It has been a long day, but you’ve made it through unscathed, and even taken a rather large chunk out of your to-do list. There are however a few remaining items that stare back at you, the holdovers from an otherwise productive day. Though tempting, automatically tacking them on to tomorrow’s agenda when you envision you will have ‘more time’ or ‘feel better’ might actually be working against you.
Life is tough and full of unsuspecting twists and turns. You may have planned out the perfect day, set yourself a reasonable agenda and built in plenty of buffer time to ensure you would get through all of your required tasks. But then a thing happens. And another. Or someone is late, or they themselves have to go and deal with a thing. With cascading effect, suddenly your perfect schedule has been blown out and there is no way to achieve all you had set out to.
Or perhaps a migraine has started to brew in the middle of the day, though you are well hydrated and otherwise in a healthy frame. Why, you silently cry out to the headache gods, did my brain not put this ailment off until the day after the project is due?
In these moments it is tempting to self-aggrandise, harkening back to another time when we had an objectively good day wherein we were in the zone, our flow, blasting through checklist items with quality and speed. Remember when? It’s easy to. But don’t fall for it.
You only have so much attention and are capable of a finite amount of deep work each day
Equally, it is important to take a realistic approach to what that to-do list will look like from the outset. You only have so much attention and are capable of a finite amount of deep work each day. Again, you may be setting yourself up for a cycle of unfinished business if you overestimate what you can actually do on any given day.
For instance, how do you know that you won’t be the victim of another surprise migraine tomorrow? Or fall prey to roadworks, internet disruptions or a sudden downpour of frogs? That last one will certainly cause delays, and probably on a global scale.
When planning your schedule, take a moment to reflect on what you are signing yourself up for. Ask yourself, if all else wasn’t equal, could I tackle everything I am assigning myself? Having less on your plate is actually a good thing for several reasons. Firstly, ticking off all of your tasks on a given day feels amazing, and will help build your self-confidence and mental wellness (so long as you remember not to expect the same result on a daily basis – if so, re-read this article from the beginning). Secondly, you will end up with more free time to dedicate to re-visiting and improving earlier items, making a start on tomorrow’s tasks or your own self-care.
We all gravitate toward our ideal self-image, the ‘you’ that strikes a perfect balance between life and productivity. But sometimes, due to factors outside of our control, we can’t be that person. So, before you commit to another huge day, remember to consider your own limits and work toward realistic expectations – you’ll feel better and be supporting your own mental health and wellbeing.
Even superheroes are allowed to take a break and enjoy the moment.