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Sunday, February 04, 2024

Embracing progress over perfection in the chaos of life

Progress is progress and it doesn't need to be perfect. Take a pause to focus, get your bearings then embrace the beautiful messiness. You may drop a ball or two. So what?

Do you ever find yourself stressed by everything on your to-do list? Perhaps you are working on big goals and trying to grow and expand your life... Taking on more adds complexity and compresses time. If you're like me, juggling a multitude of tasks and feeling burned out in the process has been a familiar struggle. The pressure from unfinished and seemingly abandoned tasks cluttering the mind and competing for attention can be downright overwhelming.

In pursuing new challenges and expanding our lives, periodic confusion is part of the package. In these moments, our inner critic starts its familiar deluge, telling us we should be handling things better, that something is wrong with us, and that we've bitten off more than we can chew. I've been there, feeling like an imposter and trying everything from sacrificing personal time to endless multitasking and constant re-prioritization, only to find myself pissed off and defeated.

Attempting to do it all is a flawed plan, and I've come to realize that letting an unsupervised mind run the show only leads to excessive effort, anxiety, and self-criticism. Determination is sustainable when paired with discernment, but without it, completing one task just leads to a dozen more in the queue. Progress requires results that are meaningful to the cause. While crossing off random activities on a compounding to-do list provides a small sense of relief, not all tasks are worth our time.

Reaction and distraction are the unwelcome byproducts of an unmanaged mind that keeps us spinning and wastes our time. So, how do we break free from this cycle? Instead of rushing around in a futile attempt to keep up, hit the pause button and take a moment to breathe deeply, focus and gather your energy. Center and ground yourself to the present moment. There are tools you can use to manage and calm the chaos and make progress on your highest-priority tasks.

Here are some tools that I like to use:

Vent to yourself first: Before seeking out someone to complain to, become your own listener. Write down your thoughts, clarify what needs to be done, and assess its importance. Don't blindly follow your thought stream; use awareness as your first line of defense. If you still need help, reach out to someone you trust and gather perspectives. External validation of challenges is only beneficial if it empowers you to choose. Blaming and complaining are never helpful.

Use awareness and think critically: Before committing to time-consuming tasks, consider the drivers, dependencies, and motivations. It might seem counterproductive to take the time, but understanding why you're working on something is crucial for making real progress. Making progress requires follow-through and constraint. Be ok with saying no and dealing with disappointment. Give up people-pleasing and develop strategies for staying committed to your goal.

Make and own decisions: Deliberate decisions are easier to defend. I prefer to choose what I let hit the ground. Consider the importance of the outcome, evaluate the benefit of doing something versus letting it go, and align your actions with your values. Experiment with honouring your non-negotiables and use boundaries deliberately. Life is meant to be lived fully, and work is just one part of life. Deciding instead of reacting, future proofs us against regrets. Even when it doesn't seem like it, know there is always a choice, and it is yours to make.

Remember, perfection is an illusion, and control is overrated. Things will not always go your way, and that is ok. Focus on momentum and celebrate both large and small victories. Allow some balls to drop — it's necessary and expected. When it comes to our time, adding always involves subtraction. Progress over perfection means making deliberate decisions that build a foundation for your goals. Honouring the decisions compounds the progress, creates self-confidence and increases the likelihood of success.

As you navigate your juggling act, embrace the messiness and let the balls fall where they may. There are plenty of tools and recommendations for managing time and increasing productivity, but it's more than that. Manage your mind using inquiry and decision-making tools for your highest good.

Keep moving forward, you've got this!

Marie McInnes

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