In the second of this two-part post, I continue to look at one of the biggest problems facing working women – the feeling that no matter how hard they work, they’re just getting by. I explore two more causes for this feeling, and the steps to begin to say goodbye to it forever. If you haven’t read Part 1, check it out here.

Cause 2: We Try to Do It All

How do you do it all?

If you’re like most working women I know, this simple question raises more than just a little internal conflict. It’s part compliment, part indictment, and sums up in a few short words one of the major dilemmas in our lives. How do we do it all?

It’s probably not surprising that “doing it all” is a major cause of feeling like we’re struggling to keep our heads above water. We know we need to pare down, prioritize, learn to say no. But somehow, we just never get around to it.

So we end up trying to be everything to everyone, and look amazing while doing it. Too many of us struggle under the weight of jam-packed schedules and days filled with tasks that do little to move us toward the life and career that we want. We end up frazzled, impatient and with a growing sense that there’s simply no margin in our lives. We march on and on like this, getting up earlier and staying up later, pretending we can just push through it.

The problem is that it just isn’t sustainable. Doing it all always comes at high price.

Solution: Say Yes Intentionally

To break this cycle, you must master the art of what I call “saying yes intentionally.” For many of us, yes is an almost automatic response.

Need someone to run the PTO fundraiser? Sure, I can do it!

Want a training partner on your quest for a half-marathon? Okay.

Looking for someone to head up a new project team at the office? I’m in.

I’ve discussed some of the reasons we can’t say no in other posts, but saying yes without considering the cost will keep you just getting by forever. Instead, the next time you’re offered the opportunity to participate in something, think about what saying yes will mean.

What will you have to give up? What other things in your life will have to be rearranged to make space for this commitment? Is it line with the priorities in your life?

After you have the cost clear in your mind, consider the benefit. But remember – not until you fully understand the cost. While this the exact opposite of the approach most of us use, it’s key to making a change. It keeps you grounded in your priorities, and makes it less likely you’ll fall victim to your own fear or insecurity. But, it leaves you the space to say yes intentionally to those opportunities that matter most to you.

One word of caution – during this process give yourself plenty of grace. Learning to say yes mindfully is an art, and requires practice. You won’t get it right every time, but it will get easier.

Cause 3: We Feel Overwhelmed

I don’t know where to start.

I have no idea which is the right decision.

I’ll never get it all done.

If you feel like you’re barely getting by, you’re probably no stranger to these thoughts. Feeling overwhelmed is something that distracts most of us at one point or another, but if left unchecked it can take on a life of its own.

When we feel overwhelmed, most of us deal with it in one of two ways.  We either shut down completely, or we shift into high gear and go right back to trying doing it all. Unfortunately, neither option is a recipe for regaining a sense of calm or fulfillment.

Getting bogged down, putting things off, and going into a shell drains your motivation and momentum. Neglected tasks loom larger and larger, while your belief in your ability to deal with them dwindles. Soon, you’re trapped under the weight of things left undone and the path back

Kicking into high gear is just as bad. Working in a frenzied state undermines your long-term productivity and zaps your focus. You get less and less done, while taking on more and more stress. In the end, it can leave you physically wrecked with nothing but haphazard work to show for it.

Solution: Learn to Take Mindful Action

The key to overcoming overwhelm is learning to take mindful action. Mindful action strikes a balance between shutting down and working yourself into a frenzy.

Not surprisingly, mindful action requires first that you put yourself in a place of mindfulness. While that’s a word that gets tossed around a lot lately, it’s really not all that mysterious.

Mindfulness simply requires you to be present, in the moment, where you are. It means you must slow down, breathe deeply, and focus your attention. For just a minute, drop your worries about the future, and your insecurities about the past and just be exactly where you are. If your mind is especially busy, it may help to focus on a phrase like “be here now” or even a word like “breathe.”

This process may be hard a first, but remember you’re not looking for perfection. Just keep practicing. It only takes a few moments to calm your mind and begin to loosen the grip of overwhelm.

In this calmer frame of mind, you can begin to take action. Make a list of all the tasks that feel overwhelming. Once what actually needs to be done is down on paper, without all the accompanying worry and frustration, it’s likely to seem less daunting.

Now, ask yourself which task seems most important at that moment. Then, do it. Making progress will quiet your mind and create momentum for you to continue to move forward.

And if you find yourself overwhelmed again, just take another brief moment to refocus before you get moving.

As a working woman, feeling like you’re barely getting by probably seems all too familiar. But, it’s no way to spend your life. With a few key strategies, you can begin to make lasting changes that bring you closer to the sense of calm and control you crave.

Ready to really get serious about saying goodbye to just getting by? Contact me for complimentary session today!