Underwater? (And want to come up for some air?)

Guys, I’ve made an error in judgment.

You see, my husband Dana and I have just returned from vacation. Two weeks on the coast of Maine. It was glorious. I had my out-of-office message set up; I made family time and play time my priority; I got myself to a place of feeling recharged and ready to jump back into my business this second week of September with both feet.

There’s just one problem. (Well, sort of—it’s just not the problem that I think it is.)

I didn’t carve out even an ounce of margin for myself in this week that I’ve returned to the office.

I had a medically minor but very necessary appointment first thing Monday morning.

I’m up to my eyeballs in email (apparently the out-of-office feature doesn’t actually manage your inbox for you—it just gives you a mountain to triage once you return; I forget this every time I use it).

I’ve got multiple coaching calls each day this week (which is an absolute blessing, not a curse—just poorly timed on my part).

I’m in full-on creation mode for a collaboration workshop series I’m launching with a dear friend and colleague.

Friday is September’s Get It Done Day, which means I do usually get some stuff done…but am much more committed to facilitating an experience that allows my participants to get their stuff done, so that’s where I’ll be putting my energy.

In any case, this isn’t supposed to be a laundry list of Just How Much Freakin’ Stuff I’ve Got On My Plate.

Because, as a matter of fact, I love my plate.

And I love my stuff.

As my two-week vacation unfolded, I found myself actively looking forward to the work I had waiting for me here. To the coaching calls. To the collaboration. To Get It Done Day. (Definitely not to the medical procedure, but you win some, you lose some.) For the most part, I even looked forward to coming up with a blog post to share in my weekly newsletter, because I want to write useful, actionable articles for you.

But between yesterday and today, that last one kept getting knocked to the bottom of my to-do list. (Case in point: It’s 7:00 p.m., long past the end of my work day, and here we are.)

Not truly on purpose; more like by default.

Whatever I might’ve wanted to write to you, however polished I would’ve liked to make it, it turns out I’m cooking dinner while composing this post, because it’s pretty much the only time I’ve had to give to this particular task today.

When I hit the ground running on Monday, I had to take a good, hard look at my work priorities (my clients and my collaboration) and decide that those were the only work-related things getting prime Helen attention this week. Everything else would have to get my not-so-prime attention. Like, composing-while-cooking attention.

In other words, I renegotiated.

I gave myself the grace to be imperfect. (This sentence really makes me laugh, because of course I’m imperfect either way—whether or not I manage to give myself grace for it—but it certainly feels better to be on board with the imperfection than fighting it, tooth and nail.)

And here I am. Free-writing my blog post while sautéing zucchini.

As far as my tip series goes, this might be one that doesn’t land with you right away, but hear me out anyway: I get overwhelmed, too; I come back from vacation and feel absolutely underwater with all that I’ve got to do in order to show up in the way I want.

However, what I do with that overwhelm, that underwater feeling, isn’t spin out. I don’t stay up later, way past my bedtime, to do more or to do it better.

I don’t make myself suffer for my error in judgment, the one that had me booking and overbooking my calendar for the week I returned from a two-week vacation.

Nope.

(That was just a mistake. A little too much optimism or enthusiasm, maybe. A past-me who didn’t give her future self all the leeway that her future self would wind up needing.)

Instead, what I do is revise the terms of the contract I have with myself, the one that says “here’s what you’ve put on your plate this week, Helen.”

How?

I take one (or two, or seven) things off my plate, now that I’m looking at it and it’s bigger than my stomach.

Sometimes I ask coaching clients to reschedule to the following week. (And the world isn’t ending because of this.)

I abandon to-dos that might feel really urgent, but definitely aren’t important enough to lose sleep over; in other words, tomorrow morning will be fine. (And the world isn’t ending because of this.)

I write an unplanned, low expectations blog post in between cooking and eating a decidedly un-fancy dinner. (And the world isn’t ending because of this.)

Get my drift?

Renegotiating is always an option. Very little in life is do or die. (And the world isn’t ending because of this.)