I’m capable of so much less than I thought, and I bet you are, too

Image of woman brushing her teeth.
Image of woman brushing her teeth.
Photo licensed from Adobe Stock by author.

Brushbrushbrushbrushbrushbrushbrushbrush. spit. rinse. Then — whoa! — a revelation: I’m not capable of near as much as I’ve always thought.

I don’t often have out-of-body experiences while brushing my teeth, but I did last night. This observation, that I’m not capable of as much as I thought, made me go, “Huh. That’s interesting.”

I’ve typically taken on as much as I thought I could handle, as, you know, you do. As we all do. [*shrug*]

I always overestimated what I could manage, so I was perpetually behind, constantly “sorry for the delay,” catching up on nights and weekends. Plus, I hated saying no to people, figuring they would think, Why can’t she do this extra thing? It’s so easy!

But when I was perpetually behind on my work, I felt guilty and pathetic; I dwelled on my laziness, my disorganization, and my lack of focus. I berated myself for not going to bed on time the night before and for not exercising so I’d have more energy to be productive. I did this for years.

Then, after my latest, biggest purge of possessions in pursuit of a minimalist life (Purge #4, mind you), I somehow, suddenly, had space to add something new into my life: rest! It was a miracle, and truly unexpected. I’m still not quite sure how that happened without my trying.

Just as suddenly came enlightenment. If I wanted to prioritize rest, it had to be the first thing I put in my Google Calendar, not the thing that filled in the spaces that were left over. [angels singing!!] Instead, work would fill in the spaces left over.

Over the course of about a week, my entire modus operandi flipped on its head, much like my best-ever buttermilk pancakes.

By making rest the non-negotiable blocks in my schedule, I understand that I’m capable of much less than I ever thought. Namely, I’m not capable of:

  • Producing for 8 hours a day…lots of days not even for 6 hours
  • Juggling more than 4 clients at a time
  • Billing for more than 20 hours a week, no matter how many work hours I have
  • Getting less than 7.5 hours of sleep
  • Caring about more than 5 hobbies
  • Keeping my eyebrows tweezed and my legs shaved (TMI, sorry, not sorry)
  • Having and enjoying more than two social activities in a week
  • Keeping the house clean on top of a 40-hour workweek
  • Being busy and happy

Whether I build in rest or not, I can’t manage all of that. Lately, instead of guilt, I’m feeling curious: Ohhhh, that’s why I never accomplish all that stuff, no matter how many times I tell myself, ‘Andrea, this is your week! This is the week you’re going to be productive.’ I’m not capable of it. And I’m surprisingly fine with that.

Now, when I do build in rest, my schedule tells me what I’m capable of, rather than my ego, ambitions, or guilt. It turns out I can say no to most anything and simply [*shrug*].

On the flip side, I have more fun with life since actively prioritizing rest (and you may, too). Positive changes abound! I have:

  1. A plethora of creative ideas
  2. Joy fueled by contentment
  3. A bigger-picture sense of life
  4. Better mood (fewer grumpies)
  5. Capacity to make good choices for myself, like being patient with my son
  6. Optimism for the future
  7. Excited anticipation to spend time with my husband and son
  8. Better focus during my working hours
  9. Similar work output as before
  10. Resilience to stress and petty annoyances

Want to try this in your life? One of the first steps is setting yourself up for minimalist work practices so you can step back and prioritize rest without letting all your balls drop. It doesn’t happen overnight, but you can do it over the course of about 6 months, and it’s totally worth it.

Final note: A lot of privilege goes into letting me prioritize rest this way. (Some sacrifice, too; I want to work more, but my husband has claimed the late afternoon hours when our son is home from school.) Amazingly, though, this privilege existed before, but I still could never make time for rest.

I continue to earn what I need to cover our expenses, and I feel more optimistic about my future earnings and work prospects than I did when I was working myself so hard. While there are plenty of people who genuinely do not have the choice to prioritize rest, many people in American and Western cultures can flip the work/rest schedule like I did, with minimal impact on their work output or earnings.

Talk to you soon,

Andrea

20-year marketing writer turned coach & strategist. On making emails that connect the heart of a simple, rewarding marketing plan: aripemango.com/easy-emails.

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