The Never-Ending “To Do” List
(written for the Coaching Corner; Glebe Report)
Monique was at the end of her wits. When she first called me seeking a coach, she was considering taking a leave of absence from work. Balancing her responsibilities as manager at a large advertising firm with being a spouse and mother of two teenagers felt overwhelming and her doctor was concerned about her blood pressure.
At our first meeting, Monique and I discussed her daily routine, interests, family, work and all the things she enjoyed doing. We very quickly identified the focus of our coaching program – for her to connect to what deeply mattered to her and to what brought her ease and joy.
From the start, I observed a sense of urgency around Monique’s expression. When she spoke, words tumbled from her mouth so quickly she appeared not to take a breath.
Weekdays, Monique literally sprang out of bed at 6am, jumped into the shower, made breakfast for the family and prepared lunches for the kids. Throughout, she rarely sat down, moving about and sipping her coffee as she orchestrated everyone’s schedule in the kitchen. When the kids were finally out the door, her husband dropped her off at work. Some evenings she would work late and have to take the bus or a taxi home. At the end of a long day Monique resented the fact that the family still expected her to make supper for them. Weekends were spent driving her son to sports practices and her daughter to dance lessons. She literally had no “me time” left.
Over the course of our six-month coaching program, Monique and I met every three weeks, focussing on conversations and practices that would help shine a light on how to find that path to the ease and joy she so deeply longed for and felt was unattainable.
Our work together was slow, steady and deliberate. One of the practices I designed for Monique she found hugely challenging. Twice a week for three weeks, I asked her to transcribe the “to do” list she carried in her head onto paper, numbering tasks in terms of their importance to her that day. Then, I asked her to post the list to the refrigerator door where she and the family could see it. Every day she had to remove one task from the list and replace it with an entry called “TIME FOR ME”. It was up to her to decide what “TIME FOR ME ” would entail. It could be anything from taking a walk around the block, to reading a magazine article, reciting a poem, calling her brother or pausing for a cup of tea. The key was to keep the activity short, no more than ten minutes long.
For Monique to make the changes that would result in finding more ease and joy in her day, she would have to become deeply aware of her habitual pattern of not including herself on the “to do” list. By deliberately bringing attention to her habit and by introducing one new element to disrupt the habit – the “TIME FOR ME” activity, Monique would gradually develop the “muscles” to be able to shift to a new way of being – a shift from feeling selfish to feeling deserving.
Initially, Monique struggled to remove anything from the “to do” list and replace it with an activity for herself. Gradually, she began to see how random the list was and realized the pressures she was putting on herself to constantly deliver on all fronts. Over time, one of the first activities she chose – a ten-minute walk – became an hour-long healthy habit.At the completion of our coaching program together, Monique decided to take a six-month leave of absence from the office, a decision she felt good about and which her husband and children supported. And when she checked in with her family doctor, she was delighted to find that her blood pressure was back to normal.
Batia Winer is a certified Integral Master Coach: 613-327-7522; firstname.lastname@example.org