Some days, I’m paralyzed by expectations. I wake up each morning to a daunting to-do list and each item represents someone’s expectations—my own and those of others. As I face the list, I confront the reality that I cannot possibly accomplish that many things in one day. I begin the day with a sense of failed expectation.
Shortly after scanning my to-do list, I open my inbox and see all of the e-mails to which I haven’t replied. I know these people expect a reply, and soon. I flag a few messages and think, I’ll tackle that on my lunch break. Then I move on to start a project from my to-do list. I choose one that I think I can finish on this day, but as I wait for the creative energy needed for the project to fire up, my obsession with what still needs to get done just snuffs it back out. And so, I sit, too paralyzed to be productive, and too overwhelmed to meet expectations.
If, like me, you’ve ever felt like you were spinning in a cycle of expectations with such centrifugal force that you can’t seem to get out, you know how it consumes you emotionally and spiritually. You know how hopeless it feels. I’m working on learning how to manage expectations.
A little while ago, I set some ambitious goals and shared them with fellow writer, Kathy Carlton Willis. A few weeks later, I sent a desperate e-mail to her whining about my lack of progress. She sent back wise words advising me to figure out what was the most important thing I needed to do and focus on that one thing right now.
That to-do list represents infinite opportunities to fail to meet expectations, and the only way I can get through it is by breaking it into manageable pieces and chewing on one piece at a time. I think it’s time for me to learn to do less multi-tasking and more uni-tasking. Today, I’ll write several letters and e-mails that need to get done. If that’s all I do, I’ll have finished something.
Michelle Rayburn is a mom of two teen sons, wife of 21 years, and loves helping people connect their dots between faith, creativity, and everyday life. She is a freelance writer and speaker for women's events, conferences, and writers groups.