Finishing Things

There was a study done that showed a lot of top executives at companies burned themselves out because they were so busy with too many tasks that they rarely got a chance to finish things. It wasn't all their activity that exhausted them, but not being able to complete much of what they started.

I think a similar thing happens in people's homes. We have a lot going on and we don't get a chance to finish things. Those unfinished tasks have a way staying on inside of us. Even though each thing is not forefront in our minds, there's a part of us that knows they're not done. A lot of little things can add up.

I went over to one of my client's homes. He was happy when he greeted me at the door. He was talking animatedly as we walked through the hallway. But when we came to his office it was like he was unplugged. He was slumped. His eyes went flat. He stopped talking. I asked him what was going on. He said, "I hate being in here. I feel like the walls are coming in at me. It's such a mess. Oh, God, I don't want to do this."

I had him sit in a chair. I told him to relax and breathe. I said, "Let's just sit." We sat quietly for a minute. Sometimes we get caught up in how badly we think we've done. I think when we chastise ourselves, we feel like that makes up for things going in the direction they've gone. But it just adds to the spirit of unhappiness existing in us. By stopping my client's self-comments, I figured he had a chance to get quiet inside so we could see what was happening.

I said, "The state of this room is not your fault." We get overwhelmed by too many unfinished tasks. Everyone's got a shutdown quotient, when we have too much on our plate and we give up. We're like machines, we can only do so much before it's too much and there's an automatic off switch. I said we would go through one thing at a time until it was done.

I picked up a paper off his desk. I asked him about it. He said it was something he had to fill out for his daughter for school. I said, "Great, let's fill it out." He didn't want to. I said, "I know...so let's fill it out and you'll feel better." I gave him a pen. He filled it out. He put it back on the stack of papers on his desk. I asked if he needed to mail it. He said yes. But he didn't want to look for the stamps. I said, "Oh, good, let's find stamps." I had a sense they were in his desk drawers. There they were. I got him to put the stamp on the envelope and then put the letter out on the mailbox for the mail person to pick up.

We continued in the same way with each thing that was on his desk, on the floors, on the couch and in his brief case. By completing each task he was getting a piece of himself back. His resistance faded and he got the work done.

I think you can apply the same procedure at home. You may see all your stuff and say, "I don't have time for this" or "I can't, I have too much too do", or you may not feel like doing it. That makes sense. You're overwhelmed. I know, I get the same way myself at times. But I found I reduce the overwhelming feeling by starting and taking care of one piece at a time. It feels like I'm being patient with myself. The inner chatter shuts down, and there's just doing. It actually feels good.