Yourself
There IS a difference between deciding not to do something, and feeling ok about deciding not to do something. You may let it go from your to-do list, but how do you let it go from your to-worry-about list? The truth is, it takes practice. It might be hard at first to tolerate the house being messier than you’d like it to be. Or your inbox to have more unopened messages in it that you normally have. You can always remind yourself “I’m choosing to put my focus elsewhere.” Sometimes you just need a reminder to drop a train of thought. And sometimes it’s harder than that.
You might have to literally change your focus but physically removing yourself from the situation. Go on a walk. Move to a different room. Get lost in a book. Remember that you are setting some boundaries for yourself so that you don’t overwork and burnout. And then use the time and energy that you’ve saved to do something just because you enjoy it, which just so happens to be the subject of tomorrow’s episode. So be sure to come back for that one.
Daily Tiny Assignment
Today’s tiny assignment is to let things go: pick one thing to NOT do — or to even worry about doing. Don’t make the kitchen shine like the top of the Chrysler building. Resist the urge to do something for someone else in your household that they are capable of doing and let them do it themselves. Just for a day, give yourself the experience of not going the extra mile on the little stuff, and so what kind of space it opens up in your mind and life for something more rewarding to come in.