Imagine that you’re standing in front of a beautiful buffet. It all looks so appealing and delicious. You keep adding different foods onto your plate and as you walk away you see something else that looks delicious so you add that, too.
You think it will be wonderful and at first it is. But if you eat everything on your very full plate, what happens? You literally don’t feel good. You feel bloated, sick, tired, and maybe even full of regret.
If you are a high-achiever and like to get things done, this full plate of beautiful food is a metaphor for your “To Do” list. All of those “to do’s” seem compelling, interesting, or at least necessary. You want to do it all, or you feel like you should, and you want to do it all well. As you get some things done, it does feel good.
But if you actually do everything on your plate (and attempt to do it all very well), what happens? It doesn’t feel quite as good as you thought it would. You might feel a sense of accomplishment, but at the same time you might also feel exhausted, disconnected from people you love, irritable, and even some regret.
As I enter my 9th week of sheltering-in-place due to COVID-19, I realize that I simply can’t load my plate up so fully as before. I see other people tackling projects that “they don’t normally have time for.” I’ve wondered if my lack of energy was “normal.”
I recognize now that the additional uncertainty, anxiety and stress from the global COVID-19 crisis weighs everyone down. It takes energy to carry that additional stress. It’s no wonder that I lack some of the energy, focus, and motivation that I had before March 13, 2020.
These days, I feel myself drawn toward more rest, meditation, simple walks in the neighborhood to catch a glimpse of nature, and basic tasks like doing laundry or making dinner. (OK, and Netflix, too!) I want to have space on my plate for those things.
I’ve been recommending the 4 D’s to Lighten Your Load for years. But now, they seem even more relevant so I invite you to take this challenge:
Use the 4 D’s to lighten your load by HALF. Yes! Go ahead and scoop half of the “food” off your plate!
How it works:
- Write down everything you hope to accomplish this week. Get it all down on paper (or electronic document) so that you can see it.
- Now apply the 4 D’s to HALF of the items on your list. (The other half you can go ahead and do, and do them well.)
- What can you Drop, Delay, Delegate, or Do Less Well? Be honest. Be ruthless. Cut it down by 50%.
The 4 D’s to Lighten Your Load™
What things can you give yourself permission to NOT do?
These are the items that you can let go of. Notice where you are “should-ing” on yourself: those things that you feel you should do. Replace that “should” with, “I could, and do I want to?” If your answer is no, this might be a good item to drop.
Some of the projects I drop are those I’ve been delaying for a long time. They’re still on my list but they have been there for months (and sometimes years). That is sometimes a sign for me that they are just not going to happen and it’s time to let them go.
Other great candidates for dropping are things that I feel FOMO (fear of missing out) around. What if I don’t read that article about leadership? What if I don’t watch the Governor’s COVID-19 update today? I actually won’t miss much and I can make room for more important priorities. Drop ‘em.
What can you do later?
I am not a fan of procrastination. But there are definitely some things on your list that you can do later so that you have room on your plate for more important things now: exercise, sleep, cuddling with your child, for example.
What gets delayed for me?
- Reading and replying to emails that are not urgent or important.
- Projects that are “nice to do.”
- Fixing the fence that just looks terrible but isn’t a safety hazard.
- For the past 6 weeks, writing this article ( ;
What can you pass along to someone else?
You might need to lower your standards or take time for training, but I promise you, there are things you can delegate.
In my home, my kids and husband are now doing more of the cooking. My virtual assistant is helping me with this article. I’ve hired people to help tackle jobs outside my home like cleaning the bird fountain that was attracting mosquitos (that one could not be delayed!)
DO LESS WELL
What can you lower your quality standards around and go for a “C” grade, on purpose?
Someone once said, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” Well, I don’t agree! There are some things that are worth doing very, very well. But not everything. Some things are worth doing “good enough.”
When we put pressure on ourselves to do everything well, it takes up an awful lot of time and energy, and there’s little left for other priorities. Look over your list and decide what items you will get a “C” on, on purpose. A “C” is a passing grade after all, and if you’re being honest, the only person grading you is…YOU!
I’ve decided (on purpose) to get a “C” on managing screen time with the kids, house cleaning, and some business-building activities.
I’ve also gotten into the habit of deciding how much time will be good enough to spend on a project, and then cutting myself off when the time is up.
Many of you are dealing with exceptional stress from health challenges, job loss or serious loss of income, death of loved ones, and more.
The 4 D’s won’t eliminate your pain, but they may help to lessen the additional stress from self-imposed standards that just aren’t realistic or healthy right now.
Be kind to yourself. Lighten your load.
Are you up for the challenge? Lighten Your Load by HALF with the 4 D’s! If you take the challenge, I’d love to hear from you. Please leave your comments below.
The 4 D’s to Lighten Your Load™ was created by Marcilie Smith Boyle of Marcilie Smith Boyle’s WorkingParenting. Permission to share with authorship attributed is granted.