Enough is enough. Learn how to know when to stop working and get back to playing.
When you’re faced with a daunting to-do list it can feel like no matter how much work you put in, it will never be enough. It’s true, your to-do list will never be “complete.” If this is your end goal, then I’m sorry to say you’re setting yourself up for a lifetime of disappointment. But when your goal is to do enough, it’s always within reach.
Goal-setting is an art form. If you set them too low, you may not achieve as much as you’re truly capable of. If you set them too high, you may feel like you can never do enough. For daily intentions, I find it’s best to find that Goldilocks goal. The one that’s just right. It’s ambitious yet attainable.
How much we’re able to do each day is dependent on so many factors: what your energy level is, how much you slept the night before, what you’ve eaten, what your environment is like, what personal matters are happening in your life, and infinite other contributors and distractors. It’s in constant flux so your goals should be too.
Learning to ride the waves of your own productivity takes intuition, self-awareness, self-compassion, and patience. You may wish to knock half your to-do list out but if your kids woke you up 6 times the night before, your body may have other plans and that’s okay.
A sustainable productivity practice takes flexibility and self-kindness. You won’t churn out the same level of work every day and you’re not supposed to. Operating at max capacity every day will lead to burnout. To stay on top of your to-do list in a long-term, manageable way means knowing when to stop.
When looking at your to-do list, mark what needs to get done that day and what would be a lovely bonus. When selecting your needs list, be selective. It should be between 1 and 5 items. The fewer, the better. Be honest with yourself on the urgency and importance of what’s on your list. There’s usually more time available to get things done than we allow for ourselves.
Start by focusing your efforts on what is on your needs list. Using your best energy on this helps push the most important tasks through. You’ll feel accomplished, on track, and more efficient. For every task you check off your list, give yourself the recognition you deserve. Celebrate that tiny (or massive) accomplishment.
Then check in with yourself. How is your energy level? How focused are you feeling? How does it feel to have that out of the way? Have you done enough for the day?
If you’re feeling good and ready for more, pick up the next task and give it a whirl. Take it one by one, checking in with yourself along the way, staying honest each step of the way.
Once your needs are out of the way, consider this your crystal clear line that you’ve done enough. Anything else you choose to take on is a bonus. It’s truly optional. This is the line we tend to cross without realizing it and makes us feel overburdened by responsibilities. No matter how much we do, it’s never enough.
When we’re more aware of our needs and our bonuses we can more mindfully manage how we channel our energy. We tend to use up all of our energy on our task list, leaving little for ourselves to just enjoy. When we can sit in knowing we’ve done enough, we can more guiltlessly choose to enjoy our rose on the patio or lay around reading a book, even in the middle of a Tuesday.
If you don’t knock out all your needs that day, that’s okay too. Practice that self-compassion. Just try your best and know that your best is good enough. There’s always tomorrow to pick it back up again and make little adjustments. Perhaps you are expecting more of yourself than is fair or reasonable. Check back in with your goal the next day and keep making changes to fit how you’re feeling that day.
So do yourself a favor and mark with clarity what is enough for that day so when you reach that line, you can unashamedly allow yourself to stop working. No matter how much you do each day, even if you don’t reach your goals, know that you’ve done enough. You are enough.