Getting nowhere with everything
Last year I made a massive mistake.
I took Richard Branson’s mantra to the extreme: ‘If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how you can do it later”. The mistake was not about saying yes. The mistake was to say yes without any considerations or regards as to what else I had said yes to. I read it as “if someone asks you to do something just say yes – then get in a massive tizz wondering what you committed to, stress about having no time, feel guilty for cancelling at the last minute, and be exhausted at the end of it wishing you could have just 5 minutes more sleep”.
I said yes to having another baby and all the stresses that involved (well that decision was in 2016 but bub arrived in 2017).
I said yes to returning to work from when bub was 5 weeks old in a part-time and remote setup. This first bit of work continued to roll into other short pieces and before I knew it, 6 months has passed and I’m working with multiple clients.
I said yes to a heap of SAP Community activities which would involve commitments of a conference call here and there; activity in JAM space; be on the community; provide feedback; etc. Each request was a compliment and privilege to be part of. I continued to say yes to being a SAP Mentor as well as Community Moderator. By the time I finished saying Yes, I found myself on 2 councils, moderating 2 tags, participating in BETA testing and other feedback, active on Ideas Space/Collaboration platform, emails behind the scene, and following the antics of a goat.
I then said yes to my own initiatives and goals. Yes, to studying for certification. Yes, to wanting to revamp the careers tag with interview style. Yes, to trying to get fit and healthy. Yes, to walking my dog twice a day. Yes, to baby prep stuff and housework. Yes, to the quality time with my son by introducing him to the world.
Yes. Yes. Yes. Then reality hits and I find myself singing 99 bottles of milk (child friendly version instead of beer) on the wall as I rock a fidgety child to sleep hoping they’ll pass out before my arms give way, and nothing else gets done.
Saying no has always been difficult. I recall advice in my early 20s that if you struggle to say no to others then you should try to say yes to yourself. By putting everyone first you can find your health and happiness negatively impacted. But by saying yes to yourself, you might find yourself in a better position to decline other requests due to your lack of availability. In conjunction with this attitude, I decided to install an app on my phone for goal setting. And I went about setting goals separated into the categories: professional; my child; my fur-child; personal relationships; health. I created simple goals that could be daily activities (sadly, bathing my son was a goal as was reaching out to at least one human each day); regular goals; and long term. I entered goals to track with a simple green tick for completion or red cross. I had a weekly goal to reflect on my week of goals.
I felt a sense of achievement for goals I had met and knew I could sustain them and no longer need to track them. Goals that were not met were not failure (even if that was the feeling). Unmet goals were items that I needed to decide whether they were important to me right now and either remove them or prioritise. But the other category were the items in my life that did not even get a look in. And here is where I could see the disconnect between saying yes and being ready to achieve and prioritising them.
This attempt to be many things to many people was getting me nowhere. More energy was being exerted through stress of failing at unrealistic expectations that I set on myself or through worry that I was disappointing people. Something (well many) had to give. Instead of saying I don’t have enough time I started telling myself It’s not a priority to see if I could accept that. I found myself accepting there are ideas and topics that are important to me but they need to take a backseat at this stage in my life.
More reminiscing made me recall something a teacher told my class in primary relating to having too much to do and not enough time. It was The Rocks, The Pebbles and the Sand story. Here’s a link for those who are unfamiliar with this story. For me, I had to figure out what the rocks, pebbles and sands are in my life. And this had been hard as it’s now meant I’ve had to start saying no.
I’m now starting 2018 accepting that some of the rocks in my life are a lot bigger than I first realised and need more of my time and energy. I also acknowledge that there are rocks in my life that time has worn down to pebbles and sand. Within SAP Community, I have chosen one rock to be active participation by being more visible in blogs, Q&A and coffee corner. It has meant I’ve had to say no to being a member of Strategic Advisory Council (SAC) and some BETA testing activities. I hope they are areas that become priorities in future.
If this blog is anything to go by, it seems to be working for me. The time, energy, inspiration and motivation aligned and I could write this blog.
Next year, who knows what the rocks, pebbles and sand in my life will hold. I’ll figure that out in 2019.
Would love to hear your take on this.
Moderator – Careers Tag
P.S. I would like to apologise to those members in the community with young families who ask for career transition advise and are told by numerous people to put some time aside to study. It’s such a simplistic (and obvious) answer but in practise is near impossible. I’m now in your shoes and empathise 100%. My son is one of the most placid, relaxed kids and I have family support yet it’s taken me 6 months through 1 SAP course in “my own” time. As far as OpenSAP courses go, completing the enrollment is as far as I’ve gotten. My life is now buckets of time with windows of opportunity. It’s hard to have everything line up to have the time to dedicate to professional development outside of a work day.
as all your blogs, a good, thought provoking read!
Thanks a lot for making it a priority to write it!
I can relate to the "setting little daily goals" you mention, I do that, too (and call it 'habit tracker').
At first I just used a small piece of paper, where I wrote down the days, and ticked them, when I reached the goal.
Someone told me, that setting that tick is the positive impulse you want to have, you probably should focus on those more than on the missed ones.
Today I have implemented it in my calendar (printed paper!), in which I try to look every evening.
My calendar (https://einguterplan.de/ - I'm afraid it's German-only) provides some categories already, plus I added some of my own as well.
I also like the thinking of "It’s not a priority" as opposed to "I have no time"; as you point out, that's way easier to accept, as it doesn't devalue the activity you decline with it.
Thanks for sharing and for what you put into our community!
@Joachim 'doesn't devalue' is a great way to summarise it. That has been the challenge of prioritization.
The green tick is also a great endorphin booster. It's up there with writing a to do list with the first two items completed so you have something immediate to cross out.
I was just using Goal Tracker - a free Android App that allows me to set reminders 🙂
I was curious about your calendar, Joachim, and looked it up. Indeed, ein guter Plan! Really cool and helpful one. 🙂
Oh, that's really nice to hear!
Did you get the 2019-one, too? (I'm still very happy with it!)
I loved reading this post! So honest and true. We all need to determine our big rocks and ensure their place in our lives. I wish you a wonderful year of tracking goals (both those met and those not) and salute you for striving to ensure the right balance for that which is most important to YOU!
And on the community front - I'm so very happy that we win seeing a more active Colleen - especially if posts such as this one are the result!
thanks Gali and I really appreciate your support (behind the scenes). I think I've been more active in the past 24 hours within SAP Community than I had been in the last 6 weeks.
Onwards and upwards!
Thanks for sharing Colleen. Great example of an authentic perspective piece.
I can relate to so much of what you wrote here. Letting things go is so hard but so important, especially if we want to stay committed to high quality. Have you read the book, Getting Things Done? There are a lot of good, actionable tips in it. One of my favorites is setting up a “someday maybe” category. It’s a way of deprioritizing, without giving it up on something together. Sounds similar to some of your own techniques.
Wishing you a productive 2018 filled with professional and personal joy!
I read about a “someday maybe”-list (again, in my "Ein guter Plan"-calendar mentioned above), and also think that it's a good idea;
I have a list like that that lets me just write down an idea or plan, so it's not lost. By having it on paper (or well, in this case: in bits and bytes), I can then easily let it go from my head (it will not be lost, I can get it back if I feel like!).
Getting things done sounds like a great book. Unfortunatley, I'm the sort of person who would buy that book with eagerness to read it but it would the find a place on a shelf and never get opened. Currently, I'm reading Optical Physics for Babies. Perhaps someone needs a Time Management for Babies that doesn't mention the phrase sleep training?
Someday maybe is a great idea. That's the piece I've been missing. Joachim is right that by writing this list down it gets it off your mind. Clearly mind make focus a heap easier.
Thanks a lot Colleen for writing this blog, It's really very nice and interesting, I just love it.
And the very important thing I learn from here is you have enough courage to say yes to others and no to yourself, or say no to others and yes to yourself.
Ah - saying no for me is a challenge. A huge challenge. Some years ago, I had a little one. I went back to full time work after 6 weeks. We were installing SAP 3.1H at that time. (Just a few years ago - I'm smiling) It was chaos. I was there 10+ hour days. Finally I broke. I sat at my desk and just cried. A co-worker went and got my boss. My boss told me to go home and get some rest. Then my hours went down to 8 hours and only sometimes 10 hours. And yes, I still worked some on the weekends. That was extreme.
Now I'm older and smarter. HA! Those rocks are still not fitting correctly sometimes. Perhaps I'll get it right before I die. But it's so dang hard. It's natural to want to help friends, co-workers, bosses... The list goes on. I forgot who wrote this quote "Work smarter, not harder".
Thank you for a very nice read,
Sometimes tears and letting your guard down is needed ?. That's great that your boss told you go home- so many don't
So true. It was a while ago, but I still thank her for that. It was a critical time for our company and everyone was under a lot of pressure. She was probably more than us. She had the responsibility for sending the correct resource to work on the issue(s). It was horrible. However, it was a great learning experience for me.
There was a point when I was no longer effective. Time to go home and recharge those batteries spend some time with my baby (He's in college now) and just plain sleep.
And..... she's back! And when Colleen returns, she returns with a big bang. Honestly, this is perhaps the best -- and maybe most important -- blog post I've read yet in 2018, and maybe most of 2017 as well. In fact, yes, it qualifies for that, too.
I too struggle with saying "No" to things, and I struggle with finding time for all the various "priorities" in my life, and I struggle with feeling inadequate and as if I'm somehow failing everyone because I simply can't get it all done, I can't give all of these commitments the attention they deserve. And, I don't have a new baby dominating my life! Which means, really, I'm not half so busy as you are, as you have been and probably still remain.
But the struggle is real, and likely felt by more people than we all realize. Many probably feel alone in this, and perhaps reading your blog here will help them to understand that they aren't alone, that perhaps they can take a page from your book and prioritize themselves.
And it doesn't have to mean we completely give up on those things we just can't get to right now. I like Caroleigh's idea of a "Maybe Someday" list -- deprioritized, perhaps, but still not forgotten entirely. That "Someday" may never arrive, but who knows? Meanwhile, we turn our focus to our true priorities, to those things which make us happier, make us better, and help us and those around us.
Thank you, Colleen.
A good, honest read as always, Colleen.
I like the phrase "it's not a priority." "I have no time " makes me feel inadequate, as if the fault were mne. But in reality nobody has time for everything.
"hoping they’ll pass out before my arms give way..." - part of me is glad those days are over! How can such a small bundle be so heavy??? My own version was singing a baby to sleep until I literally (not figuratively!) lost my voice.
Off to write my "Someday" list.
Colleen! I really appreciate you shared this personal learned lesson with us. I wasn’t aware of the rocks, pebbles, sand story, so this is already a great win for me. I also should choose more wisely on yes and no things. This is a very valuable post to me, thank you Colleen.
Thanks Mynyna Chau
It was only as I got to the end of this blog that I remembered that story. I completely forgot about the water at the end. The story can apply to so many aspects of your life for time management and prioritization. It's very easy on a SAP project (or any IT project or intense work period) to throw all the rocks out the window and fill up with pebbles and send whilst we stress about those rocks not getting time of day.
I don't have much to say about pebbles and sand, but I can safely say that you rock, Colleen. And if community rocks are the things that add value here, then I would say you're a boulder. 🙂
Thanks for all you do...and now that I have a greater appreciation for all the things in your life, I'm even more grateful that you've managed to fit us into your glass.
Jerry Janda thank you so much for your kind words. I always love your posts to see you wit and play on words! I'm still trying to fit a heap into the glass. Am hoping it's made out of plastic so it doesn't shatter if I overdo it again (and knowing me, there is a good chance that as soon as I clear up my schedule to have free time I'll fill it to avoid boredom)
My 2+ year old child, who has recently started to speak, says "No" first before saying any other thing. Ask her anything and she negates even before understanding it. Once she understands she agrees 🙂 We, the adults, are different; we understand but we have to prioritize to spend time better.
I have learned, though quite late, that even though saying NO is difficult but it has many benefits including the ability to set priorities; saying yes to what is important and no to what not at the moment.
The rock and pebble story explains it well. Thanks for relating it to the profession we all, at the community, hold.
There you go. I could have saved a heap of time by listening to any 2 year old.
Amazing when kids don't have filters or over think life - they laugh a lot more
Thanks for sharing.