“The empath helps others by absorbing some of their pain, but who helps the empath?”
— Donna Lynn Hope
An empath’s to-do list is a physical manifestation of her, “I have to take care of everyone else,” mentality. Without some sort of filter, she ends up creating a to-do list that is long and unachievable – by anyone. It can cause or exacerbate empath burnout.
Once a list gets long enough, everything becomes just one more thing to do. Nothing is fun or gratifying anymore. Even worse, you may find that you don’t have time to do things that are really important. Your helpful list of reminders has morphed into The To-Do List From Hell.
Taming your to-do list.
I’m not going to tell you to take things off your to-do list. You have a reason for every item on it. Instead, I’m going to ask you to look at your list in a different way.
First, look over your to-do list and mark the tasks that you want to do. Mark only the items that are important to you.
Now, look at the items you didn’t mark. These probably include:
- Favors you’ve agreed to do.
- Responsibilities you’ve volunteered for.
- Tasks you believe you have to do.
- Goals you’ve set for yourself based on what you think you “should” achieve.
How did all those things get on your list?
The “yes” reflex.
You’re already over-extended. You know that. Your desire to help people has created a reflex that causes you to agree to do things without considering what you’ve already committed to first.
Creating a new reflex.
To tame your to-do list, you need to create a gap between when someone makes a request and when you give your answer.
Practice this phrase so it becomes your new reflexive response to a request:
I need to check my calendar. I’ll get back to you about that."
Take advantage of the gap.
When you have time to concentrate, review your to-do list, and ask yourself:
What will I have to NOT do if I agree to add this new item to my list?
If you find yourself thinking that you can “find” time or “make” time to complete one additional task, stop that!
When you’re reviewing your list before agreeing to add something to it, remember: You’ve already agreed to do the things that are currently on your to-do list.
- What (or who) are you going to put off, disappoint, or neglect if you add something new to your list?
- If you add anything else to your list, will you have the time and energy to do things that are important to you and your loved ones?
- Will adding something new blind you to the urgencies and real emergencies that are part of everyday life?
My friend Kimberley Koz wrote a very poignant post, "Reality Bites, Sherlock Herms," about what happens when you’re so busy that you don’t see problems before they become emergencies.
When you understand that by saying no to one request, you’re saying, “Yes,” to taking care of the things that are really important to you, it’s much easier to say;
“I’m sorry; I just don’t have the time to commit to that now.”
And, as Kim discovered, that can be A Very Important Thing.
Proud to be featured on: It’s All About I. Be sure to check out their blog, too!