You’ll Never Be Caught Up!

by Ron Potter

Most people are list makers.  I’ve observed two types.

  1. Logical, structured lists, usually written down in chronological order.  Myers-Briggs refers to these types as Judging.  Don’t let the title throw you off course.  It simply means that they prefer to live a planned and organized life.
  2. Random list makers including anything that comes to mind at the moment.  Myers-Briggs refers to these types as Perceiving.  It means that they prefer to live more of a spontaneous, flexible life.

Each type deals with its own difficulties.  I’ve seen the logical list makers work hard on completing a task that was not originally on their list.  After the task is complete, they have a tendency to write down the task on their list and then cross it out as completed.

Adding it to their list after it’s completed means absolutely nothing but they experience satisfaction from adding it to the list and then checking it off as completed.

It’s a little bit like Fitbit users who keep track of every step they take.  If their device isn’t charged or they forgot to put it on before they leave for their walk, jog, or run, there is no record of the steps taken.  They often feel that the steps were not actually taken because there is no record to show the effort.  They still received all the benefits from all the steps but without a record, they feel like they never took them at all.

The random list makers have everything they can think of on their list.  From critical issues to totally random issues.  One question I often ask them is “How many lists do you have?”  The answer: too many to keep track of.

The point here is not the type of list maker you are.  The point is you’ll never be “caught up”.

You’ll Never Be “Caught Up”, Stop Feeling Guilty About it

This was a recent Harvard Business Review article titled, You’re Never Going to be “Caught Up” at Work.  Stop Feeling Guilty About it.  

As I write this blog my mind often drifts to the other tasks that I haven’t gotten to yet.  It can lead to guilt and even shame if I let it.  It’s a tough human dilemma fighting the issue of never being caught up.

Feeling Guilty Doesn’t Help

It is important to make sure you’re not just procrastinating from doing something that may be difficult but important.  Prioritizing your task list is important so that you do get the most important items first. And though there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything,  don’t feel guilty about it.  Feel good that you got to the important things.

One of the issues I’ve seen at play is many people’s ability to say no to someone else.  By promising to get to things that are really not going to be possible you’ll

  • Create guilt or even shame for not living up to your promise.
  • Overwork yourself by doing things for other people rather than those things on your priority list.
  • Do a poor job of accomplishing the task for them and at the same time not performing up to the standards that are expected of you.  Again, guilt and shame.

Be honest and straightforward with people.  If you can’t help them or realistically won’t get to the task they’re asking you to do, it is better for both of you to let them know that up front.

Give Yourself a Break

I’ve watched many people try to help others get past the feelings of guilt/shame by exercising self-forgiveness.  Give yourself the same break.  I know this can be difficult because we all want to perform at our peak so maybe you need that honest friend to help you with this issue just like you’re trying to help others.  Do you have that someone that will talk with you straight and you’ll appreciate it?  If not, that should be your number one priority.

Vacation or Break Time

I’ve noticed with myself that if I’m off work for a week, I actually get one day of rest and recuperation.

I may leave work late Friday night because I’m trying to finish off those things I feel are important to accomplish before I leave.  This may flow over into Saturday.  Sunday can be very active with church, friends, or traveling if we’re going someplace.  Monday I can feel myself start to let down and I usually get my best night’s sleep that night followed by a Tuesday that is often completely disengaged from work and very relaxing.

But by Tuesday night I can catch myself thinking about work again and the things I need to accomplish when I return.  That feeling increases Thursday and Friday and in the end, I realize I accomplished one day of R&R.  So I get one day off in a one-week vacation.  I need to take two weeks to get a week off!

Vacation and Break Time Killers

So what will destroy all of those efforts?

  • Not turning off your phone
  • Continuing to read texts and emails
  • Taking some work with you to get done before everyone gets up in the morning.

You’ve got to shut things off!  My personal experience is that even if I’ve been good at shutting those things off during my vacation/break time when I get back to the office I’ll find an email box with several hundred messages and feel immediately overwhelmed.

At first, I would take all of those emails and save them in another file intending to get them soon.  I never did.

After that, I simply deleted all emails in my inbox.  I found that if there was something important the person who sent it will reach out again looking for an answer.  If I simply said, “Sorry, I was on vacation, how can I help you?” most of the time the other person understood and then would get me caught up on the issue.

I don’t believe I ever experienced more than about one percent of follow-up on those hundreds of emails.

Get Your R&R

It’s up to you.  Only you can make sure it happens.

But our personal experiences tell us and research confirms if we don’t get adequate rest, relaxation, recuperation, and regeneration, our body and minds will continue to deteriorate over time diminishing our ability to perform.

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