Has this ever happened to you? You are super fired up to make a big change in your life. Maybe it’s anything from a personal project to pursuing a new degree, career or business idea. But before you can even get going, life gets in the way. What you were going to do today, gets pushed to tomorrow. Tomorrow becomes next Tuesday and next Tuesday becomes “remember that time I was going to take the world by storm?”.
I wanted to talk about the “life gets in the way part today” in the hopes that if we identify it, we can deal with it and take it out of the equation.
Let’s first acknowledge that as women, we naturally find ourselves in the role of being in charge of other people’s well-being and that said other people are relying on us in a way that their lives just don’t function without our contributions. I’m talking about spouses, children, parents, business partners, clients and co-workers. That’s a lot of people asking for a lot of things from us… a lot. Is it any wonder that we find ourselves running out of time to do the things we want to?
I want to share with you a technique for managing those responsibilities and in turn freeing up time and space for you to pursue things that are going to be fun, rewarding and make you feel like you are living a fulfilling life.
When you have an obstacle, it’s best to first name it. I call this obstacle OPS. Short for other people’s shit. OPS is a broad, far reaching category that encompasses any ask that does not contribute to your personal goals for wellbeing. It is basically any place someone else has asked you to be that you cannot say no to. Kid has a dr appointment or game or performance. Important for sure, but OPS. Sales meeting with your boss, fireable offense for missing but doesn’t help you meet your sales goals, OPS. Your mother needs a ride to get her hair cut. Can you get away with sending an UBER? If not, OPS.
When you sit down to plan out your week. And eek, I hope you sit down and give some consideration to the week ahead on a regular basis, the first thing you should put down on your calendar is OPS. It’s happening. It’s unavoidable. See it in print not only for the time it will take up, but more importantly, for the time it leaves available for you to attend to the goals you are setting for yourself.
I think we tend to get bogged down in OPS and we let it completely suck the energy out of us. It becomes like a bad hangover that you then have to recover from, eating away at more time.
And there are times in our lives when OPS is pervasive. You may look at your calendar and it’s wall to wall OPS. We certainly have chapters like that. What I don’t want you to do is waste the time between OPS just recovering and waiting. I’m talking about using that as snack time or social media scrolling or any other mindless activity that you use as an excuse to feel busy while actually accomplishing nothing or that you convince yourself you’ve earned because of all the time you just spent in the service of others. It’s not truly restful time. It’s just avoidance.
As you start to add OPS to your calendar every week, I want you to spend some time analyzing it. First, are you saying yes to some people that don’t qualify for the time block? My hard and fast rule is that truly, the only people that deserve my full time and attention are the people that live under my roof. Not only are they my ride and die, but they are my ride and drop everything.
I gave the example before of your mother or your boss and yes sometimes you are going to extend them the benefit of your OPS time, but if it’s too much, if they are abusing your generous nature, it’s time to build some boundaries. If it’s a question of your mental and physical health, by all means, start handing out some stone cold “no’s”. But if you’re just feeling irritated but also obligated, may I introduce you to the “yes, but”. Sure the ask is still OPS, but you have the power to slot it in, when possible, to where it works for you. You are not obligated to be at a client’s beck and call if they are asking for a meeting when it’s your exercise time. “Yes we can meet, but after 10.” Or your mom needs that ride and wants to go during rush hour which will turn her one hour excursion into 1 and a ½…or more. “Sure mom, but make the appointment for Tuesday at 11”.
You need to give yourself a little grace about OPS. For the most part it really is out of your control and it will leave less time for you to focus on all the good things you’re planning for your next chapter. Do yourself a favor and be ok with it. Remember the grey area. All is not lost today or this week because some OPS has popped up. If you are focused on your goals and have a crafted a plan with actionable steps, you keep working those steps. Maybe three things get accomplished this week when you were hoping for 6. Be satisfied with whatever forward progress you make rather than beat yourself up about the remaining portion not completed. You’re still closer to goal than if you completely give in to the OPS and do nothing.
We’ve talked before about the difference between being a martyr and a warrior. This is an important time to lead with your warrior. Be grateful that you have people who believe they can rely on you. Embrace the extra time you are spending with a loved one. If the OPS is work related, think about what you can take away from the experience that could be worthwhile or a learning opportunity.
That destructive martyr has a tendency to rear her ugly head when we feel our time is being spent out of our control. Don’t let her make you resentful for the task at hand. All you serve to do then is compromise the relationship you have with the people who need you right now. And don’t think you can actually hide that shit. Anger and resentment is palpable.
The antidote to OPS is being crystal clear on the areas of your life that energize you and bring you satisfaction. As much as you can formally schedule OPS every week, you can also schedule time blocks for the interests or ventures you’re pursuing. Start treating yourself with the same devotion and commitment that you afford others. Make time and space for your shit, no matter how big or small. I’m talking about your exercise or calling or seeing a friend or scheduling time to devote to that class you signed up for or that topic you want to research more in depth. I’m especially talking about blocking off time to grow the business you’ve been dreaming about or creating that product you want to bring to market. I want you to stop letting your time evaporate into the service of others only.
I think you have to know that OPS really never goes away and that’s a good thing. Oh you may joke for a hot minute that it would be glorious to have all your time to yourself, but think of what you’d be giving up. That’s a tradeoff I’m certain you wouldn’t make. Being needed is exhausting yes, but it’s also a privilege to have people to care for that care about you.
Wife of one. Mother of three. Writer, podcaster, entrepreneur, adviser. Don’t make me choose. Co-founder, The Midlife.