How to deal with the pressure of trying to “do it all”

I am writing this at 26,000 feet. I’m on a plane from Manchester to Aberdeen on a Friday night, I’ve had a large glass of wine, and common sense dictates that I should either be tearing my way through a trashy novel, listening to terrible music, or fast asleep. Instead, I’ve got one hand on a book about innovation open at page 3, and the other hand is furiously typing this into the notes section of my iphone. Why?

Good question. I decided early on in the evening that my flight time would be spent reading a book about innovation that I’d been given by work. But as I sat flicking through the pages, my mind had approximately 100 thoughts per minute, resulting in this ridiculous monologue: “Innovation is interesting. Do I innovate? Should I write a blog post about innovation? I should probably read about it first. Concentrate! I haven’t finished reading that book about American slavery. Did I send that email to my boss? I haven’t caught up on all the latest Trump and Brexit news. Have I booked that tour for Belfast? I need to go to the gym – I’m so fat!”

As I thought about all the ways that I’m not smart enough, productive enough, interesting enough or pretty enough, the plane took off. The movement immediately jolted me out of my stream of consciousness and made me more aware of what was going on around me, giving me a fresh perspective about what was going on in my head.

Why was I so consumed by things I hadn’t done today, instead of focusing on the things I had done? Okay, I might not have finished that book about American slavery, but I have read 3/4 of it. On days where I haven’t killed it at work, done 5K on the treadmill and had a 1 hour call with my mum, I punish myself for not being enough. Where did this pressure to “do it all” come from?

Do you have this pressure too? If you do, I have some advice for you: chill out! Seriously. The wallpaper on my iPhone used to be a graphic that said 4 simple words: “Chill the fuck out”. Seeing this reminded me that I was allowed to chill, and helped to pull me out of whatever anxiety spiral I was falling into.

Give yourself permission to let things slip from time to time. Nobody will die, and you’ll find that often, the person putting the most pressure on you is yourself. Yes, it’s good to have goals, but if you’re stressing yourself into oblivion, it’s just not worth it.

You’re doing amazingly! You’re doing fine. You are enough.

Now sip that wine and enjoy the rest of the flight – there will be plenty of time to work when you land.