A few years ago, when I had just two children and thought my supply of time couldn’t get ant shorter, I wrote a piece for the wonderful website Dumb Little Man called “Learn to Celebrate the Small Victories”. It served as a reminder and brief, but helpful guide to myself and others that not matter how little we think we get done each day, we’re actually accomplishing a lot and should congratulate ourselves for every single thing we accomplish.
Now that I have three children – spaced closely enough so that no one is quite of age for elementary school yet, but everyone is mobile, wild and totally dependent on me (you can empathize or imagine what my days are like!) – I need this reminder more than ever. I’m not sure where my days go and have a To Do list that won’t quit. Nevertheless, I make it through each day and even get things done on occasion. I often wonder why know one is cheering for me like I’m always cheering for my kids and husband, but I suppose it’s up to me to cheer for myself.
If you need this same sort of reminder, the full text of my original Dumb Little Man article is below. It’s from sometime in 2009, but more pertinent than ever today. Be sure to visit Dumb Little Man again too, he’s always got something worthwhile to read.
Recently, I was lamenting that there is never enough time in the day for me to accomplish all that I need to. I know I’m not alone in this because many people’s refrain these days seems to be, “I’m so busy” or like me, “There is not enough time…”
Consider all of the roles we all play. For instance, in my life, I play the role of mother, wife, writer/consultant, cook, laundress, daughter, sister, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, friend, and last and usually least, me for me. With these myriad roles come myriad responsibilities and I’ve taken to beating myself up for not getting it all done. This creates a vicious cycle – by attacking yourself, you plummet your own self-esteem and energy and usually end of getting even less done.
It’s time to take a step back and realize that instead of focusing on all that we’re not getting done, we should be focusing on all that we are getting done. I call this the Celebrate the Small Victories approach. The intent is to give a little love to yourself for all of the hard work you put into each day. This will make for a much happier existence, boost your self-esteem by placing focus on the positive and likely make you even more productive and energetic as time goes on. You can’t lose!
Here are a few guidelines to get you started.
1) Make a list.
That’s right, the age-old “To Do” list. It will get you organized and lay it all out for you. Do it on your phone, on your computer, a notebook you always have with you or a loose piece of paper. You’ll soon find your own list-keeping style. However you keep it, keep it close and easily accessible. This will be an ongoing list that you will want to refer to and tinker with regularly.
2) Include it ALL on your list.
The big, the small, the seemingly inconsequential; it’s the small and inconsequential that will set you free. When you set out to celebrate the small victories, it all matters.
For example, my list as it looks today includes the following: write this article; unpack from the weekend trip; get oil changed on car; call to make one-year check-up appointment for my daughter; do laundry; order a new laundry basket; go to grocery store; throw away my beyond-dead flowers; get a hanging basket filled with beautiful flowers to hang from the deck; call back Megan and Allison; write a condolence note; pick-up dry cleaning; get some exercise; and, get the mail (yes, my mailbox is only ten feet from my front door, but it still counts as something to do). Everything counts.
In case you aren’t familiar with Elvis Presley’s band’s name, it was TCB and TCB is what we all could use a little more of. TCB means Taking Care of Business and that’s the mantra you need to approach your To Dos. Start with one of the small or seemingly inconsequential things from your list and knock it out. Today may not be the day that you write that novel, but throwing in a load of laundry or making a doctor’s appointment has a different, but equally meaningful impact. Just think if you never did laundry…at least in my house, no one else would do it, so the fact that I do it makes a big difference in all of our lives! Tackling and giving yourself credit for all of these smaller TCB moments will help you start to realize how much you really do in a day.
4) Cross off/delete each and every thing you accomplish.
Take enormous pleasure in this. It feels good to cross it off, even if it’s “only” getting the mail. And if it is getting the mail, you get to cross it off and then put it back on again for tomorrow’s list. The process in and of itself is therapeutic. It increases your sense of accomplishment and highlights your productivity, even if you’re the only one taking note of these small triumphs
5) Celebrate your small victories.
Congratulate yourself for everything you accomplish each day. Whether the day has ended and the only thing I’ve been able to do is get to the mail, so be it. That is still something. Sure, I’d feel like a rockstar if I’d have sewn my children some new clothes, called everyone I’ve been innocently neglecting for the past year and worked on my Nobel Peace Prize speech, but the truth is, I’m probably never going to have a day in which ALL of that gets done. How big or how much you’ve done slowly starts to take a back seat to the simple fact that you are doing.
Whereas before you might have focused on all of those things you didn’t get done, you’re now opening your eyes to all that you did do. Reward yourself with kind words, telling your spouse or a friend what you’ve done and that it means something to you. Heck, even open up a bottle of good wine, put your feet up and relax until tomorrow comes. After all, you work hard, so you deserve to take a rest!