It’s June. In April, I planned out four topics around spring cleaning and growth. Then in May I did the same thing around the topic of resetting for the summer and fall. But between allergies, getting ready for the summer institute, and other administrative stuff, I only got two of my May episodes out. Then I kept hearing how overwhelmed so many of you are. I realized a weekly podcast was too stressful for all of us. I needed space to be my best for myself and for y’all. So, I decided we’re moving to bi-weekly episodes. This way I have the energy to properly prepare them and you have more time to listen to each episode before a new one drops. If you’ve felt like there was just so much to do that you can’t get out from under it, stay tuned. In this episode, we’re going to discuss how important it is to give yourself and your team space to do your best work - and to be your best self.
Space…the final frontier. Lol. Okay, so let’s talk about space. Probably you have some work to get done - a project, a report, etc. I want you to think about the literal space you have on your desk or wherever you work. Do you have space to spread out, move things around, and really focus on what you’re doing? Or is your space so cluttered that you have to constantly juggle what’s in front of you to make room? Maybe it’s so jam packed that as you’re trying to focus, your eyes keep getting drawn to other folders or piles that remind you of all those other things you’ve got to do. Each time that happens, your energy is diverted, and it makes it harder for you to focus and get anything done.
Just like with physical space, we have to allow ourselves space to think, pivot, and replenish when necessary, or we’re not going to show up at our best. If you have to get something done and only have a limited time, what happens when you encounter a problem? There’s no space to adjust. You become overwhelmed and go into fight or flight because “AGHHH! I don’t have time for this!” I’ve had this problem many times, often technology related. When that happens not only do we have a problem, we suddenly become worse at solving the problem because our energy is being funneled to the stress response.
When there’s too much on our plate, getting overwhelmed is a huge roadblock to our productivity. This is especially true when we’re not using our talent productively, we don’t prioritize, and when we create stores about those tasks that pile on the pressure. Maybe something like…
If I don’t get ____, ____, and ____ done today, my entire week will be thrown off.
There’s no way for me to get all these new projects done in time. I guess I need to come in early and stay late to try.
If I don’t do ____, retention will drop and people will lose their jobs, including me!
Those stories add to our stress and make us feel like there’s no room for errors, no time to deal with problems, and no definitely no time for rest. In other words, no space.
Now think about a day that’s packed full of meetings. How do you feel when someone cancels? You heave a sigh of relief. You feel more relaxed, right? Why? Because you suddenly have more space to spread things out!
When I decided to move from weekly episodes to twice a month, I immediately felt lighter. When I was doing weekly podcasts, it often felt heavy because I had these stories about how it needed to be weekly or I was somehow failing you if I was sick or had other projects that kept me from getting an episode done. I upgraded those stories to be more in line with what was going on in my life and yours, which gave me permission to change the frequency and give myself space.
We all have to give ourselves the space we need to focus, pivot, and rest to be at our best selves. When we do, we make the work we do better and allow us to be more productive. When we don’t, the stress builds and the quality of our work and our relationships suffer.
So how do we do this? I mean we’re being asked to do SO much - quite frankly, most of us are given way more than is reasonable to actually get done. I’m going to talk about three ways to give yourself more space, so you don’t get overwhelmed and can be more productive.
First, focus on your Strengths Zone. You are better at some things than others. If you want the most bang for your buck, focus on those things and delegate or find complementary partners for things you’re not so good at.
And when I say Strengths Zone, I mean using your talents as Strengths, not weaknesses. We’ve talked in other episodes about how our talents automatically show up and start doing things. If what they’re doing is aligned with your goals, you’re working in your Strengths Zone. If what they’re doing is not helping you meet your goals, they’re showing up as weaknesses. You have to know the difference.
When you focus on your Strengths Zone, you get things done faster and better. You’re also using less energy, which means more energy for other things - whether those be work related or not.
The second thing you can do to give yourself more space is set reasonable priorities for each day. That to-do list you have is too much. Jim Collins, the author of “From Good to Great,” says, “If you have more than three priorities, you don’t have any.”
You need to give yourself three, reasonable priorities each day to focus on and put the rest of that list aside. You can’t do everything. It’s just not feasible. But you can do something. And in this case, three somethings.
If you’re like me, you’ll also have to adjust those expectations if you’re still setting yourself up for failure. What’s reasonable to get done today is going to depend on how you’re feeling and unexpected issues you encounter. I’ve had to be very mindful in trimming down what I thought I should be able to get done if I was feeling 100%, into what I knew I could realistically get done so I could leave myself the necessary space to deal with setbacks and avoid stressing myself out.
The last suggestion I have for you is look at the stories you’re telling yourself and really question them. Like I mentioned earlier, I had told myself that I needed a weekly podcast. Why? Because a coach I used to work with does a weekly podcast. That coach is very successful, so in my mind it became “if I want to be successful like Jim, I also needed to do a weekly podcast.” But here’s the thing, I’m not Jim. Jim has a huge team of folks to edit and do all the technical stuff to get episodes out, and I don’t yet. Beyond that, what I need and what my audience needs are not the same as his.
I realized that if I was having a hard time getting out weekly episodes, maybe you were having a hard time listening to weekly episodes. So really, my story about needing to do a weekly podcast to be successful was getting in my way of being successful. Changing my story gave me the freedom to change my to-do list and how I felt about myself when I did. That’s so powerful.
So, start questioning your stories. Are any driven by stress? Are any driven by your insecurities? Do you have stories that require you to perform at unrealistic levels? If so, I can almost guarantee they are boxing you in and keeping you from being your best self and doing your best work.
Okay, so those are three ways to give yourself more space - work in your Strengths Zone, set no more than three realistic priorities each day, and upgrade your stories. Whenever you start to feel overwhelmed, like you don’t have enough space, just step back and ask which one of those do you need to start with to give yourself that necessary breathing room.
See you in two weeks.