When you can't do it all
or, how I decided to take my own advice
TL;DR: Starting next month, I will be changing the publication schedule for A Cup of Ambition. Free subscribers will receive newsletters the second, third, and fourth Thursdays of the month. Paid subscribers will receive an additional newsletter the first Thursday of the month.
As regular readers know, I’ve published this newsletter every week (with a few weeks off for vacation) for over a year now. What you don’t know is that for a few months, I’ve been toying with the idea of cutting back. Currently, I write a newsletter every week for all subscribers. On top of that, paid subscribers get weekly “sips”, as well as an additional newsletter once a month. As my coaching practice has grown, I’m increasingly feeling like I just can’t keep up. In order to sustain my creativity and avoid burnout, I’ve decided to eliminate one newsletter each month.
I could have easily put this announcement in the header of an email and been done with it, but I think that would have been a missed opportunity. See, I struggled with this decision—I worried that if I cut back, I would be letting readers down. I worried that I wasn’t following through on my commitment. I wondered if it was easier to just plow through. Writing an additional newsletter wasn’t causing major disruption in my life, so why not just suck it up?
This inner-dialogue is one that is familiar to most—all?—working moms. We all have a long list of commitments, tasks, and responsibilities, and it can often feel like we’re drowning in to-do lists. We know that something has to give, but what? And even if we know the “what”, we’re often afraid to follow through. This week I’m using myself as a case study. I’m going to walk you through my decision-making, in the hopes that sharing my process might inspire you to set a boundary, say “no”, or lighten your load.
Identify the target
I knew I had to step back from something, and—for me—the newsletter was the clear choice. As I’ve shared before, I love writing for you, but I’m not a “professional writer”. I don’t have a background in journalism or blogging and I’m not used to churning out content regularly. This has been an exciting challenge for me, but I have always had an eye on long-term sustainability. I’m discovering that the key to maintaining my creativity is less pressure to produce.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it might not be as clear for you what to let go of. Here are some questions to reflect on:
Are there tasks that are taking up a lot of my time that offer little return on investment? (Think of ROI not only in the financial sense, but also in terms of emotional and relationship returns, as well.)
What gives me energy and what depletes me?
Of the tasks that deplete me, which can only be done by me? (Hint: this list is probably shorter than you think.)
Look at your list of tasks that either offer little ROI or that deplete you, can any of these tasks be dropped altogether? Are there any that you can cut back?
For the remaining items, begin to think through ways to effectively delegate them to others.
Put things in perspective
All humans can fall prey to catastrophic thinking at times. We think work will fall apart if we step away for parental leave or an extended vacation, or the committee will implode if we resign as the chair, or our children will never forgive us if we don’t bake them a homemade cake for their birthdays. These things are rarely true.
Sometimes we need a good old-fashioned reality check. As I was mulling this decision over, I asked myself: Do you think your subscribers care about this as much as you do? The answer: Of course not! I am fully aware that for many (all) of you, the publication schedule of my newsletter is number 596,893 on your list of priorities! In fact, some of you probably prefer to receive newsletters less often (we’re all in a constant battle with our inboxes—I get it.)
Sometimes we all need to get out of our own heads and look at the situation from a different frame. Here are some questions to get you started:
What is the worst that can happen?
What is the probability of this actually occurring?
If the worst thing did happen, could I handle it?
Align with your values
Once I felt more confident in my decision, I decided to check in with my core values. I talk a lot about the importance of values in my coaching and in this newsletter. But it’s not just lip-service. Making choices that align with our values gives us direction, prevents burnout, and leads to greater longterm satisfaction.
One of my core values is balance (what can I say, I’m a Libra! ⚖️). I am at my best when I feel that I have enough time to nurture all of the important parts of my life. When something is out of balance, I feel destabilized. Writing and thinking about the newsletter was starting to eat into time with my family and time that was earmarked for other projects, and I believe that by cutting back, I will achieve greater balance while maintaining quality content.
What are my core values? What is at the heart of who I am and what I stand for?
Does setting this boundary help me live my values more fully?
Does setting this boundary conflict with any of my values? How will I resolve this tension? Am I sure this is the right boundary to set?
Proceed with confidence
Once you’ve identified what it is you’d like to give up or what boundary you’d like to set, assert yourself with poise and determination. If you would like to, you can offer an explanation or the logic behind your decision, but don’t ask for permission, beg for forgiveness, or second-guess yourself.
Remember: You may be disappointing some people, but since you made a decision that aligns with your values, you won’t be disappointing yourself.
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