I have always been one to do things a million miles an hour. I have always been a sprinter, I get stuck into things as soon as they present, I put all my energy into it and I want it done now. As a child I would rush home telling my mum that I needed to get an assignment started now, and we should have been at the library yesterday. After questioning me, mum would soon discover I had just got the assignment today, not weeks ago as my agitated state suggested. Moving into the work force I applied the same attitude and behaviours. I eventually had a boss who pulled me aside to tell me not to respond to emails or get things done for people so quickly as it set up an expectation and would mean more people would come to me in the first instance. This would increase my workload and leave me less time for the project work.
This conversation led me to stop and reflect on why I ran myself ragged to get tasks completed as quickly as I could. After digging deep internally I realised that this behaviour was driven by a deep-rooted fear, the fear of being viewed as incompetent. I was constantly trying to show people that I was competent and one of the ways to prove this was by completing things before it was expected, and being able to carry such a high workload.
Once I realised this, I was able to address it; challenging my thinking and changing my behaviour.
– I journaled a lot. I wrote down my thoughts and evidence that refuted the idea that I wasn’t competent. I recorded people’s responses, and wrote about assumptions and perceptions which helped me see that.
– I read books around self-limiting beliefs, fears, rushing women and similar topics. This lead to a lot more journaling.
– I used positive affirmations: I am competent. My competence is not hinged on others’ perceptions. My time is valuable.
– Plan in advance. By having my deadlines in my calendar and inputting checkpoints for my work I know where I need to be for everything. This helps me see how much time I actually have to do other pieces that present themselves.
– Stick to my calendar. To allow for deeper critical thought, and to comply with my slower pace I keep to the checkpoints I have put into my calendar, rather than trying to get it all done in one sitting.
– Not ‘squeezing’ people in. I don’t want to be rushing my catch ups with loved ones, nor do I want them to feel as though they are just another meeting. Rushing people is not who I am, so I have stopped doing it.
– Knowing my priorities. I know, I say this in like every single piece of writing I do, but this is how important it is! For example, I know that exercise is a non-negotiable for me, I don’t put it in the “if I have time” category, it is scheduled, it is a priority. Knowing this means that rather than continuing to work on a project for hours on end at full speed, I know the tasks I need to move on to as they are priorities.
– Breathe. An action we do so regularly at the unconscious level, yet it is such a powerful an important tool to use for peace, mindfulness, and in this instance taking a step back. When I feel that energy overload kick into my system, the adrenaline starts surging (oh yeah I am a self-labelled geek and I love it!) with a deadline or a new project I just stop and take some deep belly breaths. My mind clears and I am able to reflect back on my priorities before rushing off at a million miles an hour.
Having this “I must get it done quicker than humanly possible” mentality has had its benefits, but it also created a highly stressed individual who was always working to tick things off a list, struggled to stay focused on one task at a time, failed to enjoy the process and had moved critical thinking and peace down the list of priorities. As I already mentioned it was also driven by an insecurity, which was kept alive by this out of control behaviour.
This is something I have actively worked at for the last few years; just allowing myself to spend time on tasks, spend time on my own pieces and reducing my stress levels that were created by rushing around all the time. This is not to say that I don’t fall back into old habits every now and then, nor do intentionally choose to “go all in” on very specific pieces of work – though this is after careful consideration and for a range of reasons.
If you could relate to this need to get things done, the fear of being seen as incompetent or running at a high stress state regularly I encourage you to work deeper into this space. Try some of the things that I did, do some of your own research or reach out to me!
Mel H x