Illness or not, it’s easy to get overwhelmed particularly if you have a lot of things to do. One question I’ve been asking myself lately that has helped me with stress is, “Does this have to be done well or does it just have to be done?” This gives me a lot of clarity. Some tasks require expediency more than others. For instance, I had a crisis at work and needed to have a Skype meeting with a colleague. I woke up feeling tired that morning and wasn’t sure if I had time to shower, brush my teeth, and get dressed before the call. I thought to myself: This person knows me real well. On my Christmas cards list, I have three categories: personal, professional, and both. This coworker qualified as both–the in between area in the Venn Diagram. Personal cards end with “Love, Jessica” whereas professional cards usually end with “Regards, Jessica.” This friend knows me! She knows I have five illnesses and she also knows what it’s like to be fatigued. She doesn’t expect to see me dressed up, with makeup and hair in place. Are there instances when it is inappropriate to attend a Skype call in my pajamas with my curly hair a mess? Sure, but this was not one of them. Knowing that I didn’t have to put effort into getting ready meant I could put my limited energy–physical and emotional–elsewhere that day. I just took my computer out and went to the Skype call.
When I’m working on a task–writing an email, making lesson plans, or making reservations (even a phone call to a restaurant can be stressful when you’re in pain, fatigued, or depressed)–I ask myself if something has to be done well or just done. If it needs to be done, I give myself guidelines like:
- When is the deadline? Is the situation urgent?
- Set a time limit (ex: I will only work on this for 10 minutes) – For people with chronic illnesses, time is energy. Expending more time than necessary on a task means I have less energy for other tasks.
- How difficult is this task? – The time you spend on a task should be proportionate to its difficulty. For example, writing an email asking my former boss for a letter of recommendation should take up more time than responding to a funny email from my best friend. One is harder than the other. The words I use in the former email require more precision than the latter.
Upon re-evaluating my life with that question, “Does it have to be done well or does it just have to be done,” I’ve become more productive and a little less stressed out.
What do you do when you have too many things to do?
–Your Stylist, Jessica Gimeno